Nearly two years after launching her global news site, Arianna Huffington found herself busier than ever. The Huffington Post was growing exponentially, and she was working endless hours to keep up with the fast pace. Finally, an exhausted and physically drained Huffington collapsed at her desk. The fall left her with a broken cheekbone and five stitches near her right eye, leading her to reevaluate the balance in her life.
On the day after the seventh anniversary of her accident, Huffington was on campus to talk to the Penn community about her new book as part of the Wharton Leadership Program’s Authors@Wharton series. Huffington’s awakening experience inspired her newest book, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder.”
In the immediate aftermath of her accident, Huffington asked herself what actually defines success.
“Success by the conventional measures of society is just about two measures — money and power. And by those measures, I was successful,” she said. “But by any sane definition of success, if you’re lying in a pool of blood on the floor of your office, you are not successful.”
This realization put Huffington on a mission to change the culture that views sleep deprivation as a symbol of achievement and prioritizes to do lists over mental and physical health. She realized that success needed to be reimagined to mean more than just money and power.
In her book, Huffington introduces four pillars she believes are crucial to success — well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
The pillar of wisdom focuses on being mindful of self and surroundings — a necessary ability Huffington thinks technology has destroyed.
“Especially now when we are so hyper-connected to our devices and technology, we have lost our ability to connect with ourselves,” she said. “Right now we treat ourselves much, much worse [than our smartphones]. My iPhone begins to give me alerts at 20 percent remaining battery ... By about 14 percent remaining battery, I get really worried, I begin to look around for a charging shrine.
“We get really worried that our phones are going to die. We don’t worry about ourselves because we believe we are immortal,” she added.
Wonder, another pillar to success, deals with the ability to break free from technology and obligations and observe the world around us.
“We are so buried in our to do list and our devices that we lose our capacity for wonder and joy,” Huffington said. “You walk down the street and there is so much to wonder about. But people are buried in their devices, which is why walking is now a calamity.”
Huffington feels that people are wrongly driven to overload their schedules, as if it will help them attain greater success.
“Busy-ness has become such a badge of honor and importance because the more busy you are, the more important you are,” she said.
According to Huffington, giving — another pillar — is crucial to living a life of fulfillment. It has been scientifically proven to make us happier and healthier. She explained that our genes are actually wired so that we feel rewarded when we give to others.
Huffington is confident that recognizing her four pillars can help individuals rethink how they operate in a fast-paced world, but her own experiences made her realize that major changes don’t happen overnight.
Nevertheless, Huffington believes that the best way to get on the path to success is starting with a good night’s sleep. One of the things she is most proud of is adjusting from four to five hours of sleep each night to a healthy seven to eight hours.
“The evidence might overwhelm you, but sleep is a miracle drug,” she joked.