Arianna Huffington flustered me.
The way these Q&A interviews usually go is that I ask the subject some questions about whatever they are promoting, along with other questions that I hope will foster a rollicking exchange.
Huffington shut down briefly, as you can see in my startribune.com/video, complaining that questions about Edward Snowden and Hillary Clinton would be “awfully disconnected” when she thought the interview was supposed to be about her book “Thrive,” which she was here promoting at book signings, including one at the Depot where she spoke to WomenWinning.
I did notice that the media mogul adroitly turned a question about Hillary Clinton into an answer that promoted “Thrive” on the Wendy Williams talk show.
An entire column about Huffington’s book didn’t sound interesting enough to be picked up by, say, Huffington Post.
In my haste to find questions on my list about “Thrive” that might appease Huffington, I missed a few that met her all-about-the-book criteria. Huffington graciously responded to those questions via e-mail.
Q: Tell me about that third leg on the stool.
A: First of all, the first two legs of the stool of success: The way our society defines success are money and power. These are the two metrics of success and the theme of “Thrive” is that’s not enough. It’s like trying to sit on a two-legged stool. Sooner or later you fall off and we need the third leg of the stool which is the third metric. That includes four pillars. First of all, well-being: If we don’t have our health and our well-being everything else becomes secondary. The second is wisdom: How do we tap into our own inner wisdom to make the best decision? The third is wonder: How do we connect with all the beauty in the world and the mystery of life? And the fourth is giving: Otherwise, life becomes just about me.
Q: You acquired wealth, fame and power but had more difficulty finding happiness. What advice for finding happiness do you have for those of us without money and power?
A: Don’t fall into the trap of chasing only the successes built on money, status and fame. When this happens, we miss out on the happiness, purpose and meaning that come from reaching out to others, pausing to wonder, and connecting to that place of strength and wisdom within us from which everything is possible.
Take it from me. We founded the Huffington Post in 2005, and in two years we were growing at an incredible pace. I was on the cover of magazines and had been chosen by Time as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People. But after my fall, I had to ask myself, ‘Was this what success looked like? Was this the life I wanted?’ I was working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to build a business, expand our coverage, and bring in investors. But my life, I realized, was out of control. In terms of the traditional measures of success, which focus on money and power, I was very successful. But I was not living a successful life by any sane definition of success. I knew something had to radically change. I could not go on that way.
Q: After years of beating up my knees on hard tennis surfaces, I can’t wear high heels for even five minutes without my knees swelling. What caused you to eschew high heels?
A: Several years ago, I had my high heel wake-up call. Wearing a beautiful but ridiculously high pair of heels, I stepped in a subway grate and broke my ankle. Not only was I off heels for a long while, but I was on crutches and, after that, forced to wear the dreaded Broken Ankle Boot. My punishment for wanting to draw attention to my feet was … drawing attention to them while wearing a Frankenstein-worthy boot. My relationship with heels has since changed dramatically; I can’t say that I’ve given them up entirely but I’ve become a passionate missionary for flats.
Q: If I am not oversimplifying your message to say that our lives should be more about our eulogies than our résumés, may I ask you to compose the first three sentences of your eulogy?