Arianna Huffington and the Killer App

Last week’s news that Arianna Huffington was leaving The Huffington Post stunned the publishing world, although I knew for a long time it was coming. Why? Because I’ve been following Arianna since the 90s, and I know that she re-invents herself as often as I do. And when I started doing a miniscule amount of research for this post, I realized I had missed a few reinventions that happened before I started following her.

She was born in Greece, but left there for the UK at age 16. She worked for the BBC. She appeared in a play. In the 70s she — if you can believe it — wrote a book against the Women’s Liberation movement called “The Female Woman.” She then went on to become perhaps the most liberated woman of my generation.

She left the love of her life because he didn’t want to have children, and in the 1980s wrote books about Maria Callas and Picasso. She married Michael Huffington, who was a conservative Republican, and became a conservative pundit, for which she even won an award (“Politically Incorrect”). That was the 90s.

But then she became a Democrat, and soon after that she founded the Huffington Post. I met her at a lunch in Phoenix one day, and she gave me a log-in. I admired her so much that, like many more important writers, I wrote for her without pay. I kept on doing it until she took the company public and sold it and none of the writers profited. Many rebelled, feeling used. I didn’t, but I didn’t feel it was the same place.

Along the way I am sure Arianna has learned some lessons. One of the most notable was about the value of sleep: she collapsed from exhaustion not too long ago.  Now she’s 66, and she’s starting a new company called Thrive. She is once again re-inventing herself, using her core communication skills, to teach people what she has learned.

I get it. She’s accumulated wisdom on the way to where she is now. She wants to share it. There’s a part of your life where you feel it’s time to give back. That doesn’t have to be with money, or even volunteer time. It can simply be your wisdom, and you can do it in a discussion with your children.

And for those young people who think wisdom no longer exists in a society changing so rapidly, I leave you with this: certain things happy in every era. Love, marriage, heartbreak, illness, loss, death, financial struggles. When it comes to those, wisdom is the killer app.

 

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