Co-Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.
Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of several books. The Huffington Post is one of the most widely read, linked to, and cited media brands online. In 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and Arianna has been named to TIME Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and Forbes’ Most Powerful Women list.
In her latest bestselling book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna encourages people to shift away from the more traditional societal measures of success (money and power) toward a focus on thriving. This approach creates a healthy lifestyle that opens the door to more meaning, purpose, joy, peace, and well-being. Through her book and Thrive events, she has started a growing movement toward “thriving” in our lives.
I attended the sold-out Third Metric Conference in New York City in April 2014. The event was hosted by Arianna and Mika Brzezinski. Now in its second year, the conference has gone from a small gathering in Arianna’s living room to more than two thousand attendees. The two-day event focused on redefining success and included sessions on the five core components of thriving: well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion, and giving.
I was struck by Arianna’s passion, humor, and authenticity. She gave the entire crowd her personal e-mail and told us, “If you don’t have a Thrive buddy, then I will be one for you.” And she meant it. As you would expect, she is a fearless one-woman powerhouse, but she is also a down-to-earth, kind, and fun-loving person. She’s the woman whom you know, without a shadow of a doubt, will reach back, give you her hand, and help others in any way she can. She’s the real deal, and I am honored to be able to interview her and share her inspirational journey so far.
What was your well-being aha moment?
On the morning of April 6, 2007, I was lying on the floor of my home office in a pool of blood. On my way down, my head had hit the corner of my desk, cutting my eye and breaking my cheekbone. I had collapsed from exhaustion and lack of sleep. In the wake of my collapse, I found myself going from doctor to doctor, from brain MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, to find out if there was any underlying medical problem beyond exhaustion. There wasn’t, but doctors’ waiting rooms, it turned out, were good places for me to ask myself a lot of questions about the kind of life I was living.
We founded The Huffington Post in 2005, and two years in we were growing at an incredible pace. I was on the cover of magazines and had been chosen by TIME as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People. But after my fall, I had to ask myself, Was this what success looked like? Was this the life I wanted? I was working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to build a business, expand our coverage, and bring in investors. But my life, I realized, was out of control. In terms of the traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. I knew something had to radically change. I could not go on that way.
Seven years after that intense wake-up call you are Thriving. Tell us about the biggest challenge you had in changing your life for the better.
I was operating under the delusion that burning out was the necessary price for achieving success. This couldn’t be less true. Not only is there no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance, but performance is actually improved when our life becomes more balanced. I wish I could go back and tell my much younger self, “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.” That would have saved me a lot of unnecessary stress, burnout, and exhaustion.
Describe your perfect day of being well.
My perfect day begins the night before, with a good night’s sleep—which, for me, means seven to eight hours. The next morning I wake up with no alarms, meditate, walk, and spend several hours reading actual books I can underline that have nothing to do with work.
If I were lucky enough to come over for dinner, what would you cook?
I hate to disappoint, but I’m a terrible cook, and many years ago I decided to stop pretending I would ever learn. My mother, on the other hand, could cook anything, spent most of her time in the kitchen, and honestly believed that if you didn’t eat something every twenty minutes, something terrible would happen to you. So we’ll order in!
What’s your favorite workout and why?
I start every morning with 20 to 30 minutes of meditation and exercise as often as I can, but my favorite workout is a long walk in good company. I have a group of friends with whom I hike, and it’s our tradition that whomever is feeling the most energized that day has to talk on the way up the hill we climb. The rest talk on the way down. Let’s just say I’m pretty well-known as a consistent downhill talker.
What’s your favorite meditation?
The connection that conscious breathing gives me is something I can return to in an instant for hundreds of times during the day. A conscious focus on breathing helps me introduce pauses into my daily life, brings me back into the moment, and helps me transcend upsets and setbacks. It has also helped me become much more aware when I hold or constrict my breath, not just when dealing with a problem, but sometimes even when I’m doing something as mundane as putting a key in the door, texting, reading an email, or going over my schedule. When I use my breath to relax the contracted core of my body, I can follow this thread back to my center.
What time is your alarm set for?
I don’t have one set time for every day, but I do think a lot about how I wake up. Most importantly, I make sure I have my phones charging far, far away from my bed, to help me avoid the middle-of-the-night temptation to check the latest news or emails. In fact, last year for Christmas I gave all my friends the same gift, a Pottery Barn alarm clock, so they wouldn’t be tempted to charge their iPhones by their beds.
You launched The Huffington Post in your house with a handful of people nine years ago. What made you think you could go up against the big boys and succeed?
Bringing together people from different parts of my life and facilitating interesting conversations has always been part of my Greek DNA. So from the beginning, the whole point of The Huffington Post was to take the sort of conversations found at water coolers and around dinner tables—about politics and art and books and food—and open them up and bring them online. We wanted to embrace the hybrid future of media, combining the best practices of traditional journalism—fairness, accuracy, storytelling, deep investigations—with speed, transparency, engagement, and the best tools available to the digital world. Our reporters and editors have always been obsessed with telling compelling stories. They chomp down on those stories and keep telling them long after others in the media have moved on.