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The impetus for Arianna Huffington's 14th book, "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom, and Wonder," was a nasty fall due to a lack of sleep and exhaustion. It resulted in a broken cheekbone and a big gash over her eye.
The chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Media group, discussed that experience, the "third metric" and much more as the guest speaker at the annual Read to Grow benefit luncheon on April 15 at New Haven's Omni Hotel.
Read to Grow is a language-building, early literacy program that gives books to babies and literacy packets to their parents in 12 partner hospitals across the state, including New London's Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. Read to Grow distributes more than 100,000 children's books a year, not just to hospitals but also to schools, civic groups, and non-profits.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticut's 3rd District, served as the event's Honorary Chair and applauded the work of Read to Grow in her opening remarks.
"All of you are here to support a remarkable program which does so much to spread the love of reading to a new generation," she said.
DeLauro was founding chair of the Congressional Baby Caucus and has been instrumental in instituting public policy that supports families with young children and early childhood programs.
DeLauro noted that Read to Grow is the only statewide nonprofit that connects with parents in the hospital, giving them books for children and encouraging them to be proactive in their children's literacy development.
"Their work helping to build a foundation for early literacy from Day 1 is so important," she noted. "Literacy is the hallmark of a civilized society and it is how we translate knowledge from one generation to another. Countless studies show that the earliest experiences are essential to positive, long term outcomes for our children."
DeLauro went on to introduce Huffington.
"Arianna is a remarkable woman who has helped to reshape politics and the media for the 21st century," she said. "She is a truly inspiring woman who has transformed the way we consume the news … as a writer, entrepreneur and innovator, she has been actively engaged in crafting the political and cultural future of our nation."
Referring to "Thrive," DeLauro said, "Arianna Huffington has written a passionate and much needed prescription for reshaping your life from the inside out. It urges women and men to look beyond money and power and the trappings of success and to emphasize passion and living. That's what Read to Grow is all about and it puts Arianna's recommendation into practice every day."
Connecting to what matters
Huffington defined "the third metric" in her book's sub title as redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder.
"What is a good life?" she asked. Pondering this question, she said, took her on a journey of redefining success.
"Because we continue to define success the way our world defines success, just in terms of the two metrics of money and power, we will never think we have enough and it will be as though we're sitting on a two-legged stool - sooner or later we're going to fall off. On the one side we have this incredible recognition that the way we've been running our lives has become unsustainable. We see (for example) the amount of binge drinking and addiction to both illegal and legal drugs in young people."
She shared the story of her own daughter's involvement with drugs when she was two months away from graduating from Yale University.
"I got the call every parent dreads, and that was the longest drive from New York to New Haven to pick her up after she had gotten involved in drugs and to start the recovery practice."
She said her daughter is doing well today and that she wrote about her daughter's addiction "to show it can get better, it can make a difference … but if we don't prioritize our own human capital, our own well being - the first pillar of redefining success - we will have more and more casualties."
"People are being congratulated for working 24-7, which is equivalent to someone coming to work drunk," she added. "I have a lot of scientific studies in the book that demonstrate that sleep is essential as a performance enhancement tool."
Wisdom, the second metric, is something we're clearly lacking at this moment, she said.
"We have all these leaders in politics, media, business with very high IQs and (multiple) degrees lacking wisdom and making terrible decisions. And how can we reconnect our leaders and ourselves with our (inner) wisdom?
"I'm not saying it will all get better if our members of congress got more sleep," she quipped, "but what I'm saying is that if we completely identify with our jobs, if we think that's all we are, that job has become our identity. And if there's one thing I know for sure, it is that how ever great our (professional) success, the essence of who we are is greater."
Regardless of one's religious beliefs, Huffington said we all have a place of wisdom, strength, peace and joy inside us, but most of the time we don't pay attention to it.
"And from that place, we're going to make wiser decisions, both for our own lives, and for the lives of our nation and for the lives of the world," she said.
The first two metrics lead to the final one: wonder. Huffington blames our culture's obsession with technology and multitasking with our loss of wonder.
"Disconnecting with technology and seeing the beauty and the joy in our ordinary surroundings is something that will so enrich our lives and allow us to be so much more in the present," she said.
She also emphasized the importance of giving, as in the work of Read to Grow.
"If we're going to move from just honoring 'go getters' to also honoring 'go givers,' we can start with small steps," Huffington said. "The first one is making personal connections we take for granted, and that begins by connecting with other human beings instead of constantly being buried in our 'to do' list."
"Thrive," published by Harmony Books is $26, hardcover. For more information about Read to Grow, visit readtogrow.org or call (203) 488-6800.