Thrive by Arianna Huffington - What Does Success Mean to You?


Arianna Huffington’s phenomenal rise in the publishing world led also to a frightening collapse. The surprising gift this gave her – and us – is Thrive, her best-selling examination of the meaning of success in today’s techno-driven, hyper-accelerating world.

Arianna’s response was to take a fresh look at what she had been doing in her life, the goals she had been chasing and the success she had been hankering after. Why had this trajectory left her working 18 hours a day, stressed, sleepless and exhausted?

Whatever she was chasing was clearly unsustainable and characterized in her own words by: ‘over-busyness, overworking, over-connecting on social media, and under-connecting with ourselves and with one another.’

In Thrive, this acclaimed co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post draws on the philosophies of her Greek childhood, reflections from celebrated thinkers and psychologists, and the latest research, to help her re-define success. For many, success equates to power and money. Arianna proposes a ‘Third Metric’ to encompass alternative aspects of success: Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder and Giving.

This book explores each of these 4 pillars and how they can enable us to practically and meaningfully re-design a life in which we are more likely to thrive.

One of my favourite approaches from her ‘Well-being’ section is ‘solvitur ambulando’. Ascribed to 4th century BC Greek philosopher Diogenes, this translates literally as ‘it is solved by walking’. Modern research has also found that walking in nature is an antidote to stress. I know I have often found equilibrium and peace through walking near the sea, on the moors and in quiet woodland. Instinctively we ‘head to the hills’ for respite and calm.

The distinct powers of walking next to water have similarly been suggested by scientist and marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols in his latest book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do.Blue Mind’ – an appealing concept!

As I was reading Thrive, I felt repeated pennies dropping – and, not usually inclined to jump on the latest bandwagon, I’ve taken practical steps to make space for walking, to breathe, to get more sleep, to remove digital devices from my bedroom (oh yes!), and to believe that the notion of thriving can be as natural as breathing.

I enjoyed the eclectic pool of thinkers, poets, philosophers, mystics and scientists Arianna Huffington draws on to illustrate her propositions. Rumi is a much-shared favourite on social media, and there are good reasons – he has the power to distil profundity into clear terms:

On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day.

Inevitably there will be some thinkers that resonate more forcefully with you than others – it is often the surprising juxtaposition of voices that has greatest impact. Rumi, TS Eliot and Einstein rub shoulders with less-well-known linguistic and philosophical concepts.

One example is the Japanese concept of Ma, ‘the space between things’. In itself the concept is arresting, but when set against lines from20th century poet and play-write TS Eliot, the effect is amplified:

Except for the still point,
There would be no dance,
And there is only the dance.

With forays into ‘The Slow Movement’; Stoicism (not at all what I thought it to be!); ‘Deep Survival;’ silence; and enlightening attitudes to death; the author leads us on a celebratory dance. She has re-defined success beyond the reductionist gorgons of power and wealth, and challenges us to engage in the debate and to build ways in which we can thrive.

My challenge to you: Take 2 minutes to answer this question: What does success mean to you? Write down your response, for this is a significant driver in our lives. And if we don’t know what we’re hoping to create, how will we know when we’ve succeeded?

Renowned author Paulo Coelho puts it this way:

What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.  


Thrive by Arianna Huffington, 2015, WH Allen

Becky KilsbyComment