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Originally published Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 6:21 AM

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Arianna Huffington: Women ‘pay the price for multitasking’

An interview with Arianna Huffington, whose successful website “the Huffington Post” drove her to the point of exhaustion. Her new book, “Thrive,” espouses the virtues of slowing down.


Seattle Times columnist

On TV

‘Super Soul Sunday’

Oprah interviews Arianna Huffington, 11 a.m. Sunday, May 11, on Own TV.

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Will the last person to leave Huffington Post please turn out the lights and lock the doors for the last time! MORE
There she goes again. Another millionaire lecturing the 99%. MORE

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Seven years ago, Arianna Huffington found herself on the floor of her home office in a pool of her own blood.

She had fallen against the corner of her desk, cut her eye and broken her cheekbone — after collapsing from exhaustion.

It’s no wonder, really, when you consider what she had been doing in the time before the fall.

Her Huffington Post website, launched just two years earlier, was a huge, growing success that landed its namesake on the cover of magazines and in some of the most interesting rooms in the country. When Huffington wasn’t courting investors, she was approaching subjects and talking to writers. Not to mention raising two daughters.

But at some point, it all — literally — knocked her to the floor.

“It didn’t have to be that way,” Huffington, 63, said the other day from the same New York office were she fell. “The idea that the only way to succeed is to burn out is completely false. It’s just the exact opposite.”

The better way to work and live, she concluded, was to “Thrive” — the title of Huffington’s new book, which brings her to Seattle on Tuesday, May 13, and Wednesday, May 14, for events at Microsoft and Zillow.

And, for Mother’s Day, Huffington will appear on Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” on Own TV to talk about the book, and her turnaround from high-powered Internet mogul to someone who celebrates silk pajamas, thinks best during hikes and sees rain not as an impediment, but a source of wonder.

Easy for Huffington to urge women everywhere to pump the brakes a little. She’s a wealthy woman, her two daughters mostly grown.

But it’s clear that she has hit on something.

Her book debuted at number one on The New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction in its first week.

Huffington drew from all corners to compose what she calls “the third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom and wonder.”

“Thrive” includes personal stories, supporting research, and examples of how women can save themselves from being swallowed whole by their own success. Everything from increased sleep to meditation to slowing down in thought, movement and in work.

She quotes research published in the Harvard Business Review showing that speed adversely affects creativity and production:

“Complex cognitive processing takes time,” the research stated, “and, without some reasonable time for that processing, creativity is almost impossible.”

Huffington understands that she is calling for a complete cultural shift. A setting down of phones and tablets, a turn away from Twitter. Everything that we feel we must do in order to keep up and remain relevant.

But be not afraid, she said: Corporations, too, are waking up to the need for self-care.

Thirty-five percent of companies offer stress-reduction programs. The CEO of Aetna Insurance, for example, has made meditation and acupuncture available to his 49,000 employees. By doing so, health care costs were reduced by seven percent.

“There is a large amount of evidence of a new world, a new reality,” Huffington said.

At the same time, science is making connections between burnout and disease, and giving and happiness.

“The conclusions are kind of incontrovertible,” she said. “The price we are paying for the way we are living is getting higher and higher. Depression, illegal drugs. More children are being medicated at a younger age.

“We are paying a price for multi-tasking.”

Instead of tasks, we have a duty to sleep, breathe deeply, slow down, listen to our inner voices and see the world as we did as children.

“The idea that the only way to succeed is to burn out is completely false,” she said. “It is the exact opposite. If I had taken care of myself and had taken time for a respite, to recharge, then the Huffington Post would have been more successful, and faster.

“I would have made better decisions, fewer mistakes,” she said. “We can deal with life’s challenges without being run down by them.”

Nicole Brodeur: nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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About Nicole & Co.

Every Sunday, I bring you a conversation with a local who is doing something great, or a great who is doing something local: media personalities, big thinkers, visiting artists, colorful characters and doers of all kinds.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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