BY SARAH LAURENCE
Arianna Huffington, author of 14 books and founder and president of the Huffington Post Media Group empire, received a rude wake-up call about her health in 2007: she literally collapsed from exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone and cutting her eye on her desk. Since then she has refined her approach to what she calls the “third metric” of success.
“Over the long term, money and power by themselves are like a two-legged stool— you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over,” she argues. “And more and more people— very successful people— are toppling over. To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
In true Arianna style (tirelessly, but now – if we are to believe the rhetoric – with added hours of slumber), her advocacy of the concept has included “Thrive: A Third Metric Live Event” spotlighting famous “thrivers” such as Julianne Moore, mindfulness expert Andi Puddicombe and the all-but-forgotten Alanis Morissete. Then there has been partnerships with the likes of Richard Branson on sustainable industry, and The Third Metric, a HuffPost website which preaches the joys of “disrupting” your life, saying loving things, life lessons to learn in your 20s and reasons you should take good care of yourself.
Thrive – the book which explains Huffington’s philosophy – is divided into the four parts or the “pillars” that make up her Third Metric: Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving. Each section is shorter than the last, and with Well-Being including the most research and taking up the majority of the book. Here Huffington taps into the current zeitgeist by claiming that key to being more successful is resting more – multiple sources are telling us to take care of ourselves so that we’ll be better moms, CEOs, friends and employees. While I very strongly agree with the “get rest for success” approach to life, I do feel that it’s a bit of a rich message swallow when the traditional metrics of success are not yet achieved. Try telling a single, working mom that she should get eight to nine hours of sleep per night and some exercise every day when she’s a one-woman cook, cleaner and homework buddy. While I don’t doubt that hiking is an effective way to hold a meeting, your boss might. Therefore, I don’t believe that the Third Metric can be fully achieved without a measure of traditional success – money and power.
There are valuable messages in this section of the book, however — and increased discussion about flexibility in the workplace and taking care of ourselves can only be a good thing. Research into well-being (such as how more sleep improves the performance of athletes, and how companies across America are improving their bottom line by investing in the well-being of their employees) is curated and written in an easy, accessible style. Prioritising family and lifestyle over work is no longer a cutting edge idea post the bust up of the American Dream; the question remains as to how to do this and still pursue traditional notions of success (having it all and doing it all, especially for women and more especially for moms) — especially for those who don’t work flexi-time from home.
Thrive‘s other sections feel a little bit like fillers. While Giving largely consists of anecdotes regaling the reader of times Arianna has been generous (with a handful of statistics proving that we are happier when we “give”). Wonder consists of anecdotes about times that Huffington has seen small signs of beauty lost on others around her (I kid; she discusses “Nature” and “Art” – with capital letters, of course – as well). Wisdom contains anecdotes about herslef that don’t quite fit into the other sections, and a few references to Greek mythology.
Among the many references to her mother, Huffington writes, “whenever I’d complain or was upset about something in my own life, my mother had the same advice: ‘Darling, just change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don’t replay the bad, scary movie.'” Her personal narrative and inclusion of the previously mentioned domestic anecdotes do manage to make her (and let’s be honest here: she is absolutely type-A, an achiever, a powerhouse of fame and fortune) somewhat relatable; “just” another woman trying to look after her family and mourn the loss of her mother while juggling work and, erm…, growing a massive media empire.