Entrepreneur Arianna Huffington

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The international media mogul unpacks her latest text, Thrive, an exploration of the pursuit of two traditional metrics of success—money and power.

Arianna Huffington is co-founder, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, which includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning website, The Huffington Post, and is one of the fastest growing media companies in the world. The self-described progressive populist does political commentary and has been named to the TIME 100 list of the world's most influential people. She's also the author of 14 books, including Third World America, On Becoming Fearless and, her latest, Thrive, in which she makes a compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world. She serves on several boards that promote community solutions to social problems.


Tavis: Arianna Huffington’s “New York Times” best seller, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder,” grew out of a commencement speech she gave at Smith College last year where she likened the two traditional metrics of success, money and power, to being the equivalent of two legs of a three-legged stool. It’ll hold you up for a while, but eventually you will fall flat. Arianna, good to have you back on this program.

Arianna Huffington: Thank you, Tavis. Great to be with you.

Tavis: I thought you told me at one point you weren’t gonna write another book.

Huffington: I did [laugh]. I wasn’t planning. This is the surprise baby I didn’t think I would have. But after that speech, that commencement speech at Smith, there was such a response to the message of the need to redefine success beyond the first two metrics of money and power that I decided to put it all together like a roadmap from where we are to where we need to be.

Tavis: Who did you think initially that the audience would be for this book? Because I raise that only because it seems to me that the folk who most need to get that message are the folk who are chasing money and power.

But so many everyday Americans understand that life is about more than just money and power since they have neither.

Huffington: But I think it’s actually written for everybody.

Tavis: Right.

Huffington: Because the people who are struggling, the people who are struggling to put food on the table, to make ends meet, are the people who most need the tool that are in the book about how to become more resilient.

Because we see people struggling with adversity and they react differently. Some people are overwhelmed by it and some people find the inner strength and the inner wisdom to transcend the greatest adversity. And for me, that’s really the key.

When we connect with the fact that it’s not just about money and power and our jobs, but that we have this incredible source of strength and wisdom in us, but we don’t take the time to connect with it, then you realize that whatever your circumstances, whether you’re at the top of the world or struggling to make ends meet, we need to reconnect with ourselves. And that requires disconnecting from our devices.

Tavis: Yeah. We’ll come back to that in a second, I promise. You had, as most of us do when we come to these kinds of realizations, an aha moment. You had money, you had power, but you had a physical accident that led you to this moment. Tell me about what happened.

Huffington: Yes. I had a wake-up call when I collapsed from burnout, exhaustion and sleep deprivation seven years ago. I hit my head on my desk on the way down. I broke my cheekbone, got four stitches on my right eye and that’s when I started asking these big questions that we often stop asking after we leave college.

Like what is success? What is a good life? And that’s when I came up with this third metric, the third leg of the stool which includes our well-being, our wisdom, our capacity to wonder and bring joy into our lives, and giving. These four pillars really complete together with the first two. I’m not putting them down in a life of meaning and purpose.

Tavis: How do you figure out, with regard to money and power, ’cause the one thing you’re very clear – you know, it was clear to me when I read the text – is that you’re not suggesting that people shouldn’t have money or power. You’re not trying to give yours up and nobody’s asking the reader to give up his or her money or power.

But it’s about, as you said, finding this third metric. How do you know, though, when enough is enough? How much power do you need? How much money do you have to have before the chase ends?

Huffington: Well, first of all, what I’m saying is that we need to find the purpose of life in the journey and not the chase, and not waiting until we achieve the next promotion or get married or graduate before our life can begin.

Our life has to begin right now wherever we are and to bring 100% of ourselves into it. Now that’s really the message here.

The most important thing for me, Tavis, is that we can make these changes in our lives with very small baby steps. I’m not asking people to transform their lives overnight. At the end of each of the sections, I have three little baby steps.

Tavis: I love the way you did that, yeah.

Huffington: Four sections, three steps each, a total of 12 steps. And that’s deliberate because we are addicted to the current way of living which is fueled by burnout.

Tavis: But when you say baby steps, back to your earlier point which I promised I’d come back to, in this world, in this day and this age when you ask people to disconnect from their devices, that ain’t a baby step. That’s a huge commitment for some people to just disconnect for an hour or two.

Huffington: But, again, the disconnection starts with baby steps. The first baby step I recommend – Tavis, I have to check on you – is not to charge our Smart phones next to our bed. Because what happens, we wake up at night for whatever reason. We’re going to be tempted to look at our data.

And I have, as you know, 55 pages of scientific endnotes that show that, when we do that, we go back to sleep, it’s not going to be as fully recharging. At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday…

Tavis: I saw you got outed by the comedian. I’m blanking on his name, the comedian that the…

Huffington: Well, he outed me on my accent.

Tavis: I saw that, yeah, yeah [laugh].

Huffington: He said, “You probably have noticed I have an accent.” But Richard Sherman was one of our guests from the Seattle Seahawks. Athletes are ahead of us when it comes to integrating the importance of sleep, meditation, pauses in our lives into the training.

So he said that they found out that he wasn’t getting deep enough sleep. They had him get deep enough sleep and his game improved. They’ve introduced yoga and meditation to their practices.

Why are they doing that? Because these are performance enhancement tools. And our culture has ignored them because we feel that overwork and being perpetually on is the way to succeed. It’s not.

Tavis: Since you raised Richard Sherman’s name, this is the Seattle Seahawk that got in the little bit of controversy, you know, during the playoffs. And that conversation kicked up, you know, a lot of dust on Huff Post and all around the Internet, for that matter.

For people who don’t know, the way the White House Correspondents’ Dinner works is so many of these news outlets get to buy their own table.

They buy their own tables at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and they fill their tables with all kinds of people, sometimes celebrities. Richard Sherman was at your table, as you said. Why did you invite Richard Sherman? I’m just curious.

Huffington: Because I’m very interested in how athletes are integrating these practices into what they are doing because I think it’s a lesson for all of us, for the people who are not convinced by the science or by the casualties around us.

I mean, I’m even quoting Bill Clinton in the book who said, “The most important mistakes I made, I made when I was tired.” And with Monica Lewinsky in the news again, weren’t you hoping he would have gotten a good eight hours sleep the night before?

Tavis: A good night’s sleep, yeah [laugh].

Huffington: And I was with Donna Shalala at the University of Miami, you know, the HHS Secretary…

Tavis: Sure.

Huffington: And she was telling me that during her years under Clinton, he would call her in the middle of the night to ask her about Medicare. We don’t have to do all that. These are just the old ways of working, the old paradigm.

The new paradigm prioritizes these pillars of success, including our well-being and our capacity to make wise choices and wise decisions.

Tavis: One of the things that the critics and yours truly, for that matter, have given you great credit for with regard to this text is the scientific data that you have included. This is not just, you know, your aha moment story.

It is that, but there is a lot of scientific data, pages and pages of it. Why was that so important to you?

Huffington: It is very important for me because, as a culture, we need to move away from the way we’ve been running our lives and running our workplaces. And when you have a lot of data, it can convince CEOs, for example, to prioritize the healthcare of their employees.

And that’s why I quote data that show that when we prioritize that, healthcare costs go down, productivity goes up, creativity goes up. The same applies in our own lives.

One baby step, 30 minutes more sleep a night. Sleep is a wonder drug. You know, we used to dismiss it as something unnecessary, something we’ll do when we’re dead, as we used to say.

Tavis: Yeah. I’ll sleep when I’m dead, yeah.

Huffington: Yes. And now we realize that in fact our health improves, our mental clarity improves, our creativity improves.

Tavis: If you don’t sleep, you will be dead.

Huffington: If you don’t sleep, you’ll never get sick. You know, on my book tour, I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, “You know, Arianna, I don’t remember the last time I was not tired.”

So this is a message for everybody. It could be a single mother having two jobs and two children. Well, as they say on the plane, Tavis, put your own oxygen mask first.

Tavis: Yeah. Before you…

Huffington: When you take care of yourself, you’ll be able to be a better mother, overcome all the obstacles and not get discouraged so easily.

Tavis: I’m glad you raised the notion of single moms ’cause I wanted to ask you specifically about whether or not there is a – the book is for everybody. I get that. But is there a particular message that you want women to take from this text, given the work that you do?

Huffington: Well, the message I want women to take is that this is the time for the third women’s revolution. The first one was giving us the vote, the second one giving us access to every job and the top of every field, and it’s incomplete.

But we need the third women’s revolution which is for us to say we don’t want just to be at the top of the world. We want to change the world. Because the way that it is designed now, it’s not working.

It’s not working for women, for men or for polar bears. And look at Washington, Tavis. How come that we still have 50 million people living in poverty? How come we can’t have gun control legislation?

Clearly, these are politicians who’ve defined their identity in terms of their job, so they don’t cast the top votes. They don’t make the tough calls. When we begin to redefine what success is, we will actually make better decisions, whether it’s as politicians or as individuals in our own lives.

Tavis: So finally, the flip side of the chase, you’re encouraging us not just to chase money and not just to chase power, but to find this third metric. I get that.

The flip side of that for everyday people, for poor people, the work that I do and the work that you do in a variety of ways, is not so much the chase to have money and power. It’s just the chase to survive.

What is the message to everyday Americans like the people you’ve met on this tour who can’t remember the last time they weren’t tired. Not because they’re chasing money and power. They’re chasing the rent. They’re chasing the car note. They’re chasing babies’ milk. What’s the message to those persons?

Huffington: The message is that even during these times of struggle, where is the grace? To find the grace in the struggle, that’s why I even quote Viktor Frankl in a concentration camp. You know, extreme circumstances.

There were people who were able even in the most extreme circumstances to find the grace, to find the gratitude. And that’s the way to tap into the strength in us, into our own resilience, and to be able to survive and thrive.

Because even while we’re struggling to survive, we can thrive if we connect with that part of ourselves that is beyond adversity and beyond our circumstances.

You know, I was brought up with no money in a one-room apartment in Athens. I had a mother who lived like that, who made us believe that we were not limited by our circumstances. Your mother did that.

Tavis: I met your mother, yeah.

Huffington: And you met my mother, so you know what I’m talking about. So that’s what I’m saying here. This is really what distinguishes people who are completely destroyed by poverty, by the struggle, and people who rise beyond it.

Tavis: She said she wouldn’t write another book. I’m glad she did and I’m sure she’s glad she did since it premiered at number one on the New York Times best-seller list. Weeks later, still on the list.

The book from Arianna Huffington, the latest, is called “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder,” the cofounder of The Huffington Post. Arianna, good to have you on. Thanks for the book.

Huffington: Thank you, Tavis.

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Last modified: June 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm