"Although I must say the other day I was going by one of them and I saw two people coming out of it .… So I thought to myself, 'Whatever it takes to recharge you.'"
Huffington is a funny speaker and a powerful force—one audience member said she made her husband chug his beer so they could be on time for her talk. Her message is even more resonant now that, for many, work has bled thoroughly into life, with smartphones serving as the soggy gauze in between. Who knows, maybe she'll spark a movement toward healthier work practices among other big companies, or at least among their executives: PepsiCo chair Indra Nooyi reportedly sleeps just four hours a night.
But there are some people who Thrive can never help. Burnout may be "civilization's disease," as Pascale Chabot described it, but it's the people toiling at the bottom rungs of that civilization who suffer most. People who earn less than $30,000 per year are far more likely to sleep less than six hours per night than those who earn more than $75,000.
Not every book, or even every pundit, caters to every audience, though.
At the end of her speech, Huffington took questions from the audience, which she asked them to preface by stating how many hours of sleep they get each night. (Most people said eight.)
One man asked, "Would you agree that there's a certain group of people, a population that doesn't have the luxury, maybe a single father or mother who works two jobs, has to come home and help the children with homework, and then prepare dinner, and goes to bed every night exhausted because they have no other choice. They can't decompress, they can't unwind, because they don't have a choice. We're very fortunate here because we're in a very privileged position. But I think we have to recognize that burnout is probably in some cases unavoidable, for a certain percentage of the population."
Huffington responded by citing a study that followed a cohort of workers who had been laid off from the Illinois Bell Company. Two-thirds of the workers became depressed and sick in the aftermath, but "one third thrived and went on to better jobs, to start their own businesses. Now, the same bad thing happened to all of them, they were all unemployed. But they all reacted differently."
"So," she continued, "how we react to bad things is very dependent on how connected we are to our own strength and wisdom and peace and resilience. And that is really what I am talking about. We all have these resources in us, but a lot of the time we're not connected to them."
Huffington moved on. A woman raised her hand and shared the story of her own burnout, at the tender age of 24, and her later realization that the thing people regret most when loved ones die is not having spent enough time with them.
"Thank you for bringing us all together and making us think, 'Why don’t we take all our lists of 'I wish I hads' and go do them.'" she said.
Huffington praised her for sharing her story and suggested she blog about it on the Huffington Post.