Arianna Huffington has appeared on Forbes‘ Power Women list multiple times, is a New York Times best-selling author and, of course, runs The Huffington Post. On the heels of her recent graduation speech and Sleep Revolution book, Motto asked Huffington to reveal her inspirations—and what she wishes she’d known when she was just starting out.
Motto: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Huffington: “Don’t Miss the Moment.” This was one of my mother’s favorite sayings, and it embodied the philosophy of her life.
What’s something you wish you knew when you were in your 20s?
I’m often asked what advice I would give to my younger self if I had the chance. My answer? I wish I could go back and tell myself: “Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard, but also unplugging, recharging and renewing yourself.” And then I’d introduce my 20-something self to a quotation by the writer Brian Andreas: “Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”
Do you have a mentor? Did you have one growing up? If so, who?
My main early influence and mentor was Bernard Levin, the brilliant London Times columnist I dated in my 20s.
What’s the worst advice people give?
The worst advice people give is that if you want to succeed and accomplish great things, you must sacrifice yourself at the altar of burnout. Recent scientific findings make it clear that this couldn’t be less true. Not only is there no tradeoff between living a well-rounded life and high performance, performance is actually improved when our lives include time for renewal.
Can you tell us more about what your life was like just out of college, embarking on your career?
In college, I joined the Cambridge Union debate society. A British publisher, who had published Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, happened to see me on television debating the importance of women not throwing, so to speak, the baby out with the bathwater, and sent me a letter asking if I would be interested in writing a book on my views. I was in my last year at Cambridge and was planning to leave the next year to get a graduate degree at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. So I sent him a letter saying, “Thank you, but I don’t know how to write a book.” He wrote back: “Can you have lunch?” Thinking of all my friends wandering around looking for a home for their manuscript, I decided it was at least worth a train ride to London. By the end of lunch, Reg Davis-Poynter had offered me a contract and a modest advance. And that contract marked a new beginning in my life, setting me on a path—though I didn’t know it at the time—to writing more books and, many years later, co-founding The Huffington Post.
Do you have a motto or a phrase you try to live by?
I try to live by one of my favorite quotes from Rumi: “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”