In Thrive, Arianna Huffington makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world.
Arianna Huffington’s personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye–the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep. As the cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group–one of the fastest growing media companies in the world–celebrated as one of the world’s most influential women, and gracing the covers of magazines, she was, by any traditional measure, extraordinarily successful. Yet as she found herself going from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion, she wondered is this really what success feels like?
As more and more people are coming to realize, there is far more to living a truly successful life than just earning a bigger salary and capturing a corner office. Our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success–money and power–has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers. In being connected to the world 24/7, we’re losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is, as Thrive shows, literally killing us. We need a new way forward.
In a commencement address Arianna gave at Smith College in the spring of 2013, she likened our drive for money and power to two legs of a three-legged stool. They may hold us up temporarily, but sooner or later we’re going to topple over. We need a third leg–a third metric for defining success–to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna points out, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success. They don’t commemorate our long hours in the office, our promotions, or our sterling PowerPoint presentations as we relentlessly raced to climb up the career ladder. They are not about our resumes–they are about cherished memories, shared adventures, small kindnesses and acts of generosity, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.
In this deeply personal book, Arianna talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritizing the demands of a career and raising two daughters–of juggling business deadlines and family crises, a harried dance that led to her collapse and to her “aha moment.” Drawing on the latest groundbreaking research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show the profound and transformative effects of meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving, Arianna shows us the way to a revolution in our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives.
Author One-on-One: Arianna Huffington and Mark Hyman
Arianna Huffington and Mark Hyman discuss Arianna’s new book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.
Arianna Huffington is the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of fourteen books. Mark Hyman, MD is a seven-time New York Times bestselling author—Including the recently released Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet—founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts and Chairman of The Institute for Functional Medicine.
Mark Hyman: Arianna, in Thrive you talk about our need to redefine success beyond money and power to include what success means to us and that to live a truly successful life we need to integrate well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving into our lives. You open the book describing your collapse in 2007 from exhaustion leading to a broken cheekbone and a round of visits to doctors and hospitals for tests. You were clearly running on empty, as I know so many people are—tell us about that experience and how it led to your larger wake-up call in terms of health and well-being.
Arianna Huffington: I had my personal wake-up call on April 6, 2007, when I found myself on the floor in a pool of blood. I had collapsed from exhaustion, breaking my cheekbone and cutting my eye. I was working eighteen-hour days to build The Huffington Post, while being a mom to my two teenage daughters. What this wake-up call taught me was that even though I was considered successful by our society’s conventional measures of success, I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. Something had to radically change in my life.
As I’ve learned firsthand, overwork, stress, and sleep deprivation have profound effects on virtually every part of our lives. Our current model of success is not working for anyone. It’s not working for women, and really, it’s not working for men either.
Mark Hyman: All so true. Stress really does impact your physical well-being, which is why I loved your discussion of the power of meditation in our lives to relieve stress and bring balance. You make the point that even a brief meditative moment can have a restorative effect. Tell us more about that and your daily practice.
Arianna Huffington: There is more and more scientific evidence about the impact of mindfulness and meditation in our lives. The list of all the conditions that these practices impact for the better—depression, anxiety, heart disease, memory, aging, creativity—sounds like a label on snake oil from the 19th century! Except this cure-all is real, and there are no toxic side effects. Indeed, 2013 was the year when meditation and mindfulness finally and overwhelmingly stopped being seen as something vaguely flaky, vaguely New Age-y, definitely California, and fully entered the mainstream.
I personally start every morning with at least 20 to 30 minutes of meditation. If you’re just beginning, you can start by introducing 5 minutes of meditation into your day. Even just a few minutes will open the door to creating a new habit—and all the many proven benefits it brings.
Mark Hyman: Throughout the book you caution against the dangers of living in a permanently connected state. I agree that it is a growing problem in society today. I know over Christmas you participated in a digital detox yourself. Is it truly possible to disconnect, even when you are running the biggest online news site in the world?
Arianna Huffington: I’m happy to say that yes, it is possible! I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Hawaii with my daughters, my sister, and my ex-husband—with no TV and no social media. Almost immediately, I was floored by the realization of just how much my phones had become almost physical extensions of myself—I would instinctively reach for them like phantom limbs! Unplugging meant rediscovering and savoring the moment for its own sake. Which is to say, taking in a view without tweeting it. Eating a meal without Instagramming it. Hearing my daughters say something hilarious and very shareable without sharing it. The unplugged version of myself was better able to give these things my full attention. And when I came back to the office, I was truly refreshed.
Mark Hyman: All important points. What do you want to see readers take away from this book?
Arianna Huffington: In the book, I pull together three threads: my personal journey and my hard-earned lessons; scientific studies about the importance of slowing down, sleep, meditation, and disconnecting from our devices; and many daily practices, tools, and techniques that can begin to transform our lives.
I very much hope that the book will chart another way forward—a way available to all of us right now, wherever we find ourselves. A way based on the timeless truth that life is shaped from the inside out—a truth that has been celebrated by spiritual teachers, poets, and philosophers throughout the ages, and has now been validated by modern science.
So I very much hope that the book will help make room in our definition of success for well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving, and help us move from knowing what we need to do to actually doing it.