Arianna Huffington is a journalist and businesswoman. Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, now owned by AOL. In 2009, Huffington made it in Forbes's first list of the Most Influential Women In Media. In 2014, she was listed by Forbes at the 52nd spot among the Most Powerful Women in the World.
In 2016, when Arianna Huffington decided to leave Huffington post, the company she co-founded, she dived headlong into her start up Thrive Global. The aim of the company was to enable individuals and organisations to understand the value of wellness and a balanced stress free mind towards the bottom-line. Two years later, Arianna is thrilled at the response. Speaking to CNBC-TV18 in her latest India visit to India on how companies and people all over the world are recognising the need for a stress free life to be able to drive growth and creativity. When asked on her mantra to success, she shares an interesting insight. Arianna believes that fixing a time to switch off is key to a healthy and productive lifestyle. Arianna attributes her success to this very theory. She believes that technology plays a key reason for stress with most people unable to switch off.
In 2007, Arianna herself had a burn out when she fainted on her desk. And that’s when her search began to find scientific proof of how well balanced and emotionally healthy and rested individuals can be more successful than the ones overworking themselves around the clock. Arianna has a charging station for her mobile phone which is outside her room. She believes it is important to leave the phone outside when you go to bed. Her charging station is also a special one. It has a special blanket with which she can ‘put the phone to bed’.
Here is the full transcript of her interview with CNBC-TV18:
I believe you have a very packed schedule in the last couple of days?
A: It has been wonderful to be back here. I love India. It is my favourite country in the world. I first came here when I was 17 and started comparative religion in Shantiniketan University outside Kolkata. A year ago, we launched Thrive Global in partnership with the Times of India and now I am back to continue building and everything we are doing with Thrive.
Help us understand how Indians have reacted or how Indian companies have reacted so far to this principal of how the importance of these steps can actually drive the bottomline further and then can actually reduce attrition. How is the response been so far?
A: It is amazing. The reason why the response has been so phenomenally enthusiastic is because they are seeing the cost of not doing these things - their cost in terms of attrition for example and at the time when everybody is going after talented people everywhere, the war for talent is intensifying. If your talent is burnt out, they are over 30 percent likely to switch jobs. So even if they go to another job where they are going to be burnt out, they think by leaving, it is going to be easier for them. So if you want to keep talent or if you want to recruit talent, it is very important to have a culture, which is thriving.
Also, we have had a lot of examples recently of companies that were only focused on a growth mind-set without being focused on the culture and we have seen the problems they had. Whether it is Elon Musk working around the clock and tweeting things in the middle of the night that led to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation and him having to step down as chairman - this is just one example of what happens when you are ignoring the culture. The culture is a company’s immune system.
Help us understand the kind of turnaround that you have seen so far. You have already worked, it has been about two years since you set up Thrive Global, how have the numbers been in terms of company is actually seeing turnaround in their business, in their profitability, in the reduction, in attrition?
A: I think what has been amazing in the last two years is that everything we started talking about has become much more mainstream. So you now see this conversation, we are having it on CNBC, you can read it in business magazines and it has been taken out of the health and wellness base. It is at the heart of business and that is a huge shift and what we are doing also is collecting stories of what we call new role models like people who are very successful in the arena sharing their own hacks, their own tips and tools and techniques of how they create sustainable success in their lives like Jeff Bezos writing for Thrive about if he doesn’t get enough sleep, his decision making is impaired. So making the connection between being fully recharged and making good decisions is key.
That helps drive creativity?
A: Exactly. Driving creativity and good decisions, that is like at the heart of leadership and in a world where we have had the predictions about AI taking as many as half the jobs, what is going to be left is going to be quintessentially driven by these qualities of creativity and by the collaboration and these are the first qualities that go when you are exhausted. Like you know for yourself, when you are exhausted, you are less creative, you are less empathetic.
You are just pushing yourself beyond a point and which drive people to burn out, which creates that stress that is what you are talking the cost of stress and burn out on even the bottomline of the company, right?
A: Absolutely. In many ways both direct and indirect through attrition, creativity, etc.
I am going to also take a broader point from you, since the last two years, you have been expanding across the board to Thrive Global, help us understand the kind of investment that you are looking at in India and what is the plan now in the next five years, what is the plan for India?
A: The plan is to grow both directly through partnerships with companies and through our media platform and monetisation vehicle for our media platform is a branded content like creating a content for brands around themes that are compatible with us. Like we have partnerships with Sleep Number in the States for example and here we are going to be announcing partnerships at the end of this week, which are very aligned with their mission, who wouldn’t partner with companies that are not aligned with their mission and there are companies and brands who want to partner with us just to be around us in this area and because that it is something authentic that drives loyalty.
In terms of plans with start-ups as well, which is close to you heart. Have you interacted with start-ups so far in India? What is the plan with respect to partnerships or have you identified any start-up to partner with?
A: Yes, we are already partnering with start-ups in India and I am particularly passionate about it having founded two start-ups and also having seen how many entrepreneurs just burn out and how many start-ups fail. The majority of start-ups fail and one of the main reasons is that start-ups founders have brought into this delusion that in order for their baby to succeed they have to always sacrifice themselves and in the process they make bad decisions.
Have you seen a personal example of that with yourself as well?
A: Exactly, I personally reached that point two years after building the Huffington Post being a divorced mother of two teenaged children, I collapsed from exhaustion, hit my head on my desk and broke my cheekbone and that was the beginning of my wakeup call that ultimately led to Thrive Global.
There is a very interesting comment you had made of Elon Musk and that is something you have seen across the board for leaders, we have seen actual examples from heart attacks to physical ailments as well. You had also made a comment about how a lot of President Trump's reactions on twitter, etc. were because of sleep deprivation. Do you think this is something that even the political leaders need to subscribe to, for nations to go to the next level?
A: It has actually been part of leadership historically. The need for reflection, the time to recharge has been discussed through the years, so we have lot of evidence of how when you are running on empty, you are much likely to come up with your best political decisions or your best business decisions.
Are you in talks with political leaders to be able to inculcate that into politics?
A: We have a foundation the Thrive Global Foundation and we provide pro bono, have done a series of Mayors in states and their officers and be able to bring this absolutely scientifically based micro steps to political leaders, we have done it for women in prisons, we have done it for non-profit. So this is a part of Thrive, which is non-profit part.
We have been watching the global economy. US corporates now seem to see benefit from Trump policies purely in terms of profits. What is your view on what lies ahead for the US economy?
A: There is no question that retreating from globalisation isn’t the ideal solution either for the US or India or China but globalisation has to be done in a different way so that the gains from it which are undoubted are more equally distributed.
I think the growing income in inequalities have to be dealt with because otherwise we are going to continue to see huge political unrest that we are seeing around the world.
If you see the China and US conversation right now there seems to be a mid-ground as far as trade war issues are concerned but do you foresee the US, China relations to perhaps lead to a higher situation of trade war going forward?
A: That is why leadership is very necessary because traditionally, Graham Allison for Harvard wrote the book ‘Thucydides' Paradox’, which is that when you have a rising power, threatening the supremacy of the super power, as it is happening now with China and the US, it is a very volatile and challenging time and without wise leadership it is much harder to avoid unintended consequences.
Do you think we may see perhaps tougher time going forward – do you foresee a cold war like situation which is what people have been predicting?
A: Right now we are in a very precarious situation. You see the markets responding in a way that shows that the sustained performance of the last three years maybe interrupted and that is why the right leadership is so key everywhere.
Do you foresee President Trump coming back to for the second term?
A: I think it is impossible to tell at the moment, so much is going to change in the next two years.
There is a rise of extremism in the world across the border – what is the one or two things that can perhaps contain it?
A: First of all political leaders have to just stop talking about growing inequalities and start doing something about it because there is growing sense of unfairness, of gains from globalisation not being equally distributed, which is affecting a lot of political extremism that we are seeing all around the world. And then, it is incredibly important to help people reconnect with the wisest part of themselves as individuals and to tap into their resilience because in the times of exponential change like we are going through, it’s much harder to be resilient.
Have you ever considered returning to politics?