By Kristen V. Brown
San Francisco Chronicle.
Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg have become self-styled experts on how women might succeed in life and work.
Sandberg wants women to “lean in”; Huffington, in essence, wants them to sleep.
For both, it’s less a how-to, and more a lesson on things they might have done differently given the wisdom of hindsight and age.
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On Thursday evening, the working woman’s two most visible champions in the tech world appeared on stage together at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, where the Facebook executive interviewed the Huffington Post founder on her book released this week, “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.”
Huffington’s theory: The modern definition of success “is killing us.” She wants us all to sleep more, meditate and, in general, chill out.
The revelation came to her when she woke up one day in 2007 in a puddle of blood, after having passed out from exhaustion.
“There was nothing medically wrong with me, but there was something wrong with the way I was living my life,” she said Thursday to an audience of 2,500 at the event sponsored by the Commonwealth Club.
What she needed, she said, was to re-examine her own definition of success. It turns out, it’s about more than just money and power.
“By any definition of success, lying in a pool of your own blood is not success,” she said.
One of the biggest changes Huffington made was sleeping more, upgrading her four or five hours of nightly shuteye to seven or eight.
Huffington said this is particularly important for women — her pitch pegs sleep as a quasi-feminist issue, urging women to “sleep their way to the top.”
Sandberg, who refers to Huffington as the big sister she always wanted, agreed that sleep can become something that holds women back.
“For many years, the way I thought I would get more done was to get less sleep,” she said. “Arianna, her first question would always be, ‘How much sleep did you get? Darling, you look tired.’ She kept saying you need to sleep more.”
Sandberg said after years of ignoring Huffington’s friendly advice, she gave in — and discovered she did in fact work more efficiently with more sleep.
In essence, Huffington and Sandberg’s message to women is a one-two punch.
Sandberg wants women to “lean in,” taking charge in a working world still run by men. And then Huffington wants them to “lean back,” eschewing what she paints as a male-dominated notion of success defined as money and power for an expanded definition that includes things like health and well-being.
“The world the way it is now is not really working,” said Huffington. “And the world the way it is now was designed by men.”
Sandberg chimed in: “Turns out, men still run the world. I’m not sure how well that’s going.”
In the end, both said, they probably would have been better served had they taken a step back from their grueling work schedules and made room for more well-rounded lives.
This idea did not pass without skepticism. During the question-and-answer session, an audience member asked Huffington whether she really believed she would be as successful had she lived the kind of life she’s preaching.
“Absolutely,” Huffington said. “All of my biggest mistakes I made when I was burnt out.”