I’ve written extensively about my time working in McKinsey’s New York office. However, today I will share with you something I learned outside of work while walking the streets of Manhattan.

I grew up in San Diego, CA. It’s a warm city where temperatures range from 15 to 23 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F) during the day, year-round.

When I first moved to New York, I experienced my first winter. For the first time, my body was chilled to the bone.

I remember one winter the temperatures had dropped to -7 C (20 degrees F). I’d never been so cold in my life. I pulled out all the warm clothes I had — long underwear, big warm coat, scarf, hat — and I was STILL cold.

Normally, I try to wear a somewhat fashionable winter hat (if that’s even possible), but it was so cold I bought one of those super fluffy hats that generously covers your ears, heavily insulated and padded. They’re terribly unfashionable (even for me!), but wow are they warm. So, at -7 C (20 degrees F), I gave in.

I didn’t care that my head looked like a well-insulated elephant. I wanted to be warm (or at least less cold).

I remember walking down the streets of Manhattan and seeing these couples walk down the street for a night on the town. That didn’t seem that unusual to me.

What really shocked me was how some of these women were wearing miniskirts without a full-length wool coat or fur coat of any kind. The women looked really good — Manhattan Chic — but they were shivering too.

That was the year I came up with the concept that I call “vanity temperature.” Your vanity temperature is the temperature threshold where you stop caring what you look like and what others think, and you focus purely on what you need to wear to stay warm.

So, -7 C (20 degrees F) had long since surpassed my vanity temperature. For the high-fashion women of Manhattan, that wasn’t cold enough to cross their vanity temperature thresholds.

Which approach is right?

That decision is always a personal choice. However, what I want to point out is that there’s always a price to be paid for looking good — especially if you’re trying to look good to impress others or maintain a certain social standing.

Regardless of the reason, there’s ALWAYS a price to be paid.

The question is: At what point is it no longer worth it?

At what metaphorical “vanity temperature” do you stop caring what others think, and do what you need to do to take care of yourself?

(I’m not talking about the weather anymore. I’m talking about work, career, money, prestige, relationships, family, marriages, children.)

Some people have no limits.

They will do anything needed to be “successful” or to maintain a certain social standing — run their health into the ground, ruin every relationship they have, and damage their lives in many ways (often in a way that’s not obviously visible to others).

Where are your limits?

How much is too much?

Those are personal questions and choices. However, I will say this:

If you have no limits… If you will do anything, say anything, sacrifice anything to be “successful,” then what kind of life will you have left when you’re finally “successful”?

Share your thoughts with me below.

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