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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.