Getting Ready for Bed With Arianna Huffington
Just back in Manhattan after interviews with both Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey to promote her 14th book, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder,” Arianna Huffington was running late last Friday night in Greenwich Village.
So what to do? But, of course: A member of her PR team leads me on a tour of the nap rooms at the Huffington Post’s cavernous office, with a nod to the company’s meditation and breathing classes.
One nap room featured a high-tech-looking nap pod (like a massage chair with a helmet). The other had a simple twin bed (the sheets are washed nightly, but HuffPosters are fine sharing them through the day).
Still, a stress fracture emerges in the wall of Zen: Another PR person, also along to show off this aggressive display of calm, joked about instant messaging someone two seats away, before adding quickly, “but that’s not very third metric.”
What exactly is a “third metric”? It’s a nebulous term Huffington coined to describe a measure of success that isn’t money and power. For Huffington, the Third Metric has within it the Four Pillars upon which we should be judged successful: Well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
Finally, Huffington, in a gold-hued tunic top over slacks, emerged from her glass office. With a “Hello, darling,” in her distinctive drawl, she insisted that her visitor have something to drink, because, “this is a Greek household” (and she is, after all, a famously good hostess).
Huffington’s cellphone rings with the sound of a grandfather clock chiming. Her office, a glass box at the back of the enormous editorial department, had no desk — just a large, round, glass conference table — but it was packed with personal memorabilia. There were layers of photos of her family along the windowsill, a box of Wheaties cereal with her face on it, and an antique-looking sofa with a pillow on it that read “sleep your way to the top,” which has become one of her mantras.
Long a fixture of public culture, and perhaps the busiest person of the digital age, Huffington has been on something of a health kick in recent years, which has inspired some, and caused others to roll their eyes.
Does Huffington care? Not one little bit, it seems, marching into the breach of stress, specifically honing in on the topic of sleep and the importance of it. It’s clear the if-she-did-not-exist-you’d-have-to-invent her personality has become nap-happy, in the way some others have embraced gluten-free mania.
And, in the most ironic twist — except if you happen to be Arianna Huffington — the woman who made her fortune in the Internet space has targeted tech as the culprit for our nocturnal problems.
And, of course, she offers tech as the ultimate solution.
Since this is Huffington, there is — naturally — the book, which comes out today. It opens dramatically, with Huffington actually collapsing from exhaustion at her desk, knocking herself out, breaking her cheekbone and cutting her eye.
She uses her epic keeling-over to paint a portrait of a triumphant life full of dissatisfaction and anxiety, cured finally through meditation and, yes, sleep. Her message: Get some sleep, a nice and somewhat sensical piece of advice that goes down well with the audiences of Oprah and Ellen.
“We take such better care of our devices than we do ourselves,” said the 63-year-old Huffington, who — let it be said — did look well-rested. “We have little recharging shrines all over our homes. But with ourselves, we often crash.”
People in Silicon Valley, Huffington said, have often been the first to voice concerns about technology.
“In the tech community, the paradox is that maybe because they’re pioneering and so embedded in tech, they are also the first to understand the dangers,” she said. “You have a lot of Silicon Valley dads sending their kids to Waldorf Schools. This is not a Luddite stance, this is a realization that tech needs to be put in its place.”
Her prescription for change includes pages of cellphone-app suggestions, including her own, “GPS for the Soul,” which tracks heart rate and includes relaxation tools like sunset slideshows and Mother Teresa quotes set to wind chimes.
“We must use technology to free ourselves from technology,” she said — using a logic that somehow makes sense when she says it.
There are limits. Huffington, who lives in a grand Soho loft, said she doesn’t sleep in the same room as her iPhone, for example, a rule that she insisted has helped her sleep more deeply. She does keep a simple feature phone always on hand in case there’s an emergency, but only her children and the night editor have the number.
But will simple solutions like that suffice? Perhaps. She recounted a recent dinner at the home of Salesforce founder Marc Benioff — another meditation buff — where she met early Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein, who invented the “Like” button. And the man responsible for making us rate everything like rodents hitting a bell to get cheese — he, too, wanted to get off the hamster wheel.
“[I think] 2013 was a bit of a tipping point, where a lot of CEOs — many in the Valley — came out not as New Age, but as meditators,” Huffington said, which does not mean those who negotiate, but those who meditate.
The next stop on her book tour will be this week in Silicon Valley, which will include an onstage interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday, and talks at LinkedIn, Google and Twitter.
“Sheryl did a line-by-line edit; real, very detailed edits,” Huffington said. “Move this up, move this to the epilogue. I think she connected with the themes. She’s now meditating, too.”
She stood up and popped her head out of the office. Nearly a dozen of the fresh-faced employees she calls “The A Team” were working in a row, and they hopped to attention, each with a Macbook propped in the crook of an arm.
“Darlings! You have to go home. It’s 8 pm on a Friday,” she said. “We’re supposed to be thriving.”
She then asked one of the assistants to cue up the video promo that goes along with the book. In the video, made as a faux mass obituary, faces of the deceased fade in and out, while celebrities like will.i.am read statements like, “She always made time for the conference call, even when on vacation.”
“Your eulogy will never be like a LinkedIn profile,” Huffington says as she materializes onscreen.