Emily Bennington describes herself as a career author, speaker and space invader; she writes about what Stephen Covey believed: “between stimulus and response there is a space, and it’s in that space you choose how you wish to respond.” Bennington has been featured in media such as CNN, ABC, and Fox to the Wall Street Journal, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. I spoke to her recently about her latest book Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination.
In Who Says It’s a Man’s World, Bennington describes her struggle between ambition – wanting to achieve the lofty goals she set for herself – and gratitude, living and appreciating the wonderful life she’d built. For much of her life, she felt harried and miserable, always chasing happiness that seemed to reside somewhere in the future. She finally decided that the only thing that mattered was this moment, right now.
She was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s list of 13 virtues that he developed in 1726 at the age of 20. He knew he wanted to accomplish a tremendous amount during his life (he didn’t do badly; in addition to being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Franklin was also an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.) He also knew that his unruly nature – he was also famous for loving food, drink and ladies – would need to be tempered if he were to put his intellectual gifts to use.
He came up with a list of 13 virtues by which he would lead his life. They included temperance (the foundational self-discipline that would govern his ability to stick to other principles), silence, order, frugality, sincerity and humility, among others. He admitted that he fell short of his lofty intentions often, but always aspired to be the best man he could be. (see the full list here.)
Emily Bennington created her own list of virtues to live by. She believes that virtues are “evergreen;” they represent values that won’t change, even if your circumstances, technology, or the world changes around you. Her personal list includes spiritual growth, putting family first, positivity, mindfulness and courage, among others. These values keep her focused on what’s important when the world feels chaotic and even hostile.
Intentions are the steps you take every day to live your values. Bennington puts it this way: “If I didn’t know you, how would I know?” We know each other primarily by what we see each other do, after all. You may think you’re the star of a full length movie, but most people see you only through a short trailer. When you see someone being rude to the barista, you don’t think to yourself, “That must be a really nice person who’s having a bad day.” You think to yourself. “What a jerk.” Bad day is temporary; jerk is permanent – in the eyes of the beholder. Living your intentions means acting in accordance with your virtues and your values every day. Bennington writes: “Whereas 99.9 percent of the workforce will make decisions on how they think and feel at any given moment, you’ll be making decisions based on what you really want for yourself. There’s your power.” Bennington believes in what she calls “excellence in the moment.”
My personal list of virtues include work first, play second; serenity in the face of chaos, being generous with my connections and talent, and leading with a sense of humor. Those precepts keep me sane when my day seems to spin out of control.
Bennington finishes her pyramid approach (70 percent virtues and intentions) with a 30 percent focus on goals. Goals are important, she writes; “I want you to be über-rich and über-powerful, but I also want you to have the foundation to handle that success when it arrives.”
That makes sense to me. Many people rise to fame and wealth, only to fall down (some literally: see Lindsay Lohan and soon, Justin Bieber) when their values don’t give them the support they need to manage the big lifestyle they’ve built.
Do you have a list of virtues that support your goals? Leave a comment.