Arianna Huffington: Risk-taker, Creator, and Sleep Advocator
Welcome to Remarkable People.
Are you interested in thriving, not merely surviving?
This episode’s remarkable person is Arianna Huffington. She is the queen of thriving–that elusive and seemingly oxymoronic combination of health, wealth, and happiness.
She is the founder of the Huffington Post–duh. In 2016 she also created a company called Thrive Global. She’s regularly in the top 100 most something according to publications such as Time, Forbes, and The Guardian as well as Oprah Winfrey.
Oh, and she wrote fifteen books along the way. In the last one, The Sleep Revolution, she even explains how to sleep your way to the top.
We met in the Thrive Global office in New York for this interview. No matter how busy she is, she always has time for me…that’s the kind of person she is.
I’m Guy Kawasaki. This is Remarkable People, and now here’s Arianna Huffington.
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FULL TRANSCRIPT of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People Podcast
Guy Kawasaki: Are you interested in thriving, not merely surviving?
This episode’s remarkable person is Arianna Huffington. She is the queen of thriving, that elusive and seemingly oxymoronic combination of health, wealth, and happiness. She is the founder of the Huffington Post, duh. In 2016, she also created a company called Thrive Global. She’s regularly in the top 100 most something, according to publications such as Time, Forbes, and The Guardian, as well as Oprah Winfrey. Oh, and she wrote 15 books along the way. In the last one, The Sleep Revolution, she even explains how to sleep your way to the top.
We met in the Thrive Global office in New York for this interview. No matter how busy she is, she always has time for me. That’s the kind of person she is. I’m Guy Kawasaki, this is Remarkable People. And now here’s Arianna Huffington.
Arianna Huffington: When I was 15, I saw a picture of Cambridge University in a magazine, I fell in love with the picture. I told everyone who would listen that I want to go there. Everyone said I was crazy, except my mother, who said, “Let’s find out how we could get you there.” But there were a lot of obstacles, we had no money, I spoke no English, but somehow I got there, and that was what changed a lot of things, going to Cambridge, studying economics, becoming a writer, and then finally moving to the States.
Guy Kawasaki: What are you politically now? Because you were a conservative voice, I don’t think that’s exactly the line you’re toeing now.
Arianna Huffington: Oh, politically, I’ve always been pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control. What changed in the ’90s was my understanding of the role of government and how important it was to solve many of our social problems. But since I left HuffPost in 2016 to launch Thrive Global, here where we are, my emphasis and my priority is on how can we reduce the stress and burnout epidemic that has become so prevalent around the world and is having such a huge impact on our lives, it leads to so much human suffering that is unnecessary. So that’s kind of my priority now.
Arianna Huffington: And things that happen politically, we look at through the Thrive lens, like when Bernie Sanders has a heart attack. What I wrote about it and what we covered here at Thrive is how come we’re not discussing the conditions that lead to a heart attack? The whole healthcare debate at the moment is about how we pay for disease, but it’s not about how do we keep people healthy. And yet 75% of healthcare problems and healthcare costs are because of stress-related, lifestyle-related conditions.
Guy Kawasaki: Did you have an epiphany to go from Huffington Post to Thrive?
Arianna Huffington: It was in 2007 when I collapsed from exhaustion and burnout myself and broke my cheekbone, and that was the beginning of looking around me and seeing that it wasn’t just me, that millions of people around the world were suffering.
Guy Kawasaki: Today, how do you define wellbeing?
Arianna Huffington: For me, it’s really about a combination of intensity and recovery. I work hard, I’m very blessed to be doing something I love, but I have learned that recovery is also extremely important. That means enough sleep, I wrote a book on sleep, The Sleep Revolution. Even if you manage during the day to recharge, that makes a huge difference in how I show up every day.
Guy Kawasaki: Can you explain the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration?
Arianna Huffington: Yes, we don’t buy work-life balance because it doesn’t really exist. And also because we believe that wellbeing, recharging, taking care of yourself, peak performance rise and fall together, they are not on opposite sides. So that’s why we call it work-life integration. And that’s why at Thrive, when we hire people, we tell them we are an ambitious high-growth company and we are not like a nine to five operation. But let’s say if you have to work over the weekend to complete a presentation or ship a product, take time off immediately after that, we call thrive time, so that you can actually recharge.
Guy Kawasaki: So what’s the difference between integration and balance?
Arianna Huffington: Balance is when you try to say, “I’m going to spend the same amount of time at work, in my private life, I’m just going to balance them equally.” And that doesn’t work because there are always times when one takes precedence over the other.
Guy Kawasaki: When you say time, do you mean a short weekend project or do you mean there’s a time of life when you’re 20 to 30 where it’s not going to be balanced, it’s going to be work and then maybe in 40 to 50 it’s more balanced?
Arianna Huffington: We mean it day by day-
Guy Kawasaki: Day by day.
Arianna Huffington: Because the truth is that you’re going to be more effective in your 20s and your 30s if you give yourself time to recharge, tap into your creativity, your best ideas, and not just run on empty and operate from stress and fumes.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Do you think women are still judged by different standards?
Arianna Huffington: In many ways, yes. I mean, you see words like difficult and driven being used in a derogatory way about women, and also women are still suffering more from workplaces fueled by burnout.
Guy Kawasaki: Why are women judged by different standards?
Arianna Huffington: Because we have many, many centuries of looking at men and women differently and there’s still a lot of work to be done. But we really believe that the change is going to happen much faster if people are not burnt out because we have the data now that shows that when people are burnt out, they operate from their most stereotypical views. They are less empathetic, less creative, less able to connect with people in a deeper way.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think a less burned out man would be more accepting of women’s roles?
Arianna Huffington: Absolutely. Also, we’ve seen that in many of the Silicon Valley companies where men are burnt out, and they begin to operate from the worst version of themselves. They’re more sexist. They act in ways which make it much more uncomfortable for women. Even if we’re not talking about hardcore harassment, they just kind of act in ways which are much less empathetic.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think that women, one of the things that may hold them back is that they wait until things are perfect. When you’ve raised your child perfectly, you can then do this. I mean, they try to do everything perfectly, and they wait for this perfect time, as opposed to men who just throw things against the wall?
Arianna Huffington: I don’t think we can talk in such generalities about men and women, but in the work we’ve just done with Stanford, we launched a Thriving Mind, which is a 90-minute digital program about depression, anxiety and how can we prevent them.
Stanford has identified eight biotypes. We all have them, ways in which our brain tends to work, and one of the biotypes is rumination. And women have that more than men. Rumination is when you go over the same thing and judge yourself and doubt yourself, and part of it is perfectionism as you said, part of it is just more self-judgment. And that’s one of the areas that we are working to help women give that up and realize that our mind often just goes around in these loops, that they are not the truth.
Guy Kawasaki: How do you advise women to ruminate less?
Arianna Huffington: The first thing is not to identify with their rumination. Their rumination is not who they are, it’s not the truth, and therefore putting some distance between the rumination and who they are and bringing some humor to it too.
Guy Kawasaki: I know you just told me not to generalize, but I have to say it, I don’t understand why men are such pieces of crap, seriously. Is in the DNA, why?
Arianna Huffington: I don’t know, I should ask you. As a man, you can represent your sex for everybody.
Guy Kawasaki: From the outside, I just don’t understand it. For example, in the workplace, I think it’s so… This is one thing that Steve Jobs did extremely well, half of his direct reports were women in the mid-’80s. He did not care about your gender, your religion, your race, your anything, it was just competent or not competent. He was way ahead of his time, but there are so few people who think like that.
Arianna Huffington: Well, it isn’t just not caring. I mean you now have a data that goes further than that, that shows that a diverse workforce and diverse leadership is actually going to be more successful, that you tap into different skill sets and experiences. It’s better, it’s not just that it’s equal, it’s better.
Guy Kawasaki: What does that say for what’s going on in Washington? That’s hardly a diverse workforce there.
Arianna Huffington: Well, it’s not exactly working.
Guy Kawasaki: Would you give some advice to Elizabeth Warren right now?
Arianna Huffington: Well, Elizabeth Warren is, tonight, we have the debate, so is definitely being bold and taking risks.
Guy Kawasaki: I heard the story that when she spoke in Times Square, she took selfies with people for five hours-
Arianna Huffington: I know, 4,000 selfies.
Guy Kawasaki: Just for that, I would vote for her.
Arianna Huffington: I thought you could say that’s something you could never do.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, that’s true, that’s true. So what’s your advice to young women beginning their career?
Arianna Huffington: I think it’s very important not to buy into this delusion that in order to succeed, they have to burn out. And that’s a cultural delusion. We see it obviously very much in the Valley, where you are, and we see it everywhere. And when they realize that this is simply belied by all our latest data and latest science, we’ll see dramatic changes.
Guy Kawasaki: I’ve got two more questions for you, so first question is, what comes to mind when you think about your legacy? What do you want your legacy to be?
Arianna Huffington: Oh, I never think about my legacy. I don’t think life ends with death. So I have zero interest in my legacy.
Guy Kawasaki: What does that mean? So you’re just going to live it to the end and whatever happens, happens.
Arianna Huffington: Yes, I live my life, and then I feel the soul survives and moves on. And what happens is not the way I live my life. I don’t live my life for a legacy.
Guy Kawasaki: What’s the best piece of advice you ever gave your daughters?
Arianna Huffington: Definitely the piece of advice that my mother gave to me, which is to be willing to take risks. And in order to take risks, you have to be comfortable with failure. And my mother used to say failure is not the opposite of success. It’s a stepping stone to success. And I think it’s really important for people who have succeeded to talk about their failures.
Guy Kawasaki: I interviewed Jane Goodall for this on Saturday, and she basically said the same thing about her mother. Her mother was the one that was the force that encouraged her to go to Africa without a degree, work for the Leakeys, and it was a very similar story.
Arianna Huffington: I know we are lucky to have had great mothers.
Guy Kawasaki: Can I ask you one more tactical question?
Arianna Huffington: Okay, go ahead.
Guy Kawasaki: Because I need this… How do you get good sleep when you travel?
Arianna Huffington: Oh, the key is if you’re on a plane to avoid eating any of the heavy foods and drinking any of the wines that they serve and just kind of be ready. For me if I’m on a plane and have to work the next day, especially if it’s a long flight, I’m ready with my special soft eye mask that I bring with me, my special little silk pillowcase that I put the airplane pillow in to make me feel cozier, my ear canceling headphones and my sleep meditations.
I have a series of sleep meditations that I can play. And I promise you, you’ll fall asleep, but very often people find themselves eating that food which is never good and then drinking and then it’s very hard to sleep [inaudible 00:00:14:38].
Guy Kawasaki: You said ear canceling, do you want to say it again because you meant noise canceling.
Arianna Huffington: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, my noise-canceling headphones. Yes, definitely not ear canceling.
Guy Kawasaki: So you need your mask, your pillowcase, your noise canceling-
Arianna Huffington: And your sleep meditations.
Guy Kawasaki: Your sleep meditation, what is your sleep meditation?
Arianna Huffington: I have a dozen that I like.
Guy Kawasaki: You mean you listen to it?
Arianna Huffington: Yes, that I listen to, and at least one of them will help me sleep.
Guy Kawasaki: I don’t know about you, but I’m going to get a silk pillowcase for my next trip. If you’d like to learn how Arianna and her colleagues can help you reduce stress and burnout, go to thriveglobal.com. She is one of my favorite people in the world.
I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. Thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick for helping make this podcast thrive in a stress-free and fun way.
This is Remarkable People.