The keynote speaker to close out the morning portion of the Design Leadership Summit (DLS) programming on Thursday, November 7, was Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of the Huffington Post. Her main message was to take time to take care of yourself, unplug from technology, and create a safe, relaxing, well-designed haven.
She began by explaining a new measure she uses for success. “It’s redefining success beyond money and power,” she said. “Now, it includes the third metric, which consists of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. I believe there is a real connection between that, what’s happening in neuroscience and design.”
She explained that designers and architects are having a real impact on the health of Americans, and people across the world. Neuroscience studies have shown that people who are in a beautiful space with a view of nature in a hospital room heal much more quickly than someone in a typical hospital setting,
“Design isn’t just fluff,” she said. “It’s extremely important.”
Huffington made reference to a comment made at DLS the previous day by Jay Walker, curator and chairman of TedMed, about the possibility that sitting will soon be considered the new smoking. She believes that soon designers will be at the forefront of this issue, working with neuroscientists to create living and work environments that are more healthy.
She posited that because people are engrossed in technology and sitting at their desks in front of a computer screen for the majority of their lives, rates of heart disease and diabetes are up, and the stress levels are soaring.
“It’s really time to redefine our lives, how we live and what we value,” she said. “With the amount of technology in our lives we don’t take time to shut down. As designers, creating spaces that reduce stress is incredibly important.”
Huffington then went on to share a story of her “wake up call” in 2007 when she fainted from exhaustion at her desk in the midst of building the Huffington Post, which she founded in 2005. Not only did it affect her mental state, but she also hit her head, breaking her cheekbone and needing four stitches in her right eye.
“It started me on this journey of rediscovering sleep and reprioritizing my life. The reason why I am so passionate about this is because I don’t want people to have their own rude awakenings.”
The experience influenced her new Washington, D.C. office, which houses two nap rooms, a meditation room and a yoga studio for her employees.
“People need beautifully designed nap rooms and a sacred place with no technology. If people can return to work re-charged, their quality of work, productivity and creativity is better.”
So, what’s the secret to a well balanced life? Huffington said to make sleep a priority, unplug from technology, don’t have a television in your bedroom, don’t charge your cell phone in your room, and don’t try to multi-task, and go back to the basics.
“Technology is truly an addiction,” she said. “Relaxation can get you in touch with your own creativity.”
She then shared a post that she recently wrote entitled Are you living your resume or are you living your eulogy? “When loved ones are memorialized they don’t talk about their success, they talk about one’s spirit, generosity, energy and humor,” she said.
She challenged attendees to write their own eulogies, and live that eulogy, rather than living their resumes. “As designers, if you take the time to take care of your body and mind, you will be that much more creative and good at what you do, and you will create spaces that will help other people to do the same,” she said.
With a standing ovation, Huffington’s speech concluded and attendees were served lunch and challenged to dissect the conversations of the morning amongst their peers.
Check back for more coverage of the DLS coming this week. Related articles: DLS Recap: Norman Foster and Paul Goldberger, DLS Recap: Innovations in technology and design, DLS Recap: Bunny Williams interviews Oscar de la Renta, DLS Part: Icons of art and culture, DLS Recap: Aby Rosen, Tom Sachs & William Georgis, DLS Recap: Marketing and media at Hearst Tower
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