You’ve probably heard of Arianna Huffington. An entrepreneur and writer, she cofounded The Huffington Post in 2005 and sold it for more than $300 million to AOL in 2011. She serves as its editor in chief today. Her latest initiative on the site is called, “Talk to Me,” a video series where people – from Barbara and Laura Bush to Michael Bloomberg and his daughter Emma -- are interviewed by their children on-camera.
These days, she’s on a crusade to get people thinking critically about their sleep patterns. She recently wrote a book “The Sleep Revolution,” which examines the connection between sleep, health and productivity.
In a recent interview with Huffington Post cofounder Ken Lerer, the mom of two said that the worst mistakes she’s made have been hiring decisions. That’s why she adopted a policy: “No brilliant jerks allowed … Someone can be super smart -- but toxic.”
What about your job most excites you?
At HuffPost, we have more than 800 journalists, editors and engineers. And the most exciting part of my job is getting to work with them every day -- sharing ideas, solving problems, coming up with new ways to fulfill our mission of informing, inspiring, entertaining and empowering audiences around the world. If you’d told be back when we founded HuffPost in 2005 that we’d be in 15 countries, with 100,000 bloggers, I wouldn’t have believed it.
How many hours do you sleep?
95% of the time I get eight hours of sleep a night. Once I started giving sleep the respect it deserves, my life improved in pretty much every way. Now, instead of waking up to the sense that I have to trudge through activities, I wake up feeling joyful about the day’s possibilities. And I’m also better able to recognize red flags and rebound from setbacks. It’s like being dialed into a different channel that has less static.
What do you eat for breakfast?
Fresh fruit, poached eggs and two hot cups of Bulletproof coffee.
If you could be pitched to by one person, who would it be?
I’d love to be pitched by someone who has a story to tell about how sleep has improved their life. Because these stories are out there, and there’s nothing like people sharing their own experiences and wakeup calls to help put a spotlight on sleep’s importance.
As I’ve gone around the world, I’ve found that the subject people wanted to discuss most -- by far -- is sleep: how difficult it is to get enough, how there are simply not enough hours in the day, how hard it is to fall asleep and stay asleep, even when we set aside enough time. And since my own transformation into a sleep evangelist, everywhere I go, someone will pull me aside and, often in hushed and conspiratorial tones, confess, “I’m just not getting enough sleep. I’m exhausted all the time.” Or, as one young woman told me after a talk in San Francisco, “I don’t remember the last time I wasn’t tired.”
What’s on your home screen?
The Huffington Post!
How often do you exercise?
I am relentless about doing thirty minutes on my stationary bike every day, and I do yoga a few times a week. I love walking, so I try to incorporate walking meetings into my day to boost my energy and renew my creativity.
What app can’t you live without?
One of my favorites is Headspace. It was created by Andy Puddicombe, who in his early twenties traveled to the Himalayas to study meditation and ended up being ordained as a Buddhist monk in India. Driven by a desire to make mindfulness meditation easily available, he created Headspace, a guided meditation app rooted in the idea that, as Andy says, “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes.” We’ve also made it available free to all our employees.
What's your favorite city and why?
I love New York, and one reason (of many) is that it’s one of the world’s great walking cities. One of my favorite phrases is solvitur ambulando -- “It is solved by walking.” It refers to the fourth-century-BC Greek philosopher Diogenes’ response to the question of whether motion is real. To answer, he got up and walked. As it turns out, there are many problems for which walking is the solution. Many of the best ideas have come out of walking meetings! In our culture of overwork, burnout and exhaustion, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder? Solvitur ambulando.
What’s the most important company we’ve never heard of?
Thorn’s Defenders Circle, cofounded by Ashton Kutcher, which uses the latest and most sophisticated tech tools in the service of protecting children from abuse and exploitation.
Are there any social platforms you refuse to participate in?
No! I’m open to anything and love experimenting with new platforms.
What are you reading right now?
Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, which comes highly recommended by my older daughter Christina.
Do you think there’s a tech bubble?
I don’t, but that doesn’t mean all unicorns are created equal. Some will live up to their promise and some will not, but that’s different from a tech bubble.
We’re not even approaching the warning signs that defined the real estate and dotcom bubbles, like people going into crazy debt. And the price/earnings ratios of today’s tech stocks are around 20 -- well below the stratospheric heights of the dotcom days.
Best piece of advice you've been given?
“Don’t miss the moment.” This was one of my mother’s favorite sayings, and it embodied the philosophy of her life.
What keeps you up at night?
Like anyone, I’m kept up occasionally worrying about my never-completed to-do lists. So I have a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson by my bed that helps me silence my mind: “Finish every day, and be done with it. ... You have done what you could -- some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as fast as you can, tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
When I’m really having trouble sleeping, or wake up with thoughts crowding my mind, I’ve found meditation to be a great remedy. Instead of stressing out about how I’m staying awake and fearing I’ll be tired the next day, I prop a few extra pillows under me and reframe what’s happening as a great opportunity to practice my meditation.
If it’s in the middle of the night, I remind myself that that’s precisely when many avid meditation practitioners, like the Dalai Lama, wake up to get in two or three hours of meditation; this both takes the stress out of my wakefulness and adds an extra layer of gratitude to my practice. Just by reframing it from a problem to a blessing, I find that I both have some of my deepest meditation experiences and, inevitably, drift off to sleep at some point.
If you could tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
I wish I could go back and tell myself: “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.” And then I’d introduce my 18-year-old self to a quotation by the writer Brian Andreas: “Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”