An Afternoon With Arianna Huffington

A t KIND Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Summit in New York this month, Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global and The Huffington Post, shared her insights to an audience of social entrepreneurs. In conversation with Rebecca Jarvis, she talked about how to thrive in building a business while maintaining your health and wellness.

What is the problem? In our pursuits to become successful, we sacrifice our health and wellness. We only sleep a few hours every night, and allow our health to deteriorate. We believe burnout is a necessary ingredient for success. In our hunger for success, we sacrifice our health and wellness.

As American culture is slowly waking up to the negative consequences of sacrificing health for success, Huffington’s social mission behind Thrive Global stands at the forefront of a new movement.

“People are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Huffington said. As her success demonstrates, health and success can go hand in hand. Indeed sometimes all we need to do to advance our career is to disconnect and sleep.

Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba and one of China’s richest man, probably shares the same sentiment when he told students once that sleep is his best friend at times when he can’t solve a business problem.

In her fire-side conversation with Rebecca Jarvis, she advocated to build rituals to disconnect. It is important to finish the day and leave things unfinished. “If you complete everything you had to do in a day, you don’t have an interesting enough job,” she jokingly added. Declare an end to your day, she said, and learn how to say goodnight.

For example, she suggested to put your phone away from bed, and that probably extends to other electronic devices. “Set boundaries with your relationship with technology,” she said.

This is hard to do, but essentially a good habit to disconnect from work every day. This is also what top performers such as NYT best-selling author Tim Ferriss do. He suggests not to check emails an hour before you go to sleep. We have all done the opposite. It’s late at night, and we’re trying to cross out one more task. Yet sometimes it’s better to sleep and start fresh in the morning.

We need to keep in mind that results come from good decisions and good decisions come from good judgment. It is unlikely that compromising your health will help you to make better decisions. You need to pace yourself and keep sustainability in mind, while also maintaining a sense of urgency. That’s the challenge, she offered, to go fast with a sense of urgency while keeping your cool and staying calm.

On a different note, Huffington also shared some entrepreneurial lessons. Switch what you’re doing, she said, if you’re not enjoying it anymore. She encouraged us to take risks, which entails becoming familiar with the possibility of failure.

As she learned from her mother, however, failure is a stepping stone to success. “It doesn’t matter if it stops you for a second, but it shouldn’t stop you for good,” she insisted. What matters is that you keep going.

She described herself as optimistic yet realistic. For her, imagination and realism are connected. We have to make space for imagination, which means that we have to approach things through the art of wonder. But we also have to focus on making things happen. In the end, we have to learn how to combine imagination with realism.

When someone told her that she shouldn’t launch the Huffington Post, she continued her work anyway. She recognized how the world was going to be connected to the internet, and something like this was going to be built in the future.

When she was asked about how she made the jump into her new startup, she shared that she followed the advice of her friend Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, who told her to, “take a deep breath and jump.” And she assured us that it’s been exhilarating journey ever since.