Positive Leadership

Learning to thrive (with Arianna Huffington)

December 07, 2021 Jean-Philippe Courtois Season 2 Episode 4
Positive Leadership
Learning to thrive (with Arianna Huffington)
Show Notes Transcript

This week, JP welcomes a very special guest: Arianna Huffington! 
What does “success” mean to one of the world’s most inspirational leaders and entrepreneurs? And what are her tips on how to achieve it?
Listen to the episode to find out. Hint: the answer involves quality sleep, 60-second resets and the importance of giving.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Welcome back to the Positive Leadership Podcast and thank you so much again for all you are ongoing comments, feedback.  Please keep them coming.  I've been so excited to share this episode coming up right now.  We're going to get the chance to learn from one of the world's most well-known, influential, and authentic leaders, Arianna Huffington herself.  Welcome, Arianna.  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Thank you so much.  It’s great to be with you, Jean Philippe.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  You know, Arianna, just a few more words about you, obviously, you're probably best known as the co-founder of the Huffington post, which you launched in 2005.  You quickly became one of the most widely read and frequently seated media brands on the internet, but there's so much more, of course.  You grew up in Athens, in beautiful Greece before moving to the UK at the age of 16.  You studied at Cambridge University.  You worked in London before moving to the U.S., and today you are living in the U.S., and you've been the founder of this wonderful company, Thrive Global, helping individuals and companies improve their wellbeing and performance through sustainable, science backed solutions.  Of course, you're also an incredible author, I think 14-15 books.  I can’t count them anymore.  I think you are incredibly great at adding new, exciting books, and if you have not already read, or, you know, the latest book, Thrive in the Sleep Revolution, I would highly recommend them to all of you, because they're going to cover on many of the topics that we're going to discuss together in this episode.  So, let's get going.  Again, warm welcome, Arianna.  Thank you so much for being part of this Positive Leadership podcast.  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Thanks so much.  Glad to be with you.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  So, by now, I think, clearly, we all know you today as a great businessperson, as a leader, but I’d love to get back to where it all began.  I know you were born in Athens.  I was actually back from Athens myself just two weeks ago.  I was, yes, I was visiting Athens, meeting with some of the key ministers and some of the largest companies as they embark on a digital transformation at the country and embrace cloud and AI, because the company, while making some significant investment in Greece, you know, I even enjoyed a digital experiences with HoloLens Olympus, which was incredible, with the minister of tourism. One day, you should experience that in your city.  


JEAN PHILIPPE:  And so, can you tell us, just to start, what it's like growing up there and you know, and all your early years, your family have been watching, listening to your many podcasts.  You often, I think, refer to your mom as your spiritual leader, if I'm not mistaken, and your daughters as well.  I've got also two daughters myself.  I think they've been helping you, shaping the person you've become today.  Is it the case?  And so, can you actually get us a sense of what it was like growing up in Athens?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Absolutely.  So, I was very, very blessed to have a mother who was unbelievably wise.  She didn't really have a formal college education, but she was incredibly wise, and she made me feel always that she loved me unconditionally, but that she wouldn’t love me any less if I failed along the way.  So, she gave me that sense that I could risk things, I could try things, and that it was okay to fail.  In fact, she used to say that failure is not the opposite of success.  It's a stepping-stone to success.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Love that, yeah.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  And so, when I was a teenager in Athens, you know, Jean Phillipe, I want to paint the picture.  We're living in a one-bedroom apartment, my parents were separated, we didn't have a lot of money, and I saw a picture of Cambridge University in a magazine, and I went home, and I said to my mother, I want to go there, and everybody else I said that to said, don't be ridiculous.  You know, you can't go there.  You don't speak English.  You have no money, and it's hard even for English girls to get into Cambridge, but my mother said, let's find out how you can go there, and she found out I could take my general certificates of education through the British Consul while also learning English, et cetera, et cetera.  She made it all an amazing adventure, but the best thing, Jen Philippe, is that she always made me feel that, if I didn't get into Cambridge, it was not a big deal.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  It was okay, yeah, yeah.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  There was going to be another adventure, and that life is a series of adventures, and it was really amazing to be on life's journey with her.  Anyway, I did get into Cambridge, which definitely changed my life, because it led to the contract for my first book, The Female Woman and the Debating Society, and a whole other universe that were opened up for me,

JEAN PHILIPPE:  What a wonderful start and what a wonderful a mom and leader to seed, I guess, the entrepreneurship mindset you've had since that day, Arianna, because the way she talks about failure and success in the same sentence, I love it.  It's really wonderful.  You know, one of the things that really interests me a lot, Arianna, about your journey is the fact that you've been taking on so many different paths, right, through the worlds of academia, business world, media, tech company, as well, now, politics, and more.  I find it really impressive, how you seem to have made some very deliberate decisions in your life, you know, one step at a time, personal life, careers, and altogether.  It's all about really living multiple lives, and I’d love to hear you talking about that and how did you become a real entrepreneur of your life, because I believe that’s a wonderful strength when people have, you know, take their destiny into their hands and become the entrepreneur of their lives, with an S.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  I love that.  I love that, multiple lives.  Well, I think it starts with being a lifelong learner.  I mean, I love to learn, and I love to lose myself in different subjects.  I mean, I wrote, for example, two biographies.  I wrote a biography of Pablo Picasso, which was an incredible journey over five years, and then I wrote a biography of Maria Callas, the opera singer, and in a way, when you look at my books, they're all like an exploration into a different subject I was interested in, and then when I had my own wakeup call in 2007, two years into building the Huffington post, I was the divorced mother of two teenage daughters, and I had bought into the collective delusion that, in order to succeed, you have to be always on, power through exhaustion, burnout is supposed to be the price we pay for success, and in the process, I really considered sleep, taking care of myself as a luxury I could not afford if I wanted to be to be super founder and supermom.  Anyway, I collapsed and hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone, and that, in retrospect, was an amazing wakeup call that helped me delve deeply into the world of burnout and begin to change how I live.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  That was truly your trigger, which is a, and you know, I certainly found myself as well, talking with some very different personalities that, you know, each one of us, sometimes, has something unique happening in his life, her life, a trigger that makes you realize that, hey, life is very precious, and as you need to apply some different meanings, you know, where you spend your time and the quality of the time you want to spend, which means also balancing the time you're going to sleep, so that you can provide the best energy, smiling up, like in this wonderful podcast right now, Adrianna, when you engage with others during the day, but it takes time, usually, to realize that, I think, I found.  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Yes, absolutely, and I think the theme of positive leadership, that is the theme of your podcast, and in a way, this chapter of your life, is incredibly important, because it is very hard to be a positive, creative, empathetic, optimistic, innovative leader if you are depleted.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Completely, I agree.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  We can all be transactional, we can all get stuff done, go through our to-do list, have meetings, but to be a positive leader who can inspire and build teams and create and innovate, it requires us to operate from a place of fullness.  So, we need to take that time to recharge.  I mean, athletes, as you know, now, are ahead of the curve.  They see recovery as part of peak performance.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  They do, and I think, you know, as you and I were chatting, as we got started for this podcast, we are talking, of course, of this lasting pandemic, right, that goes up and down and, okay, we've got the next episode with a new variant, who knows, and certainly, that has created, I think some deep changes, right, in the minds of the people and the society, in the world of work, as well, the business space from the shift to hybrid work, the growing need, I think, is clear.  I could see that within my company, with my foundation for empathy, for compassion in the workplace, a stronger focus on mental health and a demand for meaningful work at the end of the day.  So, those are not really new concepts, but it took us so much time, all of us, to realize that it's real, and in your case, thrive, in the book you've been obviously writing, offering to the world, Arianna, back in 2014, you talk about there’s no metric to measure success beyond money and power, which I love, and you elaborate on the three pillars underpinning that, wellbeing, wisdom, and wonder.  So, I'd love to start with wellbeing and go a bit deeper into wellbeing, because I think you've been, obviously, role modeling that over the past many years, because I'm really struck, again, by how strongly that concept resonates with you over the pandemic and the vital need for all of us to take care of ourselves.  So, can you advise our listeners who are at different stages of their lives, of their careers, personally, socially, professionally, the way they should conceive and define their wellbeing agenda?  Where would you start and what would you do?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Well, first of all, I would start by explaining that there is nothing wrong with the first two metrics of money and status, career, success, but that it's like trying to sit on a two-legged stool.  Sooner or later, you fall off.  


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  So, the third metric is really the third leg of the stool for a complete life, and, you know, Greek philosophers used to talk about the good life.  What is a good life?  And in modern times, we reduced a good life into a successful life, and we reduced success into money and status, and that's what became incredibly confining and limiting.  So, now, we need to open it up again, and the third metric that, as you mentioned, starts with well-being, makes it basically clear that, if we don't prioritize our wellbeing and our health, it's very hard to bring our best selves to everything we're doing. 


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  And right now, you know, we are, even beyond the pandemic and even preceding the pandemic, we're going through skyrocketing increases of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, which are lifestyle related and stress related, and I think it's really important to recognize that it doesn't have to be that way, that we can go upstream and change outcomes, and the mental health crisis is also part of this epidemic that starts with human beings not prioritizing their health and wellbeing and taking charge of their own health.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  No, completely, and I think, you know, in a way, actually, your company's mission says it all.  I always love to look into the mission statement and the way the company lives their mission statement, that's another thing, and you say, I think, Thrive Global says you want to end the global epidemic of stress and burnout and, you know, in your book, you reference the 2011 number, which I'm sure is much bigger big now, where the Harvard Medical School study said that the lost performance of the U.S, workforce due to insomnia cost businesses something like $63 billion a decade ago.  So, I think there's probably a much bigger number of tax to be paid now, right?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Yes, and also, now, we've seen the connection between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer's and cognitive decline in general.  I think it's very important to make sure that our wellbeing conversation is very rigorous and science and data driven, because sometimes, when you talk about wellbeing, people may think, oh, this is sort of warm and fuzzy and, no, it's not.  It's very, very, very rigorous, and in the work we're doing with many companies, including your company, Microsoft, we always like to connect what we're doing with business metrics, connect it with attrition, with productivity, with healthcare cost, because frankly, that's the only way these ideas will spread.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  No, I fully agree with you. Arianna.  I think employer’s companies, I think, are realizing big-time about the correlation.  No, I like, you know, this podcast is also about sharing the best practices, what we do, what, and so, you've been, certainly, showing the way.  Can you share with our listeners your own relationship with sleep, right, and your personal tips for being rested and having your right sleep quota?  I would call that my quota of sleep.  How do you do that, Arianna, and how much have you changed your patterns? 

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Okay, I have a very strict code of sleep, Jean Philippe.  Well, first of all, it starts with the need to change our mindset.  We basically believe through literally centuries, since the first industrial revolution, that powering through exhaustion is the mark of somebody who cares about their work, who is committed, who is driven, and it goes back to the first industrial revolution, because that's when we started revering machines, and after, machine software.  And what is the goal of machines and software?  To minimize downtime, but for the human operating system, downtime is not a bug, it's a feature, and I think it's totally important to understand that, because otherwise, it's going to be hard to make these behavioral changes that improve our wellbeing and our productivity.  The two things are connected.  So, in the product that Thrive Global launched, um, approach bigger change around all the human journeys.  So, you see, there are six human journeys, you know, sleep, and 60-second resets during the day to course-correct from stress, food, movement, focus, which is incredibly important, because we are all constantly bombarded with interruptions, notifications, and we need to learn how to set boundaries.  


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Money, financial stress is a big cause of stress for many people, and connection.  So, all these things are connected to sleep.  Sleep is foundational.  It's our first journey, but the truth is that if I over drink or overeat or over-indulge in sweets, whatever, my sleep is not going to be as good. 


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  If I haven't moved all day, my sleep, isn't going to be as good.  If I have my phone by my bed and spent the night doom scrolling or binge-watching, my sleep isn't going to be that good.  So, it's all connected.  That's why point solutions don't work, because everything is interconnected. And then we break it down into micro-steps.  So, my favorite sleep micro-step… 

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Yes, what is it? 

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  It's turning off my phone.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  What time do you turn off your phone?  Depends on the day?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: I turn my phone off at bedtime, but, because I feel, if I had a specific time, I would break it and so, it wouldn't be sustainable, but I declare and end to my working day.  At some point, you literally have to declare an and to a working day, because I'm sure you don't have an end to your working day.  I don't have an end to my working day, and I learned through the simple ritual of turning off my phone and charging it outside my bedroom. 

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Yes, that’s a great one.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  And then I like to have a little transition to sleep.  You know, you have two children.  So, you probably remember when they were little, you would have a lot, a whole ritual of love singing them a lullaby, giving them a bath, reading them Goodnight Moon.  I actually created a parody of Goodnight Moon called Goodnight Smartphone.  So, we can separate ourselves from our day and be able to surrender to sleep and recharge.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  So, those are some of the micro steps, and I come back to the micro steps, Arianna, because I think it's, Arianna, it’s so, so critical.  What are the other daily changes you made to your habits in your days to, again, to prepare great sleep and to navigate the day with full energy, right, and strength and optimism, which I think you project in all of your interactions.  So, what are the other micro steps you're taking during the day?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Well, I have hundreds of micro steps, but I think how you end your day and how you start your day is very critical, and again, beginning small, we call them micro steps, too small to fail.  So, take 60 seconds in the morning to be able to remember what you're grateful for, set your intention for the day, take some conscious breaths before you go to your phone.  72% of people go to their phone before they're fully awake. 

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Right away, yeah.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  You know, before their feet have hit the ground, and so, they're at mercy of whatever is waiting for them before they are really ready to face the day and whatever challenges it brings, and then this feature of reset, which is my favorite thrive feature, because it's based in the neuroscientific finding that it takes 60 to 90 seconds to course-correct from stress.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  60 seconds, that’s it?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Yeah.  So, while stress is unavoidable, there is nobody who can lead a stress-free existence, cumulative stress is avoidable, and that's really what the problem is in terms of our hands.  It's cumulative stress, and there's been a lot of research, including recently by the Microsoft Human Labs, about the importance of breaks.  


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  If we are in constant Zooms, as we've been in…

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Teams, Teams.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Or constant Teams, I'm sorry.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  It’s okay.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Teams, Zoom, WebEx, whatever platform we use the impact of doing it without breaks dramatically affects our brainwaves, our ability to concentrate, and to be creative.  So, we've introduced resets, actually, we've built it into Teams for Accenture, and it comes preloaded with over 100 60-second videos that focus on your breathing, on things to put your problems in perspective, and my favorite thing is creating your own personalized reset.  I'll send you mine, you know, pictures of my daughters, my dog, music I love, favorite quotes like Rumi, “Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor”, and in 60 seconds, suddenly, you move from whatever makes you anxious or worried or stressed to what makes you grateful.  Gratitude is the biggest antidote to anxiety and stress.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  I love it.  I love at, Arianna.  There’s so much, starting the day, setting the intentions for the day, taking those moments to reset your mind, your brand, and your neurology as well, and of course, saying goodbye, goodnight to your phone a little while before you really go to sleep, so that you can really transition nicely.  I love them all, and it's true that we could see a lot more tension from people individually to do some of that, but, well, I’d like us to shift gears, Arianna, and talk about what can be done, should be done at a larger scale, when you talk about a large organization, that could be enterprise, public, private, non-profit, you know, and Microsoft had the opportunity in the last few years to lead a pretty massive transformation project, changing the way our seller, our frontline people are transforming our customers’ journey, with cloud, with AI, which is fundamentally different with what we used to do, selling software a few years back, and as we embark on that, I was inspired, several years ago, by a you may have read, and you read a lot of books, Switch, from Dan and Chip Heath, you know, where they detail the different steps for large change process, and in particular, one of the steps they talk about is the way you need to motivate the elephant.  You know, they've got a metaphor between the rider on the elephant, and to the elephant is kind of, it's an image, let's, say for the change you want to see there in yourself off of the large org you're leading as a leader or as a manager, or whatever is the size, it doesn't matter, really, and I can see that myself in my own foundation with young social entrepreneurs, Leave For Good, that the true motivation, if you can really drive that, propagate that, based on self-confidence, based on feelings, on positive emotions and fueled by your philosophy, which is all about growing the people, getting them to do things by themselves, to empower them, is incredibly powerful, and so, I really want to ask you, given your engagement with many leaders of some of the largest companies in the world, you just named a couple of them already, that are trying to transform as they perform, as we say, right?  Because, hey, every quarter is on again and again, what do you change the behaviors of the people?  What would be your top three coaching advices for the CEOs or leaders or even managers, for a manager of those companies who are trying to really bring the change to the very best of their people, how would you do that at large scale?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  That's such a great question.  So, first of all, it's really important to recognize that changes, fundamental changes have to be modeled by leaders.  If models don't, if leaders don't model the change they want to see, it's very hard to have this cultural activation.  So, when we work with companies who like to bring their leaders in from the beginning, because the old model of just giving them an app or a benefit and moving on does not work.  So, the first step is a whole cultural activation, which makes the connection between wellbeing and productivity.  We talk about building inclusive cultures.  It's impossible to build inclusive cultures when people are burnt out, because you become your worst version of yourself.  You know?  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Of course.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  I saw that firsthand when I was on the board of Uber, and because it was fueled by a culture of burnout, it actually brought the worst in people, and so, to build an inclusive, empathetic culture, it has to start with leaders modeling it and empowering and inspiring others, and one of the ways to do that is to collect the stories of what everybody's doing that supports their productivity and their wellbeing, and we constantly use wellbeing and productivity together to break the old fashioned idea that there are no opposite sides, to recognize that there is no tradeoff between them.  The other thing is we talk a lot about bringing your whole self to work, but how do you demonstrate that?  I think you demonstrate it by prioritizing onboarding.  You know, Jean Philippe. I don't think companies put enough emphasis on the onboarding moment.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  You're so right, so right, Arianna, I see the same.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  That’s when you have the full attention of your new employee.  They've just made a big life decision.  They want to fit in.  They want to understand and embrace the culture, and in the work we're doing with companies, we like to start the onboarding experience with a conversation between the manager and the new employee that we call the entry interview.  You know, we spend a lot of energy on the exit interviews.  I think we need a little more emphasis on the entry interview, and the first question is what's important to you outside of work, and suddenly, you feel encouraged to talk about something outside of work, and we've heard amazing stories, you know, a mother who said, it's important to me to take my daughter to school at 7:00 in the morning, or a man who said, it's important me to make my physical therapy appointment once every two weeks.  You know, suddenly, you have a glimpse into who they are, and also, we get every new employee to build their own reset.   So, let's say you have a meeting and now, you know, increasingly a hybrid meeting, some people may be together, some will be virtually.  We spin the wheel, and someone plays their own reset.  So, if I had started our conversation like that, and you had played your reset, I would have gotten a glimpse into your life, you know, the pictures of your daughters, maybe a piece of music you like, some quotes you like.  So, it creates a kind of intimacy that is lost when we're all together, and these are like kind of the rituals of great leaders.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  I love it, Arianna, because, in many ways, in my generation, as you could see, as my grey hair, right, we used to kind of separate so much our personal life from the business life or professional life.  We didn't want to blur that.  In reality, it doesn't work.  It doesn't work anymore.  You could see that it has never worked, actually, but the Pearl of really connecting to the passion, the inner passion of someone, a talent, someone joining a company, the strengths, what they are looking for to make an impact, creates such an important linkage into the company's mission, role, whatever, and I think the exercise you just shared with me is a great way, I think, to get a dialogue going on and really open and up that space, which has been, really, too much of a private space so far.  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Exactly, and, you know, this is very connected to what you've been working on for a large part of your life, which is digital transformations.    


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Digital transformations are now table stakes.  Like you can't be, every company is a tech company, or it kind of can't really grow and flourish.  So, I think there's complete agreement that that's not just the future, but the present, but I think what we're discovering is that there has to be a human layer for the digital transformation to really be sustainable.  You can have, and you have some of the best productivity tools on the planet, right?  You can organize people's work, workflows, optimize every second of your life, and we now have all the data that shows, if the employee is stressed, anxious, worried, they're not going to be productive.  You can give them the best productivity, digital tools in the world, but you also need to address the human layer, and so, we talk about augmented reality.  I like to also talk about augmented humanity, and when you bring digital transformation with augmented humanity together, it's an amazing alchemy.  You can achieve anything and overcome any obstacles.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  I see it every day.  I've seen for the last many years, Arianna, you also, right, when it comes to the digital transformation journey of any company, it starts with the meaningful mission of the company, continue the culture, leaving the culture with your people, with the company.  Then it gets into the tech, yes, but to drive some and outcomes, which are not just business, but to continue the skills and the people and the way they can grow with the company.  So, 100% with you on this human layer that needs to be added to all of our great technology tools, and we are trying to get inspired by what you provide as well, Arianna.  So, building on that, you know, clearly, and we're also chatting about, you know, I’m on the board of Manpower, and we've been reflecting on this great resignation, you know, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella likes to call that, actually, the great reshuffle.  So, it’s kind of a different appellation.  I think that, to make a long story short, it's very clear that there's a massive control shift happening, not just in the U.S. in Europe and globally, sweeping employees across the world, and at the end of the day, I think, it's no more about what employees can achieve for the businesses; it’s what companies can offer to workers.  Right?  So, how, if you were, again, which you do every day, how can companies ensure that they can offer what employees need, and what are the new expectations, Arianna, for the leaders to the right things for their teammates?  Those are two big questions in one, I'm sorry.  At the company level, and in implication for the leaders to change and to lead in a different way, probably, we set a realization, as well of this great reshuffle.  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Well, first of all, um, it's recognizing, Jean Phillipe that this pandemic, with all of the pain and the grief and the losses that it has brought around the world, is also an amazing catalyst for fundamental change that should have happened before the pandemic, frankly, but often, we need a crisis to be a catalyst for the fundamental change that good companies are in the process of undergoing right now, which is taking advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine productivity and redefine how we work and live, and the element of positive leadership that you are talking about is key here, because that really acknowledges our humanity and how we can bring the best of who we are into everything we're doing, and that could be totally transformational for the companies that are putting it into effect.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Again, it's so right, and I think it's such a defining moment that you're making, Arianna, for all leaders and companies.  So, just continuing a little bit on discussion, there's a lot being asked to managers as well.  You know, there's many frontline managers, not just the top leaders, CEOs of companies, but all the people who are trying to do the right thing every single day.  At Microsoft, we are trying to empower our thousands of managers by encouraging them to be even more caring for people, to become what we’ve called a coach-like manager as well.  So, coach-like mindset, which is very different than directing people, it's about growing them every day, getting them to find solutions, not telling them what to do, and eventually, asking them to model the values we have and to embody the culture, which is not an easy task.  There's a lot.  So, what, you know, how do you see that trend happening and how do you participate, obviously, with Thrive Global and more, to not just convince the tops, right, of the companies, but the masses of those first-line managers, whoever, wherever they are, right, in retail or hospitality services, in an hospital, and not just a tech company, to basically embrace all that change?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Well, I profoundly believe that the next decade is going to challenge all of us to prioritize what's happening with frontline workers, and we are very lucky to be working with Walmart, and we are working with their 2.2 million associates, as they call them, the majority of whom are minimum wage, retail, frontline employees, who, during the pandemic didn't have the luxury you and I had to be able to work from home, and also, we look at the data of the pandemic, and underserved communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID.  They have more immunocompromised conditions, et cetera.  So, this is the time to really address these problems that have been ignored for many years, and we have found that, through our behavior change micro steps and capturing stories and putting them back in the app and inspiring others, we have been able to affect medical outcomes without any medical interventions and that is a cause of tremendous optimism.  We've literally had people who've, I mean, the winner, we also do a challenge and give financial reward.  So, the winner of that challenge, and her job is to stock shelves in a Walmart store from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM.  I can't think of many harder jobs. 


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  So, she lost 34 pounds.  She changed her fundamental habits.  You have to make these changes sustainable, and, you know, she wrote a beautiful piece, I'll send it to you about what it means for her life.  She said her husband and she no longer go to fast food restaurants.  She said, if you came to my home now, it would be full of apples and tangerines instead of candy and cookies.  So, we need to encourage people to adopt these healthier habits and see how to really transform companies and societies, because we can't really settle for these skyrocketing rates of disease, and also these incredible rates of burnout, and everything we discussed that works for executives and people in the management ranks can, in different ways, work for everyone.  I mentioned reset as something that you can use at the beginning of meetings or in the middle of meetings to course-correct from stress.  Well, we’ve also used it for call centers.  You know, that call centers are one of them of the areas of greatest stress attrition, and therefore, bad customer outcomes, because if you have stressed-out operators, it's not good for your customers. 

JEAN PHILIPPE:  You’ll not satisfy the customers, yeah.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  So, we've now brought thrive resets into the operators here.  So. let's say you're an operator and you've had a particularly nasty customer call, the next call is going to be a thrive call that tells you, thank you for the work you've done for Walmart or Microsoft or whatever.  Now, take 60 seconds for yourself, to think what you are, to remember what you're grateful for, or to take some deep breaths, or to stand up and stretch, and you know, Jean Philippe, the most amazing thing in the data is how grateful they feel, that suddenly, somebody cares for them.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  They care, somebody cares, exactly.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  And, you know, in call centers, they call it shrinkage, you know, when the work is not as productive, and we say, you know, give us just five minutes of shrinkage, and we'll change outcomes.  That's what makes me so optimistic.  It's not like a really large amount of time.  It's just interrupting the stress cycle.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  I love it, Arianna.  I love the fact that you try to really democratize the humanization of work in a way, not just for the leaders, the managers of great, fancy companies, but, hey, all those first line workers who are so critical for the common good, by the way, of society.  I think all of us realized during the pandemic that all those people standing up in retail, hospitals, and so on, just made us really come along all together, and so I love the gratitude for what you do to get those people feel better about what they do every day in their jobs.  That's so important.  So, I can…  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  And as you know, it's so important for managers to know as soon as possible when their, one department or more than one department or one geography are on the risk of burnout.  So, really, we are developing, together with a colleague of yours. Mara Bosch, you know, who runs a lot of your consulting services, a mental resilience dashboard, which collects objective and subjective data, biometrics, assessments, and can give, in an aggregated way, a bird's-eye view into how your employees are doing, broken down by department, by country, so that you can intervene while there's still time.  Often, managers know that when it's way too late,  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Yes.  No, I agree.  I mean, this is where, I think, where technology can help.  I mean, most of us, and Arianna, we’re talking about our rings that have special powers to give us some telemetry on our sleep and activities.  I’d like to move on now to some last couple of questions, Arianna.  I mean, one is obviously about, in a way, the first leg of the chair, if not the stool.  You know, I love wellbeing, wisdom, wonder, but I can tell you, I'm an even bigger fan, personally, of the fourth sentiment of thrive, giving, okay, giving, because I think giving, loving, caring, empathy, compassion, going beyond our sales to self, to help sell versus is such a big deal, big thing for every person in the planet.  So, I'd like you to elaborate on that fourth element or fourth leg of the chair on how you can giving, and how you can really, or can we unleash that hidden power that we have in ourselves.  What does it take to embark on the giving?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  I love that, and you know, my book, you're right, has four pillars, but the publisher only put three on the cover, because they alliterate, you know, wellbeing, wisdom, and wonder, and giving didn’t start with a W, but giving, I totally agree with you, is foundational.  Giving is one of the most important elements of self-care.  I think, in many ways, self-care has been reduced in certain conversations to kind of massages and face masks, and the truth is that giving is the most important way to put your problems in perspective, because when we are totally self-absorbed, every problem we have becomes magnified, and when we give, we give from our overflow, we feel more abundant.  So, giving is just as important for the giver as for the recipient, and it also makes us feel part of a whole community of people, and it's transformational in every possible way, and I'm passionate about bringing, giving into our education more.  So, children can start volunteering and giving, and giving isn't just money.  I think giving is also time and caring, and the sooner that becomes part of your life the more, the easier it will be to adopt it when you're older.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Yeah, Arianna.  So, it's a very important addition.  Maybe, in the new edition of your book, who knows, Arianna, having this fourth pillar or leg, giving, on top of the cover, because in many ways, you know, as you reflect on the four pillars, you know, of thrive, , to me, it comes back to what passive leadership is all about, and when you think about passive leadership, success is not measured only through economic outcomes, for sure not, but also through happiness, through empowerment, coaching, and impact you have on some other people’s lives, for ourselves, but also for all of those around ourselves in the society.  So, it really means that success means something different to everyone, and we know that, because each one of us has, for sure, and during our lives, have come up with a different expectation of our own success, and I can only relate to that myself.  So, I’d like you, maybe, to share, at this D stage of your life, right now, Arianna, how would you frame the definition of success?  What is it for you to succeed, Arianna?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  So, success for me is about impact.  Like, I mean, we've been blessed to be able to not have to worry about financially taking care of ourselves and our families, and I'm not minimizing that, because there are millions of people for whom financial stress and making ends meet is very real, but once that's been solved, then, for me, it's all about impact, and I can't tell you the joy I get when I hear or read how people's lives are changed through micro steps or through stories they read and are empowered by.  So, it's not just the numbers, it's the detail,

JEAN PHILIPPE:  The stories of the people.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Stories, yes.  That's why I think storytelling is a big part of behavior change, and behavior change is, ultimately, what's going to determine what's happening in our world.  You know, Jean Philippe, we talk a lot about planetary sustainability, but for me, it's very important to connect planetary sustainability with personal sustainability, because burnt-out people will keep burning up the planet.  So, I think if we can have an impact on the way people live and work, that will have an impact on everything else, including prioritizing the big societal problems and also bringing giving into the everyday.  You know, I think it's very important to recognize that sometimes giving, maybe, just having a personal connection with the barista in the coffee shop…

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Yeah, with the foreigner on the street as well.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  The foreigner on the street, exactly.  So, that sometimes is, it changes the quality of our days, and it goes beyond what we are doing to get things done.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Yes.  Arianna, it’s a wonderful way to almost end, with my last question, our conversation, which has been wonderful.  Building on what you said about success and the way you defined success, which I love, you know, I’d like to quote Clayton Christensen, I'm sure you've been reading his book a few years back, How do you Measure Your Life, where he said, “I've concluded that a metric by which God will assess my life is not dollars, but individual people whose lives I have touched”, and I think some of the stories you discussed about this Walmart lady and this call center agent and the way that little voice coming to them to really take care of them and give them a sense, a way.  So, I'd like to really ask a big question now.  You know, Thrive is a wonderful platform for each one of us, and as we said, really, each one of us, the frontline workers, as much as the tops of companies, to embrace wellbeing as a way of life, but as you know, we are all members of this big community, the planet, and we have some massive challenges to deal with, from the climate change to meeting the 2030 UN SDG goals.  So, certainly, I love you and us to dream about the way you're going to convince billions of people to thrive in their lives.  So, my question is: how would you transform that incredible success you've been having, really, including with Thrive and many things you've done, to build a more massive collective engagement to build a better world for all of us.  In other words, how would you drive a systemic change for good for humanity?  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  So, I really believe in what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote.  If you wanted to change the world, who would you begin with, yourself or others?  So, I think fundamental systemic change begins with each one of us, and it begins with how we approach our daily lives.  It begins with bringing a quality of empathy and forgiveness into our lives, and also, what makes me optimistic is this concept of critical mass.  You know, you'll never change everything and everybody at once, but once we have a critical mass of people and companies that change, then it kind of magically spreads, and we've seen that again and again throughout history, and I think we are at such a pivotal moment of transformation right now, and what is exciting, because of the work you are doing and I'm doing, is that companies are at the forefront of this transformation more than governments.    


ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  And the reason why, when I launched Thrive, I launched it as an SAS enterprise product, and not a consumer product, it’s because I believe you need the community of the workplace to bring about fundamental change, and communities can come together and adopt these healthier habits and inspire and empower each other and see the data that shows that they're more productive, they're more creative, they're more able to deal with the challenges and the uncertainties of the times we're living through, and that, in itself, has a multiplier effect.

JEAN PHILIPPE:  It's wonderful, really, Arianna, to listen to your, not just the vision, but the way you’re going to really have an impact in the world, and I love the way you think about how you could change the community aspirations.  Whatever community we would live in, all of us in could be New York, could be in Paris, could be in Athens, could be in Africa, what is it we can do individually to really thrive and get the community to thrive all together?  So, that's my aspiration.  I want to deeply thank you, Arianna, for this wonderful conversation we had.  It was really refreshing, energizing, as well.  I'm really feeling myself with a lot of positive vibes with meeting with people like you, because I think you are a strong believer into positive leadership as well.  I see that in yourself, which, to me, starts with, really, each one of you, one person at a time, where each one of us can really become an entrepreneur of all lives and eventually grow as a positive leader, we can help build a better world.  So, with that, I want to thank you so much, Arianna, and share with all of our listeners, my three takeaways.  I do that all the time, real time, what I try to capture from a conversation.  So, please bear with me because I'm sure I'm not going to list everything, but three big things for me.  First one is unconditional love and failure as a stepping-stone to success and entrepreneurship.  What a wonderful formula of entrepreneurship and success!  The second one is really a selection of some of the micro steps you are taking and encouraging all of us to take.  I love the fact you start the day setting the right positive intentions for my day.  I love the 60-seconds reset you talked about how.  I would, on the third one, the gratitude.  I love myself having some kind of celebration of gratitude for things happening in my days, and I cannot finish a day without putting my phone to bed before I go to bed.  So, that would be more my four favorites, and the third takeaway is really all about that fundamental systemic change that begins with each one of us and the way we can individually have the power to truly change the world by building that foundation of wellbeing, caring, and all the rest, and then propagating that to so many others.  So, so much a pleasure to be with you, Arianna, and looking forward to seeing you in person one day.  

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  That was a real pleasure.  Thank you for putting out all these great ideas in the world, and I look forward to seeing you when you're in New York or I'm in Paris.  Thank you.  

JEAN PHILIPPE:  Thanks so much, Arianna.  Thanks so much and take care.