In her 2014 bestseller, the Huffington Post chief asks leaders to focus on wellbeing, wonder and wisdom alongside their pursuit of success. Is it a message that resonates with the business world?
When Arianna Huffington published Thrive in 2014, it quickly topped the New York Times bestseller list. It has now been translated into more than 30 languages and has inspired a series of global conferences and a movement in mindfulness and meditation.
Huffington is determined to help us revolutionise our lives, because, she claims, women are paying a higher price than men for “participation in a work culture fuelled by stress, sleep deprivation and burnout”. It is this culture she is determined to change, and with good cause – her own journey began when she collapsed from exhaustion in her home office, two years after launching the Huffington Post. It was this moment that was the catalyst for Huffington to re-evaluate her life. Seven years later, she shared her learnings in Thrive.
For too long, money and power have defined what success is but, as Huffington says, “by themselves [money and power] are like a two-legged stool – you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over”. We are living through a “burnout epidemic” but to thrive we need something else to lean on – Huffington’s Third Metric, a dedication to “wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving”.
Thrive acts as a guide through each of these principles, beginning with wellbeing – a chapter focused on physical and mental health, and the impact it has on our lives, both personal and professional. Huffington offers simple advice to help us all on the road to wellbeing. In a clear, concise manner that becomes familiar throughout the book, she summarises this as the need to sleep more, move more and meditate.
The next ingredient in her Third Metric is wisdom. Huffington references Greek mythology to make her case that it is soul and compassion that are missing from the masculine world of work and in order to thrive, women and men alike must reclaim the “deeper parts of themselves”.
True wisdom can help us deal with adversity, stress and reprioritise what is important, but it requires us to bring a deeper awareness into our daily lives. Huffington urges us to listen to intuition and go with our gut feelings, but at the same time, ignore our inner critic. She asks us to make a daily list of positive things we can be grateful for and take time to disconnect from our digital devices.
In the next chapter, entitled Wonder, we learn the importance of living in the moment. It might be achieved through an appreciation of the arts, Huffington argues, embracing silence, or appreciating the serendipity of coincidence. But again, her advice to achieve this sense of wonder comes back to meditation – this time specifically through measured breathing, and the release of negative “judgements”.
The final element is about awakening a “giving nature”. By calling on her ever diverse roster of thinkers – and using research from Einstein, neuroscientists and marketers such as Seth Godin – she lists the reasons why giving back is so vital. This can be achieved by making small changes, introducing daily gestures of kindness and thinking about how they make you feel.
How to have it all
Like Huffington herself, Thrive is not short on personality. It is an intimate and heavily researched case for us all to fight the burnout epidemic. And although her inspirations are spiritual, her advice is encouragingly simple.
For those who are yet to be convinced about the power of meditation or mindfulness, they may find it harder to argue with the concept that we spend too much time on our phones and that simply “going offline” could be the best thing we do to achieve wellness.
Huffington wants us to have it all. Instead of chasing money and power, we should begin to see success as embracing a fulfilling career without sacrificing the other valuable elements of life – our own wellbeing, relationships and connection with the world.
Brendan Walsh is executive vice president and head of global corporate payments, international at American Express
What is your favourite business bible? Email Brendan Walsh here
Arianna Huffington: Thrive fact file
Sales Thrive topped the New York Times bestseller list within a month of publication
Reviews The Independent praised the book for being “full of fascinating research, much fire and passion”, but the Financial Times thought it suffered from “sweeping assumptions and dodgy data”