Book Review: Thrive by Arianna Huffington

I recently read the book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington. I had picked this book for two reasons: 1) It was an e-book that you can check out from your phone at the library and 2) It was written by one of the most successful women in media of all time.

If you haven’t tried borrowing books and title from your local library yet, I highly recommend it! For a person who reads a lot, the ability to download a book on my phone and start reading makes me extremely happy.

I’m not a professional book reviewer but I am an avid reader. I’ve read at least a few thousand books in my life. And I sincerely hope to read many more going forward (not just fiction). Feel free to recommend some great reads or books you’d like me to review in the comments section.

Summary

If I had to summarize the book in a few basic sentences.

Sleep more, put down your phone, meditate, give freely, and overall, be more mindful of living your life.

Mind you, that is a very simplistic way of capturing a 653-page book. But essentially, Huffington uses Thrive as a call to arms of how a person should be living their life. Not just as someone who is going through the motions of the day-to-day but thriving.

I enjoyed the book, it was a well-written, thoughtful and provocative and gave us insights into Huffington’s life and mindset from someone who is by our modern definitions “successful”. Her words carry weight because she’s spent time thinking about what she wanted to put into her book.

A lot of the criticism around her book is because people think of it as a self-help book. It’s not. It’s written in a memoir format which makes more sense. It’s a collection of stories that for her creates a good-life. And it’s her concept of what it means to “Thrive”.

Misconceptions

When I first read Thrive, I thought it would be a book to explain success, teach people how to get ahead. The usual ways of success: money, career, climbing the corporate ladder.

Imagine my surprise when in her preface, Huffington starts with a call to living a healthier, less stressful life.

Her preface is funny, and the story she tells about cell phone worship and the need to recharge strikes a chord with me because I recognize that stressed out and burnt out person. I think you will too.

Well-Being

One of the first chapters in the book, after Huffington, begins with a tale of how over-exhaustion lead to her wake up call, tells us how to look after our own well-being. She leads with a convincing depiction of our lives today and how stressed everyone is. Part of the problem, she acknowledges, is we’ve started using our extra hours at work as a badge of success. The more hours, the more work, the more success right?Wrong. Huffington uses convincing anecdotes of very successful leaders in every part of business and politics and tells of their wake up call stories.

More Sleep

I never get enough sleep. If I were to sleep naturally till I wake up, that time is usually about ten hours of sleep. Ten hours of sleep is not very efficient.

Huffington brings a lot of convincing facts about why we need to sleep more and get better sleep. She doesn’t however, give any tips on how we can cram all of the work we need to do, feed the kids, do the laundry, AND sleep. Although she acknowledges that it’s hard to get enough sleep, I think part of what she advocates is at least setting a goal/precedent of getting sleep.

Wisdom

Huffington brings a lot of stories including a few very personal ones about her life and what she’s learned from them.

In her wisdom chapter, she encourages every person to stop and listen to that “sixth sense” or the “gut feeling” we usually get. She gives Malcolm Gladwell’s example in Blink where art historians had a “gut feeling” that a piece of art was off.

Meditation

Thrive dedicates a large part of the first and second chapter extolling the benefits meditation. Using facts and figures, Huffington sets out to convince us that meditation is not a new age gimmick but a real way of handling stress.

I’m not a huge meditator, but I’ve read Dan Harris’s book 10% Happier about meditation and have tried to take some time to learn meditation. I take 5-10 minutes and just breathe and try to think about nothing. And it really helps!

Meditation is a way for me to calm down and to maintain my focus on the important things. It helps me take the provincial “step back” from a situation to figure out what is wrong.

Wonder

A lot of things in life happen by accident and Huffington encourages the reader to maintain wonder in our lives. Whether that means enjoying arts or the outdoors or reveling in the little “coinkydinks” that happen.

She shares delightful stories where coincidence makes life unpredictable and worth living. Her encouragement to detach from our cell phones and to refind wonder in the universe around us is a recurring theme throughout the book.

I commute every day to work via public transport and now there are days where I will sit quietly without my phone or take moments to remind myself to be completely in the moment which is very helpful. I find that by being “present” in my own life, I notice more and snap out of the autopilot setting so many other people are on.

Giving

Huffington shares a loving story about her mother’s giving spirit that was extremely moving. One of my favorite quotes comes from this section of the book when she talks about how her mother gave a stranger who was admiring her necklace, the necklace off her neck. The stranger offered to give her something for it. And her mom said

It’s not a trade, darling, it’s an offering.

In a world where we have so much to give, this simple blessing or provision of being a giver is so touching.

Learning to Thrive

There’s a lot to be learned in the world from all different sources and many readers didn’t really like the book due to the intermingling of quotes and scientific facts. But, I believe that there’s a lot of good information to be learned from this book. Maybe we don’t meditate, and we take a minute next time we’re on public transportation ride to reflect. No, a lot of this information is not new or extremely exciting but the earnest delivery with a quick reminder to live life to the fullest isn’t a bad one either.

Advancing Your Career: Certifications, School, or Climb the Ladder

To certify or not certify, that is the question. Certifications, go back to school for Masters degree, work ungodly hours until I climb the ladder, there are so many choices and it’s difficult to tell if you’re making the right choice. It’s been weeks and weeks and I’m still suffering from the aftermath of trying to decide what to do.

Which Certifications Should I Take?

Do you even need certifications? There’s a certification for everything. In HR alone, there are 7-8 different certifications not counting the semi-borderline certifications which cover a specific branch of HR.

There’s the PHR, the SHRM-CP, the CEBS, the aPHR, the GPHR… you get the point. And that’s just HR, I haven’t mentioned APTD and CPLP which are offered by the Association for Talent Development Association (which can be great for HR professionals too).

I will have a separate post just on the certifications and a breakdown of what they are for. But the way I look at certificates is the same way I look at school now. What is the best ROI (return on investment)?

If I spend $1000 on a certification (prep, books, certifying) and another $250 every other year after to maintain the certification ($2500 over twenty years), then I better make sure I earn an extra $3500 over the next 20 years to pay for that certification!

And the more I can make using that certification, the more valuable that certification is to me.

Take the Certification that Pertains to You

If you’re an expert in HR, take a certification in HR. Certifications are great ways to break into an industry or transfer your experience from another profession into HR.

Sometimes a certification will establish your expertise in a particular field. Say you have 5 years of experience and a Bachelors degree in a different field from HR, it would be great for you to have a certification in your career path of choice to show your dedication.

Don’t Take Random Certifications

Don’t take every certification just to have every certification after your name. Take the ones that will really make a difference. Like the levels in a Super Mario game, certifications can be addicting to take. But you want to make sure that you’re not taking more and more certifications without getting some return on your investment.

Certifications cost money. And unless your certifications are going to really help you in your career, there’s no reason to waste money on something you don’t need.

The only exception to this rule is if you want to show off your certification like your latest consumer purchase. In which case, knock yourself out!

John Smith, MA, MPH, MBA, PsyD, Ph.D., etc…

There are a million different programs for higher education and a lot of reasons to continue studying. Higher education is a big decision. But deciding to go back to school for additional education just to earn more money is not always the correct way.

Don’t Go to College Without An End in Mind

I grew up in a family where going to college was a requirement. But the problem with being eighteen and going to college is you don’t know what you want to do with life. A lot of us were thrown into college with no end in mind and just majored in whatever was most interesting to us at the moment.

If you’re going to college, make sure you know why you’re going to school. Go to school for something that you are really interested in and that will pertain to what you’re doing in the future.

Calculate the Costs

Make sure to calculate the costs of an advanced degree. With people going millions into debt for a degree, make sure that you calculate the ROI on a degree. A certification might put you a few thousand dollars into debt, but an advanced degree could put you tens of thousands into debt.

Think carefully. If being a Professor in college teaching Philosophy is your lifelong dream, maybe a Ph.D. in Philosophy is the way to go. However, if your end goal is to be an HR Director in a SAAS Company, a Ph.D. in Philosophy may not be the best way to go.

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Sometimes a certification or degree is not necessary to advance your career. It really depends. Maybe your career path is dependent on working on the extra hours and learning how to lead the extra projects. Or maybe your career is dependent on public speaking…

No Career is the Same

Every career path is different. Some career paths require extra certifications or education. Some really require for you to put the time at work, working the long hours.

Strengths

Every person who climbs the career ladder will advance for different reasons. A good rule of thumb is to figure out what is missing at your Company. How do you make the Company more money or save the Company more money?

Maybe you can make a process more efficient. Or you can cut down on expenses by obtaining supplies more efficiently. Perhaps you can make the most sales of the year.

How About None of These?

That’s a choice that’s been made many times before too. If you are happy where you are in your career and don’t want to have more responsibilities, it’s not always necessary to get a degree, a certification, or try to climb.

However, keep in mind that as AI takes over more and more jobs, a critical part of advancing or keeping a job is being willing to change with the times. In 1975, Apple donated computers to schools. Now, it’s pretty much mandatory for most positions to know how to use some sort of technology.

Technology will keep changing and advancing, in some fields, the methods and advancement will change faster than other industries. However, in order to continue to be a valuable employee or asset to the Company, it’s mandatory that you continue to change with the times.

But what do I know? I’m…

~Just the HR Girl