Transcript: Arianna Huffington on We Are Drowning in Data and Starved for Wisdom

So I think that for us, the larger point here is reimagining journalism. So that in journalism schools, right now you are taught that if it bleeds, it leads. And of course if anybody is unfortunate enough to watch local news, you would’ve thought that the only things going on the communities are burglaries, rapes, murders. And this is just the choice of the outlet. They think that’s the way to drive people to their broadcast. But I think the fact that now most people receive their news through social is changing the dynamic.

Interviewer: So, on the topic of solutions, a lot of your current book is around kind of helping us as individuals become better at what we do. Now what many may not know given your long string of successes is the continuous stream of personal hurdles that went on in the background, right? You very unfortunately had complications with your first pregnancy, you had a breast cancer scare, I believe. You had a public divorce, within the family, certain issues around substance abuse and so forth. And yet you continue to go on and be successful. To what extent was work a distraction to help get through these moments? And why was it that it took a literal bump to your head to get you to kind of wake up and reevaluate, and now help us to avoid that situation in the future? Sorry for the question.

Arianna Huffington: No, that’s great. I think that work was never a distraction because I always kind of loved my work. I think what led to my collapse in 2007 and my breaking my cheekbone on the way down, was that I had completely bought into the collective delusion that burnout was the way to achieve things. That yes, I know I’m exhausted and I know I’m kind of sleep walking through my life but hey, I’m building the Huffington Post. And I had the delusion that so many entrepreneurs have, that nothing could be done except by me. And therefore, I had to be up all the time and driving this third baby that I considered the Huffington Post while my first baby, Christina, was on college tour with me. And she had asked rightly that I should not be on my Blackberry while we were together. Remember, that’s 2007, so it was still Blackberry time.

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And when she would go to sleep, I would start working and to cut a long story short, I ended up back at home collapsing. But in a way I feel very, very grateful. Speaking going back to Rumi and living life as if everything is rigged in your favor. I honestly believed I would either be dead or have had a heart attack if I had continued that way. Because these things become cumulative, so the price you pay, it’s not obvious right away. Like things seem to be working until they stop working. And the great thing about last year was that it was the year when executive after executive collapsed, and either died or ended up with a heart attack. Most recently the CEO of United Airlines. And if you read his schedule before his collapse, you can see why. He is back at work now but he ended up with a major heart attack.

The CEO of BMW collapsed during a press conference. The head of MMA at JP Morgan, Jimmy Lee, died on his treadmill. And I mean, I could go on and on and what is interesting is that we’ve kind of convinced the world that exercise and nutrition are important, whether we do it or not, we kind of recognize they’re important.

But the third leg of the stool is sleep. And you have people who literally put the alarm on and they wake up exhausted, then drag themselves to the gym. Which now every sleep scientist, and you have some of the best here at Stanford, will tell you it’s just a terrible mistake for your health and for your weight. If all you care about is your weight, sleep in. Don’t wake up sleep deprived and go the gym, because your body is going to crave carbs and sugars in order to be able to function during the day.

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Interviewer: It is somewhat ironic that in the Valley, we have sheer panic attacks when our iPhone depletes in energy down to like 7%. But the fact that we’re charging and running around at 2% doesn’t seem to affect us at all.

Arianna Huffington: That is such a great point. In fact, if you think of it, we do take better care of our smartphones than we take of ourselves. Because as you said I actually begin to panic at about 13%, is yours 7%?

Interviewer: Mine barely gets turned on, so I’m okay.

Arianna Huffington: I normally travel with about three portable chargers just in case. And yet, if you had asked me the day I collapsed, Arianna, how are you? I would have said fine. Because exhaustion had become the new normal. And do you know now, that if you go on Google, at least when I last checked a week ago, and you type out why am I, the most common auto-complete is why am I so tired? And the second most common auto-complete is why am I always tired?

Interviewer: So, I like your mantra of encouraging us all to sleep our way to the top. It’s not my words, credit goes to you. Obviously, it’s all good and well, kind of raising awareness among the rank and file. But the challenge is the environment in which we operate. So to what extent to your point around all these CEOs kind of waking up and literally smelling the coffee, do you think that there should be an equivalent of the giving pledge for sleep whereby you kind of shame everyone into getting rid of that social stigma, writing on paper their commitment to adopt the third metric, embody a work environment which rewards people for coming in rested, auto-deletes emails when they’re on holiday, and gives you taxis to get home at night when you’re sleep deprived and –

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