by Arianna Huffington

For those of you who know my father, you probably know this: the man can shop. If you’ve ever paid me a compliment on an item of clothing, a handbag, or perhaps a houseware, most likely my response to you was, “My Dad gave it to me.”

And so it was delightful but not surprising when a package arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago from my father. Inside: a copy of Thrive by the articulate and well-heeled Arianna Huffington. I couldn’t help giggling – Arianna is just the kind of lady my dad would champion.

Like the last book I wrote about here, Thrive wasn’t at the top of my to-read list, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate that in addition to his extraordinary taste and procurement skills, my dad may have a good suggestion now and again. (Let the record state that he has been telling me to start a blog about books for years) So I gave in to the charms of Arianna.

Here are the things that she wants us all (but especially women) to do:

Practice Yoga
Stand Instead of Sit
Remember We’re All Going to Die

Arianna’s main point is that our culture defines success in terms of money and power but these values don’t lead to “a successful life by any sane definition of success.” She has a nice metaphor where she compares money and power to a two-legged stool that may work temporarily, but will eventually topple without a third leg. Her solution (or, third stool leg, if you will) is a “Third Metric” which (bear with me) has four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.

I was surprised that a smooth-talker like Arianna couldn’t have come up with a cleaner way to organize her plan – the four pillars of a Third Metric was a little trippy for me – but nonetheless, she makes a reasonable point and has a lot of good examples and evidence to back it up. For example, I found it particularly compelling that she cites the Exxon Valdez spill, the Challenger explosion, and the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island as all being at least partially the result of sleep deprivation.

But here’s where books like Thrive bug me. One, they really don’t need to be full-length books. This one evolved from a commencement speech that Huffington gave at Smith last year and the message probably worked perfectly in that format. Her common sense propositions had me after the first example or two; I didn’t need twenty. Two, a message that resonates with the graduating class at Smith doesn’t necessarily resonate with larger swaths of the country. While I noted a couple spots where Arianna tries to offer inexpensive and/or quick ways to follow her suggestions, I couldn’t help but cringe a little at how very “Upper” the whole thing sounded. I mean, it’s pretty easy for someone who already has all the money and power she needs to tell the rest of us how much yoga we should be doing.

I’ll leave you with this. On her recent book tour, Arianna visited the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and was interviewed by Sheryl Sandberg, fellow mogul-turned-advice-author. A woman in the audience asked both women if they could honestly say that they would be in the positions they are in today if they’d been following Huffington’s suggestions for a more mindful life every step of the way. While each woman extolled the virtues of all the sleep and meditation they were currently allowing themselves, neither one of them answered the question.

Read 2 comments

  1. Good points once again, T. I’d love to participate in all the items on her list, it sounds like a nice life! However, as the woman in the last paragraph wisely suggests, most of us don’t have the time for these things as we work regular hours, have children, do laundry, grocery shop, walk dogs and watch Orange is The New Black.

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