The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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Success Redefined

The author, pundit, television celebrity, and founder of The Huffington Post will redefine what “success” means at IHRSA 2015.

Arianna Huffington, 64, was born in Athens, Greece, and educated at the University of Cambridge in England. She moved to New York in 1980, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1990. Prior to launching The Huffington Post in May 2005, she had a storied career that encompassed acting, international punditry, and, in 2003, a run for governor in California. In 2011, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million; Huffington remains the president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. Today, the HuffPost boasts more than 800 editors and reporters worldwide, and 11 global editions, with more to come. In August 2014, the online news site had 115 million unique visitors, making it No. 1 in the U.S. During her prolific career, Huffington has written 14 books, including her latest, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. 

CBI: As one of the keynote speakers at IHRSA’s 34th Annual International Convention and Trade Show in Los Angeles, you’ll be discussing the topic “Redefining Success: The Third Metric That Can Benefit Your Bottom Line,” which is based on your most recent book—what’s that all about?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Earlier in my career, I operated under the common delusion that burning out was the necessary price one paid for accomplishment and success. However, recent scientific findings have made it clear that this couldn’t be less true. In fact, performance actually improves when our lives include time for renewal, wisdom, wonder, and giving.

Things changed for me when I had a painful wake-up call in 2007. Sleep-deprived and exhausted, I fainted, hit my head on my desk, and broke my cheekbone. Since then, I’ve arrived at a new phase that features breathing spaces, a deeper perspective, and daily practices to keep me on track—and out of doctors’ waiting rooms.

CBI: What are the components of the Third Metric, and how do they relate to personal, as well as professional, success?

AH: The Third Metric is about well-being, wonder, wisdom, and willingness. If we don’t redefine what success is, the price we pay, in terms of our health and well-being, will continue to increase. But when we include well-being in our definition of success, we begin to change how we deal with time, which leads us to the next element: wonder.

When we live a life characterized by what Harvard professor Leslie A. Perlow calls “time famine,” we rob ourselves of our ability to experience wonder—our sense of delight in the mysteries of the universe, and the everyday occurrences and small miracles that fill our lives.

We also need wisdom to redefine success. Around the world, we see smart leaders—in politics, in business, in media—making terrible decisions because they lack inner wisdom. That’s no surprise. It’s never been harder to tap into our inner understanding, because, in order to do so, we have to disconnect from all our omnipresent devices—gadgets, screens, social media—and reconnect with ourselves.

The last component of the Third Metric is a willingness to give, prompted by our empathy and compassion. When we have a wake-up call, and, subsequently, experience well-being, wonder, and wisdom, we discover that we possess a natural willingness to serve—to respond to a wake-up call for humanity.

CBI: People in the fitness industry already share your passion about many of these concerns. What more do you hope to leave with the members of your IHRSA ’15 audience?

AH: I want to give them concrete ways to move from knowing what to do to actually doing it. I describe 12 steps they can take; each person needs to pick the one that resonates most strongly with them. Here are three of them:

First, have a specific time at night when you turn off all of your devices and disconnect from the digital world, which is something Perlow suggests in her book, Sleeping With Your Smartphone. This will help you to reconnect to your wisdom, intuition, and creativity. And don’t start your day by looking at your smartphone. Instead, take one minute to breathe deeply, to be grateful, and to set your intention for the day.

Next, introduce five minutes of meditation, and, eventually, increase that to 15 to 20 minutes a day, or more. Even a few minutes a day will open the door to developing a new habit, and provide many benefits.

Third, drop the things that no longer serve you. At age 40, I did a major “life audit,” and I realized how many projects I’d committed to in my head—learning German, becoming a good skier, and learning to cook. Most remained unfinished, and many had never been started. Yet, these countless, uncompleted projects diverted my attention and drained my energy. Each one took a little bit of me away. It was liberating to realize that I could “complete” a project by simply eliminating it from my to-do list. Why carry around unnecessary baggage?

CBI: That first step—unplugging, or battling “overconnectivity”— is very difficult for most business leaders. How successful have you been at doing so?

AH: I have several rituals to help me unplug and enjoy some time away from my devices. For example, I have a specific time at night when I regularly turn off all my devices—and gently escort them out of my bedroom. And when I wake up in the morning, I don’t start the day by looking at my smartphone. I take one minute to breathe deeply, or to be grateful, or to set my intention for the day.

CBI: You suggest in your book that, while men currently drive the culture of power, women are going to lead the way when it comes to redefining success. How so?

AH: Women are uniquely equipped to make leadership more fulfilling and sustainable. That’s why, if we’re ever going to redefine success, it’s going to be women who lead the way. And, once men discard the notion that the only avenue to success is the Heart Attack Highway to Stress City, they’ll join us, gratefully, both at work and home. We’re already witnessing a global shift toward leadership values that, traditionally, have been considered feminine: flexibility, compassion, collaboration, empathy, and nurturing.

CBI: How does all of this play out in the workplace? What, for instance, have you done for your employees at The Huffington Post?

AH: Since the news never stops, there’s a temptation for editors, reporters, and engineers to try to match the 24-hour news cycle. Therefore, we do a lot to prevent burnout, and to acknowledge that our employees have lives outside of work. We make it very clear that no one is expected to check work e-mail and respond after hours, or over the weekend, unless, of course, those happen to be working hours. Everyone gets at least three weeks of vacation that they’re highly encouraged to take, and I’ve implored our “HuffPosters”—without much success, I must admit—to eat lunch away from their desks. We also have two nap rooms in our newsroom.

CBI: Nap rooms? What’s been the reaction to that?

AH: Now our naps rooms are full most of the time. Initially, when we installed them in the spring of 2011, they met with skepticism and reluctance.

Many employees were afraid their colleagues might think they were shirking their duties by taking a nap. We’ve made it very clear, however, that walking around feeling drained and exhausted is what should be looked down on—not taking a break to rest and recharge.

CBI: You also make the case that healthy employees contribute to a healthy bottom line. Again, what are you doing at HuffPost to foster health and wellness?

AH: They’re a huge priority for us.
In our New York offices, we host meditation, breathing, and yoga classes throughout the week, and
our new offices in D.C. have dedicated meditation, yoga, and nap rooms. The benefits of standing and walking—as opposed to sitting all day long—have led us to provide a standing desk for anyone who requests one. We also have a gym, and take part in the Virgin Pulse wellness program, which allows employees to earn up to $500 a year by engaging in healthy practices; and to facilitate such practices, we stock refrigerators with healthy snacks, including yogurt, hummus, fruit, and baby carrots.

CBI: Turning to the health and fitness industry, the irony is obvious. Although this business is all about helping clients improve their health and well-being, many of us are on that “Heart Attack Highway to Stress City” that you mentioned earlier. Any advice for club owners and operators and other fitness professionals?

AH: It’s especially important that people involved in industries related to health and well-being take care
of themselves! My advice: Take full advantage of your position. You’re on the cutting edge of science and medical research, in terms of what it means to live a healthy life, and you’re part of a community that’s committed to well-being. At the same time, remember to make time for well-being practices and rituals that have nothing at all to do with your career!

CBI: Finally, any bright spots that point to a healthier world—a really healthier world—in the future?

AH: Fortunately, yes! Many political leaders are finally recognizing that the well-being of their citizens depends on much more than their country’s quarterly growth rate,

as important as that may be. This political epiphany could, hopefully, lead to significant policy changes— encompassing everything from family leave to job creation—that would reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Let’s hope that happens!

CBI: Finally, tell us a bit about your own fitness regimen. Given your packed schedule, how do you stay fit?

AH: I have several rituals that help 
me de-stress and unwind when I’m at home, as well as when I’m traveling. I start every morning with 20 to 30 minutes of meditation and exercise as often as I can. My favorite workout is a long hike in good company. I have a group
 of friends with whom I hike, and it’s
 our tradition that whoever is feeling the most energized that day has to talk on the way up the hill we’re climbing. The rest talk on the way down. Let’s just say I’m pretty well known as a consistent downhill talker.

Reader Comments (1)

I am so excited for the IHRSA audience to hear Arianna speak.

Her message is perfect for our industry. She'll be speaking about Wellness, specifically that third metric. There's probably not much Arianna can teach the IHRSA audience about maximum heart rate, or proper lifting, or how to train for a mud run - but that's the point. She gets wellness - whole life wellness - in a way that touches everyone, including those who would never ever consider stepping into one of our clubs. You know those people, the other 80% we seem to have a really hard time reaching...

Her presentation will not only help many of us better communicate and empathize with that other 80%, but will help us take better care of the 16-20% that do come to our gyms, that may need help with balance in other areas of their lives.

December 5, 2014 | Registered CommenterMeredith Poppler

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