Forget Money and Power: Here’s How to Define Success Says Arianna Huffington

October 23, 2014

Arianna Huffington woke up in a pool of blood one day in April 2007.

She had fallen and hit her head on her desk. She had broken her cheekbone. She needed four stitches on her right eye.

She had collapsed out of exhaustion.

That incident was the beginning of Huffington’s journey in redefining her meaning of success, as she told a packed auditorium at this year’s Talent Connect conference in San Francisco.

By society’s conventional metrics, i.e., money and power, she was successful. She’s the founder of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Huffington Post website, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of 14 books, and has been named in both the Forbes Most Powerful Women list  and TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

The Third Metric

But to Huffington, lying on the floor of her office in a pool of blood was the furthest thing from success. She was paying the price of overwork and sleep deprivation. She began to realize that there needed to be a “third metric” beyond money and power that makes life full and complete.

Her third metric is based on the concepts of well-being and health, wisdom, wonder, and giving. She urged the audience to bring this third metric to their workplaces, as the companies that make this cultural shift will be the ones that will attract and retain the best talent.

Well-being and health:

She implored the audience to stop glamorizing sleep deprivation and to stop congratulating people for working 24/7. “We have to change the collective delusion that success is defined by burnout.” The science shows that sleep deprivation makes us less productive and creative, so it’s not only bad for ourselves, it’s bad for business.

She lamented our over-addiction to technology. “We take better care of our smart phones than of ourselves. We get anxious when our phones get below 20% battery, yet we’re not even aware when we ourselves run out of battery, just as I did when I collapsed in my office that day.”

Wisdom:

“We all have that place of wisdom, strength, peace and joy. We don’t tap into it enough. We silence that voice of intuition because we don’t create any room to hear it,” said Huffington.

She spoke about how she’s made hiring mistakes when she hasn’t made space for that inner voice: the times when she saw the little red flags about a candidate, the little things that weren’t quite right. “Every time I’ve overruled that part of my mind, I’ve made a mistake,” she said.

She reminded the audience that the candidates they want to attract are people with good judgment, more so than people with stamina.

Wonder:

“Life is full of wonder that we miss because we are not fully present. We are always multi-tasking and missing the moment.”

She talked about how great minds such as Steve Jobs and Isaac Newton did their best thinking during quiet times. When we encourage quiet at work in the form of such things as meditation rooms, we create opportunities to generate new ideas, increase productivity, and can even cut healthcare costs.

Giving:

This doesn’t have to be just the giving of money or time. It can be as simple as making a connection with the people with whom we come into contact every day. “Whether it’s the barista serving your coffee or the cleaning crew at your office, are you making a personal connection with them?” asked Huffington.

She went on to say that “The world is constantly telling us to define our value by our jobs. However important our jobs may be though, we are more than our jobs. When we really believe that, it can transform our lives. It takes away a lot of the stress around work. It makes us appreciate human beings for who they are beyond what they do.”

“Our eulogies are very different from our LinkedIn profiles,” continued Huffington. “At memorial services you never hear, ‘Wow George was amazing: he increased market share by one-third.’” She urged the audience to build their eulogies along with their profiles.

In her book Thrive, she prescribes 12 steps to living a more balance and centered life. On stage she mentioned three of them:

  1. Get 30 minutes more sleep per night. Perhaps that means not watching Jon Stewart or maybe it means curtailing your House of Cards binge – whatever it is, getting just a bit more sleep at night will help you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day’s challenges.
  1. Create a device-free zone at bedtime. You probably sleep with your phone by your bed. Not good, says Huffington, and there’s science to back that up. When you wake up in the middle of night and look at data, it takes you longer to go back to sleep and the sleep isn’t as recharging.
  1. Do regular life audits. “How many projects do we start in our heads that we don’t do anything about?” she asked. “It’s very liberating to know you can complete a project by dropping it. Then it doesn’t clutter your inner drive anymore, and you can focus your energy elsewhere.”

Speaking especially to women, she reminded the audience that “No.” is a complete sentence. “So often we are asked to do things and we feel that we have to say yes because we are eager to please. But if you are going to achieve things, you need to be able to exclude things,” she advised.

Huffington isn’t all talk. The culture she has shaped at the Huffington Post embodies the third metric too. A few ways in which the company does so is by having and encouraging the use of nap rooms, places for mediation and yoga, and a no-device policy during meetings.

“You’re in an incredible position,” she told the audience, “to create work cultures that ferment the kind of change we need so that we can live our lives with more creativity, productivity, and less stress and burnout.”

Bravo, Arianna.

And goodnight.

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