Thriving with Arianna Huffington

Thrive Conference Day One

I went to Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive” conference,  which was held in New York City last week, in search of a nice place to take a nap.

The back story: When Convene contributor Susan Sarfati talked to Huffington for a story that appeared in the January 2o13 issue, Sarfati asked the editor in chief of The Huffington Post what she would do to improve conferences. “Add napping stations,” was Huffington’s reply.

So it made me laugh to see that Friday’s program opened with Huffington and her co-emcee, Mika Brzenzinski, co-host of  MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” sitting in a big white bed on the stage. Later in the morning,  Huffington sent Brzenzinksi offstage to get some rest — the television host gets up at 3:30 a.m.

Huffington became an evangelist for sleep — and for defining of success beyond money and power —  after collapsing from exhaustion in 2007, while working 18-hour days at The Huffington Post, which she founded in 2005.

It was a wake-up call, Huffington said, that she needed to change. “Our society’s notion of success has been reduced to money and power,” she wrote in the conference program, which “has led to an epidemic of burnout, sleep deprivation, and stress-related illness.”  At the conference, and in her recently released book, Thrive, Huffington calls for the definition of success to include a  “third metric” based on things like well-being, wisdom, and giving to others. “There is nothing wrong with having big dreams,” Huffington told the audience. “But don’t let achievement define you.”

The 1,000 attendees at Thrive practice after-lunch yoga.

The 1,000 attendees at Thrive practice after-lunch yoga.

There were no napping stations, although one attendee won a “Heavenly Bed” donated by Westin Hotels & Resorts. But there were fresh flowers on the tables that were set up for networking and jelly beans, popcorn, and brownies appeared at breaks.  Lunch was a generous  87 minutes long — enough time for a stroll in Central Park. After lunch, the  full hour that was devoted to mediation, breathing exercises, and yoga flew by.

The softness was balanced with hard science about the benefits of mediation —  the Swiss army knife for improving health — and  how cultivating community can strengthen the bottom line. Panelist Tory Burch, creator of the highly successful fashion line, included a foundation to help women entrepreneurs as part of her initial business plan, even though she was advised not to mention philanthropy to investors.  The foundation, Burch said, has boosted the bottom line.

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