There aren't many women around who encapsulate the definition of success as soundly as Arianna Huffington. Yet the author, activist and entrepreneur told a large gathering in Darien Wednesday, April 23, that real success goes far beyond money and power.
Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post news website and author of more than a dozen books, talked about her latest called "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder." The book talks about her experiences bottoming out with stress and overwork, and how a serious physical fall led her to reassess her own definition of success.
"If we just value the first two metrics of success -- money and power -- we'll never have enough," she said. "It's like trying to sit on a two-legged stool. Soon you fall off."
The third metric, as Huffington described it, centers on four pillars of health and well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
"There's nothing wrong with the first two metrics," she said. "They're just not enough.
"Over the last century, our culture -- the whole western culture -- forgot about what philosophers and spiritual teachers have taught us about life," she said, noting that current culture has largely built itself on the erroneous belief that intense focus on work is a positive thing.
"When we constantly sacrifice our own health and well-being on the altar of success, we're making a really ridiculous bargain," she said, ironically noting that two-thirds of American health-care costs involve preventable conditions.
"We know how fragile life is -- much more fragile than we think," Huffington said, explaining that an unbalanced focus on money and power lead to physical ailments, including depression and addiction.
Huffington noted coyly that people give more care to their smart phones than they do to themselves. She also reviled the unhealthy obsession many people have with their emails and electronic devices, which she described as addictive practices that need to discouraged.
"We need to make it as unacceptable as people picking their noses or scratching their private parts in public," she said of the excessive focus on smart phones.
"At the end of the day take all your devices and turn them off, and recharge them away from your bedroom," she said.
Awakening in the night to check messages, she said, has a proven adverse effect on your sleep.
"Your sleep is not going to be as recharging ... because you've allowed your day life to interfere with your sleep."
Lack of sleep, Huffington said, has impaired her work because it cuts her off from natural wisdom.
"I get over-reactive," she said. "I take things personally. I hire the wrong people.
"We look around and we see leaders in politics and media and business making terrible decisions -- not because they're not smart, but because they're not wise."
Huffington's third pillar focuses on wonder, citing the example of the pretty surroundings at Woodway.
"It's so easy not to pay attention because we are buried in our smart phones or in our thoughts, so we miss the moment and we miss the beauty of life," she said.
Finally, she spoke of giving, citing the fundraising luncheon as a prime example.
"Without giving, life is incredibly incomplete," she said. "Now we have science that proves we are wired to give ... When you are actually giving, it's a shortcut to happiness."
Jan Dilenschneider, of Darien, one of three co-chairmen for the event and who introduced Huffington, said, "We like to see strong women, don't we? But I think you're going to find out she has a really big heart. She's a wonderful, wonderful caring woman."
Others too extolled her work, as well as the message of her book.
"I've read the book and it's such an inspiration," Terri Walker, of Rowayton, an event co-chairman, said.
Barrett Bookstore helped secure Huffington for the event, at which each guest received a copy of her book. The event also featured a silent auction.
"Today is about raising the funds to support the wonderful work we do at the Center for HOPE and the Den for Grieving Kids," said Bob Arnold, president of Family Centers, whose programs offer counseling and support to residents of lower Fairfield County coping with a loss, a critical illness or life-altering circumstance.
Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.