Arianna Huffington, At Manhattanville College, On Redefining Success, And How She Built Her Own

The Huffington Post founder kicked of Manhattanville College’s Castle Conversations series with a riveting talk about the changing media landscape and the need to redefine success.

With her signature wit, style, and thick Greek accent—which she joked was the bane of her existence until Henry Kissinger advised her “never to underestimate the power of total incomprehensibility”—media maven Arianna Huffington addressed a packed house at Manhattanville College’s Reid Castle on Wednesday night to kick off the College’s new Castle Conversations speaker series. Huffington, the founder, president, and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group, began her talk by sharing her excitement about the success The Huffington Post has achieved since its launch 10 years ago. (According to new ComScore numbers, she announced, the site now receives 214 million unique visitors each month, with 50% coming from outside the United States.)

Huffington credited as the keys to its popularity the site’s hybrid nature—the merging of traditional journalism and new media—the ability for readers to both shape and converse about the content, and the site’s wide range of topics and contributors—everyone from award-winning journalists to stay-at-home moms, and even a homeless teenager have written popular blogs, she noted, while sharing her personal email address and encouraging the audience to contribute. Also, she noted, the site provides an “unabashed mix of high-brow and low-brow” stories, and aggregates news from a wide variety of sources, which has proven a popular combination. “The exclusivity of journalism is changing, and now it’s all about content sharing. We want to give readers a central place to find the best content—whether we produce it or just link to it,” she said.

She also stressed the need to go beyond the traditional media formula of “If it bleeds, it leads,” and seek out a better balance of reporting stories about good news and solutions to ongoing issues. The Huffington Post’s What’s Working section, launched to do just that, has become one of its most popular, she noted.

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Success—what it comprises, what it means, and how it is measured—was the focus of the rest of Huffington’s talk, and are the same topics discussed in her latest book, Thrive. After her own wake-up call with stress and burnout in the pursuit of success—Huffington collapsed from exhaustion while in her office and suffered a broken cheekbone and four stitches around her right eye—she told the audience she realized that a change was in order. “I realized it was time to broaden the definition of what success is, what a good life is. After all, I think we all take better care of our smart phones than we do of ourselves,” she quipped.

Through her book, which offers steps for understanding the importance of wellbeing, wisdom, and wonder, and how to incorporate them into your life, Huffington said she is hoping to change the collective definition of success away from strictly focusing on money and power. “That’s like sitting on a two-legged stool,” she explained. “You need that third leg [of wellbeing, wisdom, and wonder] to balance everything out.” Huffington is walking the walk too: she told the audience she gets eight hours of sleep nearly every night, and has installed two nap rooms in the Huffington Post office in order to encourage employees to avoid burnout.

Throughout the night, Huffington peppered her talk with colorful and inspirational quotes. Here are some of our favorites:

On her success: “I was lucky enough to have a mother who taught me that failure is not the opposite of success, but rather a stepping stone to success.”

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On invasive technology: “I am not buying an Apple watch! I don’t want to wear something on my wrist that beeps about every dumb text I get, or alerts me about the weather, or even gives me news alerts from The Huffington Post.”

On her Thrive message about the importance of sleep and wellbeing: “I’m not talking about New Age, California flakiness here. This is incredible ancient wisdom founded in modern medicine.”

On wisdom: “Wisdom is being able to see the icebergs before they hit the Titanic. It’s the quality that is in the shortest supply today.”

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