Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Arianna Huffington: 'I had to feed the heater in my bedroom with shillings'

The Thrive Global founder and author of 'The Sleep Revolution' talks to 'Books of My Life' about moving to the UK, founding 'The Huffington Post' and why she reads Marcus Aurelius

Arianna Huffington has had the sort of life that would make an excellent Hollywood film.

Born in Athens in 1950, she moved to the UK at the age of 16. Predictably, it was raining. As she explained when I interviewed her for Books of My Life, a new podcast from The National, “it was incredibly strange, going from a very loving and close Greek family to Girton College, Cambridge.” Huffington was so cold, she “had to feed the heater in my bedroom with shillings”. It was a rough time for the teenager but she quickly established herself at the university, where she became the third female – and first foreign – President of the Cambridge Union.

Jump forward a few decades (as well as a number of books, an Emmy nomination, a radio show and various forays into US politics) to 2005. Huffington co-founded The Huffington Post (now HuffPost), the extraordinarily influential US news and opinion website, which was bought in 2011 for $315 million. It was during her time at the head of one of the world’s biggest media organisations that Huffington was ranked number 12 in Forbes’s list of the Most Influential Women in Media.

For all the success, however, the demands of the job were taking their toll on Huffington. As she wrote recently in the New York Times, “On April 6, 2007, I woke up in a pool of my own blood.” She had collapsed and hit her head, exhausted by trying to balance a high-flying career with raising a family. She began to think about the world in a different way, focusing more on wellbeing.

In 2016, Huffington founded Thrive Global to tackle the epidemic of stress and burnout in the workplace. Her bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution, called on all of us to prioritise rest above endless graft.

I was lucky enough to speak to Huffington earlier this year at the World Government Summit in Dubai. We touched upon all of the above but, as I explained in an article when we launched this series, I wanted Books of My Life to be an opportunity for guests to talk about something other than their careers. They do this all the time, but how often do they get to speak about books?

So instead, Huffington told me about her favourite authors, the books she was reading when growing up in Greece, and the stories she read to her own children. It is a fascinating insight into the mind of a powerful and inspirational figure – and there are some good book recommendations in there, too.

Now we just need to find someone to make that film about her life.

Subscribe to Books of My Life through your favourite podcasting app or listen via the website: thenational.ae/podcasts/books-of-my-life

Updated: November 17, 2019 10:45 AM

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