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Arianna Huffington: "Don't Hire Brilliant Jerks"

Career

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.

Interview Personally

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..

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.