Arianna Huffington's advice to board members: Recharge

After years of fast-paced, high-powered living where being praised for burning the midnight oil and working 24/7 were the highest of compliments, entrepreneur and author Arianna Huffington converted to a different way of life.

In this approach, success is not defined by the traditional paradigm of money and power but by well-being and gratefulness.

Huffington talked about that transformation and its lessons for education during Sunday’s General Session at NSBA’s Annual Conference.

Huffington co-founded and was editor-in-chief of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Huffington Post internet news site. She resigned in 2016, and last fall launched the website Thrive Global (

Huffington said she began adopting a new approach to health and life 10 years ago “when I collapsed, having done everything wrong.”

Sleep deprived and exhausted, she fell asleep at her desk and, “on the way,” broke her cheekbone. “When I came to in a pool of blood I had to ask myself, ‘Is this what success looks like?’ Huffington said.

In her 15th published novel, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Huffington writes about the path that she advocates for all and the scientific data supporting it.

“We claim to be data driven, but we are missing out on data on how to be happy and productive,” she said.

Since the first industrial revolution, our culture has believed “something unscientific,” said Huffington. “That to achieve, we have to burn out in the process. We started valuing leaders who never sleep, never take time to re-charge, and we see the decisions so many of these leaders are making. We need to recognize that this has been a delusion. Humans are not machines.”

Taking time off to disconnect and to recharge is essential to good leadership, she said. But that’s harder than ever to do because “we’re all connected to technology 24/7. We never leave the office because the office is always with us.”

School leaders working to make the lives of their students better not only have to give them the skills they will need to take care of themselves, their families and contribute to society, but also the “life skills that will make them resilient in the face of change that is absolutely unavoidable and faster than ever before,” Huffington urged.

Not only have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization identified sleep deprivation and burnout as a public health crisis, but there are unprecedented increases in levels of alcohol and opioid addiction, suicide, and despair.

“For me, that has a lot to do with losing the sense of what life is about, what gives meaning to life, and the sense of wonder about life, no matter the circumstances,” Huffington said. “Teaching our children that is incredibly important.”

The internet entrepreneur said she still loves technology, but cautions that if we don’t set boundaries, “we won’t be able to connect with humanity.” And that advice was offered for texting-, Instagramming-, smart-phone-obsessed adults and parents, as well as their students and children. 


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