Q: In Thrive you talk about our need to redefine success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. And you open the book describing your collapse in 2007 from exhaustion leading to a broken cheekbone and a round of visits to doctors and hospitals for tests. Tell us about that experience and how it led to your wake-up call in terms of health and well-being.
ARIANNA: I had my personal wakeup call on April 6, 2007, when I found myself on the floor in a pool of blood — my own as it turns out. I had collapsed on the floor from exhaustion and lack of sleep, breaking my cheekbone and cutting my eye. I was working eighteen-hour days to build The Huffington Post, joining the ranks of the more than 30% of Americans who are sleep deprived. This painful wakeup call taught me that while I might have been considered successful by our society’s misguided definition, I was not living a successful life by any truly healthy, productive — and sane — definition of success. I was on my way up in the ways that don’t matter. And on my way down – literally – in many ways that do.
Q: Another central theme in Thrive is the power of meditation to relieve stress and bring balance to our lives. Tell us more about that and your daily practice.
ARIANNA: This past year was the year when meditation and mindfulness finally stopped being seen as something vaguely flaky, vaguely new age-y, definitely California, and fully entered the mainstream.
That shift is backed up by an ever-growing mountain of scientific evidence about the incredible power of mindfulness, meditation, and looking within. The list of all the conditions that these practices impact for the better – depression, anxiety, heart disease, memory, aging, creativity – sounds like a label on snake oil from the 19th century. Except this cure-all is real — and there are no toxic side effects.
In my own life, I’ve found the practice indispensable. I now start every morning with at least 20 to 30 minutes of meditation. But I’ve also found that meditation can actually be done in very short windows of time, even while on the go.
Q: Throughout the book you caution against the dangers of hyperconnectivity, and over the holidays you took part in a weeklong digital detox. Is it truly possible to disconnect, even when you are running the biggest online news site in the world?
ARIANNA: I’m happy to say that yes, it is possible! I spent the week between Christmas and New Years in Hawaii with my daughters, my sister and my ex-husband — with no TV, no social media, and just two email check-ins a day with our HuffPost editors when the office was open. Almost immediately, I was floored by the realization of just how much my phones had become almost physical extensions of myself — I would instinctively reach for them like phantom limbs! Technology is so integrated with our lives — and even our bodies and brains — in such an intimate way that when you go without it you really experience a kind of withdrawal. But, as with most addictions, there are benefits and pleasures to be had in reestablishing our independence — even temporarily — from it.
Q: What do you want to see readers take-away from this book?
ARIANNA: Thrive is designed as a bridge — a bridge between knowing what we need to do and actually doing it. Throughout the book, you’ll find your own way across that bridge through daily practices, tools, and techniques that are easy to incorporate into your life today for real, lasting success. You’ll also find the latest data, academic research and scientific findings to convince even the most stubborn skeptic.
So I hope the book’s impact will lie in helping us to make room in our definition of success for well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving. As I know all too well, this is no simple matter. Changing deeply ingrained habits is especially difficult. And when many of these habits are the product of deeply ingrained cultural norms, it is even harder. This is the challenge we face in redefining success.
Q: Tell us about your partnership with DonorsChoose:
ARIANNA: Giving is a central theme in Thrive — and, in the spirit of the book, I am making a donation for anyone who pre-orders it before it comes out on March 25th. If you choose to pre-order a copy, you will get a DonorsChoose gift code equal to the book’s list price of $26 (even if you pay a discounted price) to put toward much-needed projects in classrooms all across America. Find out more at www.DonorsChoose.org/Thrive.