I went to a cocktail party and book signing a couple of weeks ago for Arianna Huffinton. She is a charming woman in person and has a new bestseller out called Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. Several friends told me her book was right up my alley, per my long-term interest in meaning and entrepreneurship. So I’ve now read my signed copy. Here’s what I think.
Thrive is a very well-intentioned but obvious book. (This is not to say we don’t all need to be reminded of the obvious, of course.) Huffington’s central tenet is that there is more to life than money and success, that we must create a “Third Metric” of well-being, wisdom, and wonder. Well, OK. Who would disagree? And Huffington does cite some useful research that was new to me like Dr. Leslie Perlow’s concept of “time famine” and James Gleick’s “hurry sickness,” as well as many lovely quotations from poetry and literature.
I’m glad I read the book. And I would even recommend you, dear readers, read it. But caveat emptor—the book is annoying. It is bloody patronizing, sentimental, and quite overly self-promotional. It is not unlike Gwyneth (“Water has feelings.”) Paltrow’s self-congratulatory condescension on her GOOP blog or Leona Helmsy famously referring to the “little people,” meaning you and me, Brothers and Sisters.
If I were mean, I would say her book is suffused with the trope of a rich girl dropping some crumbs to the commoners. There is a self-congratulatory pseudo-profundity to Thrive. We should all meditate, volunteer, and own a dog. Through her cogitations she concludes she must get more sleep. It helps her a lot and her readers should get more sleep, too.
Alright. I admit it. I am mean. But if you think I am mean, read this parody of Arianna from June’s Vanity Fair below. It’s fall on the floor funny.
1. LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF
Yes, it’s been a tough journey, with so much heartbreak along the way. But at last I have learned to love myself. My method is simple. Every morning, I look in the mirror.
And, looking back at me, it’s me that I see.
You know, a mirror is a two-way thing. You only get out of a mirror what you put in. So every morning when I look in the mirror I say, “I love you.” And every morning the answer comes back: “I love you.”
It’s not the same for everyone, of course. When you look in your mirror, you will not see me.
You will see yourself.
That is your tragedy.
Learn to live with it.
2. HARKEN TO THE WISDOM OF THE WISE
Fact: President John F. Kennedy, the famous American president, was just saying, “Don’t ask what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you,” when he was famously shot down by an assassin’s bullet.
Fact: Minutes later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was standing on the balcony of his five-star luxury executive hotel suite saying, “I’ve just had this incredible dream,” when he, too, was famously shot down, leaving that dream in tatters.
Two tragic tragedies. But their wise words live on—wise words of wisdom from two men who knew deep in their hearts that, by redefining our definition of how to define our redefinition of success, we as human beings could create a stress-free world.
A world in which one single-minded woman could build a hugely successful 24/7 online media empire with her own bare hands and at the same time bring up two wonderful daughters to live happy and successful lives and continue to adore their hardworking mother, who recently topped the list of the 100 Most Influential Women in the World but who still can find the downtime to access all the very loving, very appreciative daily text messages they send to her.
And—yes—that’s a message that fills me with hope and positivity for the future.
So, thank you, John. Thank you, Martin.
Your legacy lives on in me.
3. NEVER BUY WISDOM WITHOUT ASKING FOR A RECEIPT
As a peasant child in Greece, I knew how it was to be poor.
To eat in the cheaper restaurants. To walk to school in clothes from last season.
But, yes, I was always wealthy in love.
My mother worried 24/7 how she would be able to scrape together enough money to pay for the heating for our swimming pools.
And, yes, she made so many sacrifices.
“I am going to have to sacrifice you,” she would tell our lady’s maids when she found them dawdling.
But throughout the long, arduous journey of her life, my mother remained so very proud.
My beloved sisters, Agapi and Akimbo, recall how she gave us all the gift of compassion. She was always feeding the little birds that played in our garden, throwing them bread, cheese, and other tasty tidbits. “They taste better that way,” she would say.
Mother always mixed inner wisdom with practicality. “Do unto others what you would have others do unto you,” she told us, “but never let them get away without paying for it.”
4. TIME NEVER STOPS
Every time we look at our watches, it seems later than we think.
That is why, for spiritual reasons, I prefer to wear a Rolex.
5. THE FIFTH STEP FOLLOWS THE FOURTH
“Pick your pillow wisely,” writes mindfulness teacher Paulo Coelho, “for the pillow that is filled with sticks and stones is not as soft as the pillow filled with feathers.”
“Before you cross a busy street, look right and left and right again,” observes spiritual adviser and inner-welfare consultant Gumi.
Today, it has never been harder to tap into our inner wisdom. According to top-level researchers, stress levels have reached so high that, all around the world, we have been driven to employ researchers to measure our levels of stress.
One minute, we are rushing from our high-powered meeting with top-ranking executives from the Forbes 400 anxious to hear of our plans for another business-expansion program.
The next minute, we are being driven to the White House in a top-of-the-range limousine for a meeting with the president, who is, as is well testified, a close personal friend.
And before the day is done, we are being interviewed by veteran news anchor Charlie Rose for his top-rated TV current-affairs program—and thus inspiring a flood of millions of appreciative text messages from lifelong admirers all over the world.
But as legendary Cherokee sage and visionary chief Sitting Bore once tweeted, “Um, engagement diary may be full, but what if, um, life is empty?”
6. THE FISH WHO CANNOT SWIM ON DRY LAND MUST FIRST LEARN TO WALK
Sometimes, you must step back from the never-ending cycle of success-acclaim-achievement-award-success-acclaim-achievement-award.
And pause awhile.
Take a deep breath, then ask yourself this important question: “Yes, I may be much more intelligent and attractive and have many more Facebook friends than anyone else I know—but am I really happier than all my closest rivals?”
If the answer is “OMG, maybe not!” then you are a fish who must learn to walk.
Scientists define a fish as a member of a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits.
And, yes, it is only by defining a fish that we can fill up the page and move on.