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Arianna Huffington: Reject the idea that burnout is necessary for success
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Arianna Huffington: Reject the idea that burnout is necessary for success

Famed entrepreneur and media mogul Arianna Huffington on moving from surviving to thriving, sleeping myths, and redefining success.

You’ve decided to step down from Huffington Post to focus “Thrive Global”. When did you feel that that moment has arrived?

– Actually, when I decided to create Thrive Global, I thought it would be possible to build a startup and continue on as editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. But as Thrive Global moved from an idea to a reality, with investors, staff, and offices, it became clear that I couldn’t do justice to both companies. Running both companies would have involved working around the clock, which would be against the very principles of Thrive. And so I stepped down as editor-in-chief. But it was easier to do knowing what a great team was in place to handle the transition.

Tell us more about “Thrive Global”. How did you form, and what do you have coming up?

– The seeds of the formation go back to 2007 when I collapsed from exhaustion. I passed out, fell, and woke up in a pool of blood, with a broken cheekbone and a cut over my eye. After that, I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and productivity. And that led me to write my two books, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. And as I went around the world speaking about them, and the issues of stress, burnout and sleep deprivation, I saw how deeply people want to change their lives. So I wanted to go beyond just speaking out and raising awareness – I felt the need to turn this passion into something real and tangible that would begin to help people change their daily lives. It was a call to action I just couldn’t ignore, and so I founded Thrive Global. And we have a lot of exciting plans in the works. We’ve established partnerships in India, China, Italy, Eastern Europe and South Africa, and we’ve now conducted training on five continents – the U.S., Ireland, Argentina, Japan, Hong Kong and Kenya. And we look forward to starting our work in China later this year.

You’d already written “Thrive” in 2014, a book about the importance of wellness. Why go back to the “Thrive” now? 

– Because even though more and more people know we need to change, it’s very hard to change our entire business and work culture. And I wanted to help accelerate this shift – to put all the principles and science behind Thrive into action to make a difference in people’s lives.

Photo Credit: MARCUS YAM

The political climate is a hot mess right now. Do you miss your Huffington Post office, and covering current political news on a daily basis?

– I love what I’m doing now, so I don’t miss covering the political news day-to-day, but I do miss all the incredible, creative, hard-working and dedicated people I worked with at Huffington Post. Fortunately, I’m in touch with many of them.

Huffington Post helped pioneer digital-only journalism and its success would serve as a template for many digital startups that followed in its wake. How can digital journalism survive in the age of Trump?

– It will survive, and thrive, by doing what it was doing before: telling the truth, telling real people’s stories and giving people a voice in their world. Those have always been important, but they’re more important than ever when the truth is under such assault. We need media outlets more than ever. It’s time to show our support.

I passed out, fell, and woke up in a pool of blood, with a broken cheekbone and a cut over my eye. After that, I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being and productivity.

Your latest book, “The Sleep Revolution” became a huge success. How is your sleep now? What do you do to get your best sleep?

– My sleep is much better now that I make it a priority. To get my best sleep, my sleep ritual often involves taking a hot bath with Epsom salts and then reading or writing. Also, I charge my phone outside my bedroom, which everybody should do. Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep — our to-do lists, our in-boxes, our anxieties. So if you make it a regular part of your bedtime ritual to gently escort your phone outside of your bedroom as you get ready for bed, you’ll be much more likely to wake up as fully charged as your phone.

What has your post-election sleeping, exercising and reading look like? What would you advice for those who suffers stress and post-trauma?

– Sleep has been challenging for a lot of people since the election. And if you’re outraged by Trump – and many rightfully are – the most important thing to remember is that, while you can’t control what happens, you can control how you react. And living in a state of perpetual outrage isn’t good for us. I’m not saying ignore what’s going on, but if we step out of the storm, to the calm center of the hurricane, and make time to disconnect and recharge, we’ll be more effective, resilient and creative in rising to the challenge. So what I would say is: take care of yourself, and then you’ll be more effective in helping those who are most vulnerable.

Do you think the term beauty sleep is a myth or real?

– It’s real, and that’s the reason why sleep is being embraced by so much of the fashion and beauty industries. And there’s science behind it, too. A Swedish study found that well-rested people were judged by participants to be more attractive than sleep deprived people, and other studies have shown the connection between sleep deprivation and an increase in fine lines, blemishes, and wrinkles.

If we step out of the storm, to the calm center of the hurricane, and make time to disconnect and recharge, we’ll be more effective, resilient and creative in rising to the challenge.

In earlier interviews, you mention that millennials are the most stressed generation. What are your recommendations for how they can become less stressed and be happier?

– Yes, studies have found that Millennials are more stressed than other generation. And my advice for them would be to not accept the definition of stress and burnout that my generation is handing off to them. They should reject the idea that burnout is necessary for success right at the beginning of their careers, which will help accelerate the culture shift.

Do you think there’s a tech bubble?

– It’s hard to say – I know many people think we are, but bubbles are a lot clearer in the rear-view mirror.

What’s the best and useful advice you’ve ever heard of?

– From my mother: angels fly because they take themselves lightly.

Were there any turning points that changed the course of your life and set you on a different track?

– The biggest would be collapsing from exhaustion in 2007 and breaking my cheekbone. That’s what set in motion my founding of Thrive Global – as well as forcing me to make a lot of positive changes in my life. I’m happy for those changes, but what I’m trying to do with Thrive Global is make sure other people can learn these lessons the easy way.

Do you have any tricks regarding productivity?

– The single biggest variable in our well-being is sleep. But that can also include naps, which really do make a difference in our productivity. So if you need a productivity boost, take a nap – or, better yet, get more sleep every night. What are your simple ways to manage your energy every day? – Assuming you’re getting enough sleep, which is key, the best thing you can do during the day is taken regular breaks – to move around, let your mind wander and disconnect from technology. So, one tip is: eat lunch away from your desk and leave your phone behind.

Roughly speaking, what do you do with your money?

– I’m Greek – I save it. – [Revised, and re-edited from an interview by Ali Tufan Koc]

Cover Photo Credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times

 


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