Arianna Huffington spoke this week in New York to a crowd of entrepreneurs and admirers at CNBC's Iconic Tour about her business successes and failures, and why neither matter unless you're getting a good eight hour sleep.
Huffington, former Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, left the post last year in a move that shocked the global media. A serial entrepreneur, she wanted to move on and create a website that focused solely on health and wellness, which would in turn take the form of Thrive Global. Speaking about her entrepreneurial pursuits, Huffington bore a serious smile for much of her talk with CNBC's Andrew Sorkin. While Sorkin tried unambiguously to elucidate the failures and mistakes Huffington had made throughout her years as an entrepreneur, from investments to hiring faux-pas, she effortlessly bounced off all negativity to provide solid, positive advice for those aspiring entrepreneurs in the crowd. Hire well, nap well, and don't let a mistake (or multiple mistakes) get in the way of future success. Below are our five takeaways from the talk that you can watch here.
Of the 75 people at Thrive Global, not one got into their position without first facing down the eponymous Huffington herself. While building her team, as with everyone, she's very careful to hire people that ultimately she wants to work with, rather than needing to work with. One of her pet peeves are people that talk behind their co-workers backs, so she tries to eliminate them from the process early on. Her favorite interview question is "Where do you see yourself in five years?" because, you can then identify where their heart is and whether or not they view the job as a stepping stone rather than a permanent, long-term position. She also advises to "only interview when you're recharged," otherwise, there's no telling who might hire in a half-awake state.
Don't view failure as a problem
"I have an interesting relationship to risk and failure," Huffington began, before telling the crowd that it was her mother who instilled this sense of security with failure rather than against it - for, she insists, it's the failures that make a business. "Failure is not the opposite of success, it's a stepping stone to success," she said nodding to the start-ups that fail because of their inability to look beyond a bump or a setback in their road. Although she couldn't (or wouldn't) recall many of her failures for the hungry crowd, she was very humble about the fact that all of her mistakes had made her businesses that much richer today.
Andrew Sorkin and Arianna Huffington. Iconic Tour 2017
Don't hire brilliant jerks
"The no dumb jerks rule is easy, the harder rule is no brilliant jerks," Huffington remonstrated with Sorkin, continuing, "often you come across people who are brilliant who you know are going to be great, but you know they are going to be toxic for the culture." She is completely opposed to the culture of "top performers" whereby a singular person excelling in their position can often be detrimental to the team because of a pompous and/or braggadocios attitude that inevitably creates a muddied team atmosphere. #teamwork is a Huffington essential.
There is no age limit to entrepreneurship
Huffington at 66, posited that when you're older, in fact, "it's a great time to launch something new." Having the opportunity to start over with Thrive Global, she positively jumped, knowing that her name was on the door at The Huffington Post, and all too aware of how often media start-ups fail. Her age was not a factor at all, and incidentally it is this, and her years of experience that she attributes to how well Thrive Global is doing today.
Sleep is essential to success
Huffington was adamant about this one above all. Sleep, she said, was a prominent factor to her success, and she is currently hoping to extend this Huffpo/Thrive Global ethos into her involvement with Uber. Ironically, it was announced at press time today that Travis Kalanick, who Huffington spoke of at the talk as needing meditation and help getting into a meditation cycle, is indeed stepping down from his position as Uber CEO,
The nap rooms that The Huffington Post became famous for years ago, are going to be as common as conference rooms soon, Huffington believes. Nap rooms and meditation rooms, she posits, are essential to boost productivity and help alleviate workplace stress because you can remove yourself from the office environment, from emails and phone calls in order to "recharge" and recuperate before returning to tackle the rest of your workload.
Huffington said that it was "amazing" how differently Kalanick would make decisions after he'd had a decent night of sleep, and a happier CEO would correspond to a happy company. Would it be so bold as to attribute Huffington's sleepy influence to Kalanick's stepping down? Who knows..
Eboni K. Williams and Cheslie Kryst have a lot in common, as Iman Oubou Founder & CEO of SWAAY as well as host of the Women Who Swaay podcast puts it, "They're both badass attorneys, they're both from North Carolina and they've both competed in the Miss North Carolina USA pageants." And they also both took over our podcast on the most recent episode, straight from the headquarters of the Miss Universe Organization!
Cheslie is a successful licensed attorney who also happens to be the reigning Miss USA 2019, with plans to represent our country in the upcoming Miss Universe competition. Not only is she at the height of her pageant power, but she is using the notoriety to create positive change for all of the women in her life, much like her role model Eboni K. Williams. Williams is a journalist, author, attorney and speaker; from her long history as a pageant queen she has risen through the ranks of male dominated industries from law-firms to Fox News. All throughout her journey she has persevered with intelligence, tenacity and poise. Lucky enough for us, she has kindly put her reporting skills to use and got candid with Ms. Kryst about supporting their fellow women, the current state of race in America and their history together as pageant compatriots. All of these topics are incredibly close to their hearts as powerful black women using their influence to create a better future for all women in America.
Oh and, as previously stated, both are complete and utter badasses.
During their podcast takeover they talked about it all, from pageants to politics. It's clear that both of these women are motivated by an altruistic spirit and are strong supporters of #womensupportingwomen. Eboni even read a passage from her book, Pretty Powerful: Appearance, Substance, and Success, in which she outlines how her own career trajectory was so positively affected by the incredible women who mentored her in different stages of her life. She completely shuts down the idea of the "woman on woman teardown," calling it a "pitiful dynamic" tied to the "long and very hurtful history of women." This idea that in order to compete for a spot in the old boy's club, women must first fight off their own gender is not only reductive but it also supports an outdated social structure that was built to greatly favor male success. Throughout history women have been encouraged to look at one another as competition, one more obstacle to pass by. However, all that has managed to do is to pit us against each other, fighting for the few meager seats at the table allowed for women while we ignore the real problem. The problem isn't about the lack of seats allotted for women; the problem is that men are still the ones making the seating arrangements, and it's time for that to change, something that both Cheslie and Eboni understand well.
Race is another topic that is incredibly important to both of these women, and they have quite the in-depth discussion on it during this podcast. Cheslie, who is biracial and self-identifies as black, laid out her point of view on race. She voiced her frustrations for never feeling like she had her own box to tick, being stuck to decide between "black, white, or other" in standardized situations like the SATs. Existing as someone stuck between two cultures has been incredibly challenging, and though she found some solace in the black community, she felt less welcomed by her white peers. Self-identifying as black is something that has allowed her more agency in regards to her own identity, and though she still faces difficulties she realizes how important it is to be a confident black woman in the esteemed position she is currently in. Both Cheslie and Eboni seem to bond over the idea that no matter the successes, they both revel in the victories of their fellow women of color. Each of them is motivated to see more women of color in powerful, visible positions to inspire future generations. It's not about their own success; it's about respect and renown for any and all women of color.
I may have just provided the highlight reel, but the full conversation shared between Cheslie and Eboni on the Women Who Swaay podcast is a must listen. These two women managed to make me laugh while restoring hope for a better America all within a half hour of listening time! Seriously, go get those headphones, right now. You will not regret it.