On Tuesday, Chair, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group Arianna Huffington visited the University of Miami to discuss her 14th book, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.”
She spoke to members of student media and answered questions about how to succeed in the communication field and how failure affects success.
Student Media: What’s your best advice for a graduate entering the job world specifically in the communication field?
Arianna Huffington: First of all some general advice for all graduates is to just not believe the collective delusion that the only way to succeed is to burn out be exhausted and sleep deprived and then you’re going to rest when you get to the top. The president is here and she said something wonderful to me at lunch … she said that to lead you have to be rested. That’s when you’re going to make your best decisions and then when crises happen, as in all our lives crises happen, you will be able to draw on your resources to make the best decisions. If you’re operating on fumes, if you’ve exhausted your reserves, you’re not going to make your best decisions. So it’s not selfish to actually nurture your human capita, it’s the way to be most effective and you know … there’s so much scientific evidence about it, I have 55 pages of scientific footnotes to convince you. And also, look at star athletes; they only care about winning right? But now they have integrated sleep, meditation, yoga into their lives because they’re better on the court. So in order to be better on the court, you have to nurture the human capita. Now, our culture has been completely wrong about sleep deprivation especially men. I don’t want to single out the one man here but you know, men have kind of used sleep deprivation like a virility symbol, like a macho thing and they’ve been congratulating each other for working 24/7 and all that. And, we now have a lot of evidence that this is a way to make bad decisions, not to be as creative, as productive or as effective. And, to you really miss out on your life too. Specifically now to your question about the communications field, this is a really exciting time to be in the communications field. Things are changing, and what we’re finding is that media are beginning to also put the spotlight on good things and on what is working, not just on what is dysfunctional and corrupt. That will always be the role of the media, you know to expose injustice, to speak truth to power, all these things are very important but it’s also very important to put the emphasis on good things that are happening in the community because a lot of good things are happening and very often the media consider this “soft” news like not serious journalism you know something we cover on thanksgiving or Christmas. And at the Huffington post we have very different approach, we have many sections that specifically cover what is working – in small business, in health. We have a dedicated section called “the good news” section. If you’re ever depressed go and check out the “good news section,” it’s full of examples of generosity, people’s compassion. I mean one of my favorite stories recently was of the homeless man in Boston who found a wallet with $40,000. I don’t normally carry $40,000 around, I don’t know about you but, and he returned it. And, then there was a crowd rising campaign and more money was raised for him online, to reward him. I mean I love that story, it’s like you see humanity come into action so, entering the communications field and realizing that communications is changing is also a great new opportunity. And getting enough sleep, don’t forget that.
SM: It seems that you’ve dabbled in almost every aspect of the media, from politics to acting and of course, journalism. How have you been able to find success in so many different aspects?
AH: First of all, I have failed many times along the way. I think it’s very important to stress that, because when people succeed, it’s as though their failures a re buried and you don’t see them. And I don’t know any person who has succeeded who has not failed along the way. So don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast, fail often, move on. Failure, my mother, to whom “Thrive” the book is dedicated, used to say to me, “failure is not the opposite of success, failure is a stepping stone to success.” And it’s important to remember that because especially women, we often hold back from trying difficult things because we may fail and yes we do, we may fail but so what? You know, what’s the big deal? It’s like, it’s just we don’t always have to be perfect, we don’t always have to be winning.
SM: One of the main things student journalists are told is to be ready for the sleepless nights. So how do you balance the reality of that with some of the points you made in your book?
AH: Absolutely there will be deadlines and there may be sleepless nights. The question is then do you recover? Do you have recovery time? I’m not saying that life is going to be all a plateau of 8 hour nights, I’m saying remember the importance of recovery. So then let’s say that you have an intense period when you have a story to get in and you get the story in, then make sure you unplug and recharge. You know, just think of the way we take care of our smart phones, we take better care of our smart phones than we take care of ourselves. You know, we notice when the battery is down, right? I have an iPhone and I get constant notifications … 20 percent battery remaining, 17 percent battery remaining. I immediately try and find a recharging shrine to plug it in. but we don’t do that with ourselves. So let’s say after a night like that you finish your story you may be down to zero. What do you do, do you keep going or do you recharge? That’s all I’m saying. It’s like, there’s a sort of series of waves in life and we forgot that, we think we can just drive ourselves into the ground because we don’t have time to stop at the fueling station. That wouldn’t be a good practice for the car, and it’s not a good practice for us.
SM: At a competitive school like ours, so many students brag about the fact that they were up all night and had three coffees in the morning, and we’re talking about how that’s not exactly the best practice to get things done to be efficient. How do you convince those students that it’s not the way to thrive and that maybe it’s actually bringing them down?
AH: Well first of all there is a big global shift happening around all these ideas. And as always there are going to be people who are about these ideas, and I hope that includes all of you here, and then the people who will be late adapters. So it’s not your job to convince everybody. I mean I believe passionately in these ideas but my job is to present them in the best possible way with the most conclusive scientific evidence and the best case studies. But I cannot convince you to change the way you maybe have been practicing things. What I’m suggesting is to tell people to just experiment with small little changes. You know don’t tell them transform your life right away and go from three hours to eight hours. At the end of each of the sections, I have three little steps you can take. One of them is get 30 more minutes of sleep than you are getting now, doable things. Or do not charge your phone by your bed so you are not tempted when you wake up at night to go and look at your data, which disturbs your sleeping pattern. So things like that. And remember, we are moving into a whole new era where we now have the science to back up the best way to live. A lot of people have paid a very heavy price for these beliefs you know in terms of health, in terms of relationships, in terms of happiness. But your generation doesn’t have to pay the price that my generation paid … you know I collapsed from burn out and exhaustion seven years ago and broke my cheekbone, got four stitches in my right eye, so I had a rude awakening and that’s what started me studying this subject and looking at the world around me.
SM: Today’s media atmosphere is all about immediacy. Relying on Tweets and Facebook posts to move stories across continents. How can journalists embrace this atmosphere without sacrificing a lot of their personal well-being?
AH: It’s better to just do a post or tweet or something that just really touches people and generates attention, than to do 300 tweets and stay up all night … everybody knows that you can schedule tweets, right? You don’t actually have to stay up all night to do them. So don’t allow yourself to be enslaved by technology. Technology is not our master. So, we need to put it in its place and more and more people are beginning to put it in its place. And that’s why what we need is new role models. There are a lot of people who are managing to use technology but not be used by it. One of my role models is the Chief Technology Officer of Cisco … She detoxes; she calls it a “digital detox” every Saturday. I mean there she is, she runs thousands of engineers and on Saturday she’s offline. So here’s what I say, if the Chief Technology Officer of Cisco can do it, so can I. She also gets eight hours sleep and she paints and writes Haikus and meditates … I love that. These are the new role models. Instead of the people who are perpetually exhausted and walk around like zombies. Who would you rather be led by? Who would you rather be married to? Who would you like as your boss? Who would you like as your employee? Just ask yourselves these questions. Who would you like as your assistant or as your colleague? Someone who walks around like death warmed up or somebody who just woke up, is fully recharged and is 100 percent present on the job, that’s what I want. I don’t want people who are too tired to do anything creative if they can just answer email.