I had the pleasure of sitting in the front row at last Wednesday’s Ideas at the House event, where Annabel Crabb played host to media mogul Arianna Huffington at Carriageworks, Eveleigh. In case you aren’t familiar with the powerhouse that is Arianna Huffington, just watch the first 2 minutes of this interview as Annabel Crabb recites the inventory of her accomplishments. Or scroll down your Facebook news feed or Twitter roll – chances are someone in your circle has shared a link to one of the 1,200 pieces of content published by her media outlet, Huffington Post, each day.
It was great to see Arianna in action and to get a taste of what makes this woman so phenomenal and so normal at the same time. If you watch this video you’ll see a woman who’s grounded, has a great sense of humour and really knows how to handle herself. She and Annabel really hit it off (@ariannahuff even favourited my Tweet that said so), and it was an hour of my life truly well spent.
— Joy Adan (@themamaminute) September 10, 2014
Here are some pearls of wisdom garnered from just 60 minutes with one of the world’s most successful business women and writers:
Success doesn’t happen overnight
Nor does it happen without plenty of doubt and struggle. Early on in the interview, Arianna talks about the voice of self-doubt that nagged her through her college days. The margins of her drafted papers were covered in question marks because she was unsure if what she’d written was right. That a woman of her calibre talks so openly about her doubt is refreshing and makes her all the more authentic. Here is a woman who clearly accepts her flaws and shortcomings, despite the voice inside her that tells her to think otherwise.
All women deserve respect
That’s right, all women. Regardless of whether they do their hardest work at home or in an office. Regardless of the size of her pay slip or if there’s no pay slip at all. I grew up surrounded by teachers who told me to work hard, aim high and make a mark in the world. That was great. But some of them also encouraged me to put off having children because there was so much I “should achieve first”. That’s not so great.
I didn’t realise this until the interview, but during her early 20s, Arianna penned a book that put her in direct dispute with the loudest voice of feminism at the time, Germaine Greer. Greer was largely responsible for the (then) popular view that women who wanted to have children were simply products of social conditioning. That no educated, intelligent woman who had half a brain would choose to have children when she could choose to have a career. It’s to my great relief that Arianna voiced an opposing view during a televised Cambridge Union debate, and got approached to write a book about it. I’m sure her courage played an enormous role in turning the “anti-motherhood” movement around (though, let’s face it, there’s still a lot of that judgement towards young mothers out there). That a woman as successful as Arianna could place such a high value and regard for family and the women who choose to give their lives to that vocation is refreshing.
Another thing – it took plenty of courage to voice an opinion that undermined popular views of the masses. Yet it was this integrity and courage that launched Arianna’s career in writing and publishing. It just goes to show that being successful doesn’t mean having to give up what matters to you or pretending to believe in something you don’t.
Make room for wonder
Despite having contributed a growing, 24/7 publishing platform to digital media, Arianna mourns the effect that our “always-on” digital world is having on us. “We’ve become enslaved by technology instead of being liberate by it,” she said, advising that we should consciously make time to turn our phones and computers off and simply be present. I’m guilty of this. Between my day job and freelance life I have 3 computers, 1 tablet and 1 smartphone. There’s not an hour that goes by (besides Sunday Mass) when I’m not connected. Yet Arianna’s words ring a bell in my ears, and remind me of a saying my Dad always used as I was growing up and still says today:
“If you’re going to be a slave to anything, be a slave to good habit.”
Build good habits around your consumption and use of technology. Don’t let it rob you
of the magic that is in the everyday. Take a walk without listening to music. Enjoy a commute without staring at a screen. Spend mealtimes unplugged and turn off push notifications so that you are in control of when you receive information, not the other way around. Open your eyes and look around. Find things to be in awe of. Life is full of sweet moments.
There is no room in life for resentment
I just love this quote from Carrie Fisher:
Resentment and anger is energy-sucking. There are so many other things that are worthy of our energy and attention.
Let it hurt, then let it heal
Despite overcoming a lifetime of criticism and doubt from people all around the globe, Arianna doesn’t actually believe in the concept of thick skin. “I want to be permeable,” she said, explaining that pain and disappointment is a normal, unavoidable part of life. Pretending the unkind or unsupportive words of a critic don’t hurt is simply denial. Instead, she says, “let the pain in and out.” In the interview she actually says toddlers are her role model for dealing with pain and disappointment. When they feel angry or sad, they feel it fully (and cry, scream and throw tantrums as a result). But within minutes they’re back to their normal, happy selves again. The pain sinks in, but can go straight out if we let it.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s rest
A significant portion of Arianna’s new book, Thrive, is dedicated to wellness. She’s joined the global movement that emphasises the importance of caring for the body, and part of that means giving ourselves adequate time to rest and recuperate. I love my sleep, but never seem to get enough of it (every parent suffers this dilemma). I’m just glad that now I have permission to sleep early, without having to feel guilty.
There’s no doubt that Arianna Huffington is a woman who inspires. How could she not? But it’s not just her business success that inspires me. After watching her speak, I’m drawn to her authenticity and eloquence. She is clearly a very grounded woman who knows what she stands for and that her true value has nothing to do with the size of her business empire. Though we might disagree on a few issues, there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s someone I look up to and admire greatly.