Cameo appearances: Chris Yeh, (co-author, Blitzscaling), Matt Walker (author, professor of neuroscience and psychology)
Photography Courtesy of Peter DaSilva
- ARIANNA HUFFINGTON
- REID HOFFMAN
Arianna Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post, the author of 15 books, and the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, a corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform with the mission of changing the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success. In 2016, she was named to Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul100 list of visionaries and influential leaders.
Chris Yeh is VP of Marketing for PBworks and the co-author of The Alliance and Blitzscaling.
Matt Walker is a scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the impact of sleep on human health and disease. He is the author of Why We Sleep.
LATE NIGHT RADIO ANNOUNCER VOICE: You’re tuned in to the M-O-S FM Red Eye Radio Hour. The only radio show dedicated to all you hard-working entrepreneurs who routinely burn the midnight oil.
The time is 3:30am and we’ll be here with you until dawn, or until you pass out from nervous exhaustion.
Now it’s time to vote for your number one stress-reducing classic of the week in a segment we call “Now That’s What I Call a Work-Obsessed Entrepreneur.”
Your choices are: “Barely Stayin’ Alive” by the Hairy Disco Dudes, “Nuthin’ But A Work Thang” by No-Dollar-Bill-Gates, “I Haven’t Seen My Kids Since Christmas” by Work Binge Crosby, and of course, “Forgot To Feed my Dog Again Blues” by Johnny Cash-Flow-Crisis.
Tweet us at @MastersOfScale with the title of your favorite song and you just might win a special prize: a signed photo of your own family, so you can remember what they look like.
REID HOFFMAN: If you’re a founder, then no doubt you can relate to those songs. Because constant pressure is the soundtrack to your life. Your long hours and all-consuming focus will play a huge role in making your company successful. But they’ll also change you. And, if you’re not careful, consume you.
It isn’t entrepreneurship itself that’s the dangerous ingredient in this heady cocktail. The real peril lies in believing the myth of the infallible founder. The pervasive tale that you can — and that you must — work inhumanly long hours. Put yourself under enormous stress. Forego sleep, meals, relationships and life’s other pleasures. And that doing so is a fundamental part of the founder’s journey. Taking too many gulps of this particularly popular flavor of Kool-Aid is a path paved with peril.
I believe that to survive your entrepreneurial journey, you have to learn how to recharge yourself. Call it “balance”, call it “wellness”, call it “Yin Yang”. Your business and your life depends on it.
HOFFMAN: This is Masters of Scale. I’m Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, investor at Greylock, and your host. And I believe that to survive your entrepreneurial journey, you have to learn how to recharge yourself. Call it “balance”, call it “wellness”, call it “Yin Yang”. Your business and your life depends on it.
Entrepreneurship is grueling. So grueling that I have a speech I give to every startup I’ve ever invested in at that inevitable moment when the team is about to give up. I’ll share it later in this episode, in case you or your team needs it.
The way you respond to the trials will determine your success, but not always in the way you think. Many founders will trick themselves into believing that a relentless pace is right for them.
You’ll tell yourself: “Sure, I’m tired. But I’m still delivering. My performance hasn’t suffered terribly.” You should forgive yourself for these moments of delusion, because you’re an entrepreneur. Optimism is your opiate. Treat yourself to as many hits as you need to survive the journey. But also recognize that every scale entrepreneur has a blind spot — and it’s the belief that the law of diminishing returns applies to everyone but you. And sometimes it takes the calamity of a burnout before you realize you need to re-think.
I wanted to talk to Arianna Huffington about this, for reasons that will soon become clear. Arianna is now two years into her new venture, Thrive Global — a platform to promote wellbeing. Before that, she achieved one of media’s most dramatic scale stories with The Huffington Post. But the success came at a cost.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: I was two years into building HuffPost. A divorced mother of two teenage daughters, anybody listening with teenage daughters knows what that means, and had fallen complete prey to the delusion that in order to succeed as an entrepreneur and as a mother, I just had to sacrifice myself.
HOFFMAN: Founders wear this self sacrifice as a badge of honor. But under the surface, there’s often a feeling that the constant self sacrifice is unsustainable. And this feeling often surfaces in a wake up call. That’s what happened to Arianna.
HUFFINGTON: That morning when I stood up from my desk to go get a sweater – I remember because I was cold – I collapsed and hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone. That was this amazing wake up call that I’m incredibly grateful for right now, because it led me to trying to understand why that happened.
HOFFMAN: Arianna brought her journalist instincts to bear on this very personal experience.
HUFFINGTON: Part of what led me to try and to understand this is that when something like that happens, you go through a battery of medical exams because they don’t know what’s wrong with you. Do you have a brain tumor? Do you have a heart problem? Literally, at the end of it, I felt like if this was a movie, all my doctors in white coats would come together and look at me and say, “Arianna, you have civilization’s disease: burnout. There is nothing the medical profession can do for you. You have to go and change your life.”
Being a research-driven person, I read, I studied, I talked to scientists. I came to this really profound realization that hundreds of millions of people around the world are living under this delusion. We’re actually living believing something false. It’s like we’re living at a time when we thought the Earth was flat. When you believe something false, a lot of bad things follow, like the laws of navigation were all wrong at the time. The laws by which we navigate our lives are all wrong right now. It’s a very, very, very profound belief. It’s not easy to shake.
HOFFMAN: The laws of navigation Arianna had been following up to that point were wrong. And she had sailed off the edge of the map. To the place marked, “Here be dragons.” A place where the infallible founder never expects to find themselves.
HUFFINGTON: Right now, we still talk about work-life balance, which I think is just not the right way to address this problem. Because it’s not like work and life are at opposing ends. That, in fact, they rise and fall in tandem. We need to get away from this idea of the trade-off.
HOFFMAN: There’s one little nuance here. A founder cannot succeed unless they are obsessed with their company; and so part of being obsessed with their company means that it’s what they think about on Saturday morning. It’s what they think about when they end up with 15 minutes spare waiting for the DMV or for their friend to show up at the restaurant.
So, there are no successful founders who are not obsessive, and you have to be obsessed with, and therefore, by the way, consumed with the effort and the journey of your project and your company. But you are also attentive to, “Hey, it’s a marathon for myself and part of what I need to do is I need to have some mental flexibility and agility, and I need to not be dragged down by the obsession.
The sustainable strategy is one that maximizes the efficiency of you and your team, but avoids the dreaded burnout. And for that — you have to know when and HOW to recharge.
We’ll talk to Arianna about this in a moment. But before I go further, I have to admit: I’m a very flawed spokesperson on this particular theory. I have at times used the phrase “sleep is for the weak.” But in my defense, I was being somewhat tongue in cheek. Well, for the most part.
I don’t really think sleep is a sign of weakness. If I know that I have a particularly creative project coming up, I’ll make sure I get eight hours of sleep the night before.
But a younger, less wise me, would often limit sleep to continue the thrill of the entrepreneurial chase. Those super-late-nighters to ship a new product are far behind me. But I can’t deny I look back on those days with a hint of fond romanticism. As do many of my previous guests on Masters of Scale.
MARISSA MAYER: They had told me, “Look, leave at 6:00pm because we don’t know when you’ll ever leave at 6:00pm again.”
BRIAN CHESKY: I literally lay in the floor of the lobby and I use my backpack as a pillow.
DANIEL EK: I did sleep outside of the conference room for a few nights.
JOI ITO: And I remember, you know, people were like sleeping under the desks.
REED HASTINGS: I was coding all night trying to be CEO in the day and once in a while would squeeze in the shower.
HOFFMAN: Striking the balance between work and rejuvenation is something I still struggle with. My good friend, Joi Ito, will tell you so. Joi is the director of the MIT Media Lab. Here’s what he told one of our producers, when they interviewed him about my idea of “letting fires burn”.
ITO: So the only concern I have for Reid is that this notion of “letting fires burn” isn’t the greatest philosophy for having a work life balance. And I think that’s something that Reid is now just starting to process. So on the one hand I think he’s a master of scaling. But on the other hand I think he’s just beginning to figure out how that ties into sort of taking care of himself and his life.
HOFFMAN: In fact, it’s my conversations on this subject with Joi and other entrepreneurs that has got me thinking more seriously about this question of wellness. Not just when it comes to the individual. But how it can be scaled throughout a company in a measurable way that boosts the bottom line.
Like any good journalist, Arianna couldn’t stop pulling at the thread that her burnout had given her.
HUFFINGTON: When in 2007, I collapsed from exhaustion and burnout – that was two years into building the Huffington Post – and I started appreciating other things like sleep and recharging, et cetera, I launched the dedicated sleep section in 2007. I remember having a board meeting and my board being appalled at that. It’s hard to go back to 2007 and see how disrespected sleep was. There was no way you would ever see an issue about sleep in the Wall Street Journal or the Harvard Business Review – which is now a regular place to find these conversations.
HOFFMAN: Arianna over came the objections of her board at the Huffington Post, and started a section dedicated to sleep. She became more and more passionate about the subject. In 2014, she published Thrive. It opens with Arianna describing that wake up call when she had collapsed from exhaustion. She then argues for making “well-being, wisdom, and wonder” essential parts of how we think about success.
The book was a hit. It caught the eye of Jack Ma, founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba. And it was Jack Ma who first suggested that Arianna’s new book could be the basis of a new kind of business. He asked Arianna to speak at his women’s conference in Hangzhou, China.
HUFFINGTON: That night, Jack had a speaker’s dinner. During that dinner, he said to me, “If I were you, I would leave the Huffington Post and launch a new company around Thrive. Because there is no market leader and the biggest crisis going on in China is the mental health crisis induced by stress – over 100 million people suffering from mental health problems.” We are having this conversation at his tai chi center. He’s very steeped in the Chinese culture of the Tao, Lao Tzu, just the whole idea of Yin Yang.
HOFFMAN: When you hear the term “Yin Yang,” you might think of that black and white circle with a dot on either side. Or you might think of Yin Yang as a metaphor for good and evil. In eastern thought, it also represents a balance between two ways of being.
HUFFINGTON: Yang is you go out, you achieve, you conquer, you build your startup. Yin is you come back and refuel.
HOFFMAN: This concept of Yin Yang can be enormously helpful to the wayward startup founder. The idea is to keep them balanced. Not to let one eclipse the other. But when Jack Ma brought all of this up to Arianna — and nudged her to turn her book Thrive into a new business — she wasn’t ready to hear it.
HUFFINGTON: Honestly, Reid, it was amazing when I look back because when he said that, all I could do was try to be extremely polite and like I’m thinking, “This is a crazy idea but thank you so much, whatever.” Like I absolutely did not have a single thought of ever doing what he said.
HOFFMAN: But that crazy idea played on Arianna’s mind over the next couple of years, until she could no longer ignore it. She kept pulling the threads.
HUFFINGTON: I became more and more involved in this topic and speaking more and more about it and seeing how real the need was to actually change the culture, to change how people were working and living. I mean 75% of healthcare causes and healthcare problems are stress-related and preventable. Seventy five percent!
HOFFMAN: Arianna launched Thrive Global in 2016. Her goal was to show just how essential sleep and rejuvenation are in helping you operate at peak efficiency while keeping burnout at bay.
HUFFINGTON: The Huffington Post is about everything. Thrive is about only one thing: How do we build our best lives? How do we achieve everything we want without burnout and stress, bringing together ancient wisdom, the latest science, and new role models? Reid, I’m going to get you to write something about the good things you are doing.
HOFFMAN: I’d be delighted.
HOFFMAN: I’ve yet to make my appearance on Thrive. My good friend Chris Yeh did recently. Chris and I co-authored my newest book, Blitzscaling. Chris makes the argument that sleep isn’t just a bonus. In fact, it can be the driving force that lets you perform at new heights. Here’s Chris sharing my favorite part of his article “Napping My Way to Success in Silicon Valley”.
CHRIS YEH: The most important 20 minutes of my day are always the same. I set my timer for 20 minutes then lie down for a nap. Hopefully, I get to lie down in my own bed, but I’ve trained myself to nap under many other circumstances. In the driver’s seat of my car, curled up on a conference room couch, on the floor of a school, while my son was taking a music lesson. Assuming that you have a job that allows you to carve out 20-30 minutes during the day, what’s stopping you?
I would argue that it’s mostly about societal norms. Daytime nappers are malingerers. It doesn’t matter that we’re a sleep-deprived nation, or that more naps would reduce accidents and boost productivity.
Fortunately, I’ve always worked in the startup world, where a lot of unusual behavior is tolerated. While I can’t prove that napping is responsible for the success I’ve had over the past decade, I can tell you that I’ve accomplished an order of magnitude more in the past decade than the previous one. Give it a try. I’d love to hear how it goes!
HOFFMAN: Chris says he can’t prove napping has helped in his success, but as Arianna points out, the evidence is in his favor.
HUFFINGTON: There is a McKinsey study that was accepted at the Harvard Business Review and the headline was basically, The Importance of Sleep in the Quality of Leadership. At first, when you read that, you think it’s an Onion headline. When you look at the authors being a McKinsey sleep specialist. I mean, the idea that McKinsey has a sleep specialist sounds like an Onion headline. Yet, there is this now purely scientific way of looking at what happens to our frontal lobes and our cognitive decision making, when we are sleep deprived or running on empty for whatever reason.
HOFFMAN: By the way, you can find that Harvard Business Review article, and Chris’s essay on napping all linked from this episode’s page on MastersofScale.com.
I was intrigued by everything Arianna shared. But I admit, I wasn’t ready to throw out my own map of the world — the one that mostly bypassed the Island of Healthy Balance. I asked Arianna for a concrete example of how tiredness has impacted her effectiveness, and in turn her company. I was surprised when she told me that fatigue had led to big mistakes — in hiring.
HUFFINGTON: I can trace back all my hiring mistakes to being tired, which has the impact not just of impairing your cognitive abilities to make the right decisions but also subconsciously of making you want to say, “Yes.” When you are running on empty, you’re overwhelmed by your to-do list. What we are doing now at Thrive, having learned from my mistakes, we have this rule that nobody should interview while tired.
HOFFMAN: The impact of bad long-terms decisions soon stack up. And if you’re clouded by tiredness, you may not spot these mistakes before it’s too late. The scientific evidence backs it up. I turned to sleep expert Dr. Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience at Berkeley, and author of the New York Times Bestseller, Why We Sleep, to explain.
MATT WALKER: Your subjective assessment of how well you’re doing with insufficient sleep is a miserable predictor of objectively how well you’re doing, so it’s quite like the drunk driver at a bar, they’ve had seven or eight shots, they pick up their car keys and they say, “I feel fine to drive home.” And your response is, “I know that you think you’re fine to drive home but trust me, objectively you’re not.” And it’s the same way when people try to get by on too little sleep.
The science of insufficient sleep in the workplace can be summarized in the following facts. Firstly, under-slept employees, defined as getting 6 hours of sleep or less, they will select less challenging problems that you give them. Second, under-slept employees will actually generate fewer creative solutions to novel problems that you do actually force them to try and solve. Third, the less sleep that an employee has, the more likely they are to slack off when they are working in teams and just ride the coattails of other people’s hard work. One of the more surprising facts is that the less and less sleep that an employee has had, the more and more likely they are to lie, become unethical. So for example, falsify data in a spreadsheet.
And then finally, what we found is that insufficient sleep and its impact goes all the way up the top of the business chain. The more or less sleep that a business leader has had for one night to the next, the more or less charismatic and inspiring the employees will rate that business leader from one day to the next, even though the employees know nothing about how much sleep the boss has been getting. It’s evidential in the CEO’s behavior.
HOFFMAN: It’s not just a mental health question. It’s a business question. Because a founder who has pushed themselves too far, and is running on empty, becomes a liability—to themselves, their employees and their investors.
Getting more sleep tends to solve a lot of other problems. That said, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if you are going through a particularly hectic time, you can find yourself falling off the rejuvenation wagon. And that means you could undo all the good that your newfound dedication to wellness has achieved. The more ‘wound up’ you are, the harder it is to wind down.
Arianna has a two-word solution: Bedtime Ritual.
HUFFINGTON: Those with children who are listening to the broadcast know that you don’t just drop your baby or your young child to bed. You lower the lights, you give them a bath, you read them “Goodnight Moon”, you sing them a lullaby. Why are you doing that? Because children and adults need a transition to sleep. I did a parody of “Goodnight Moon” on Audible called “Goodnight Smart Phone”:
“Goodnight dark room, goodnight moon which I can’t see because of my blackout curtains but which I know is there. Goodnight sleep-killing blue light from my electronic devices, which I have gently escorted out of the bedroom. And goodnight red balloon.”
The point of that is you need to say goodnight to your day, goodnight to all your problems, your projects, and all the things you are excited about, not just the problems.
HOFFMAN: Your thing might be reading a book. Or listening to a whale song. Different things work for different people. But what I really wanted to know is this: how do you scale the idea of balance across an organization? And how do you do this without sacrificing productivity? I asked Arianna how she goes about practicing what she preaches in running Thrive.
HUFFINGTON: Thrive is not a company where you don’t occasionally pull an all-nighter or exert yourself because you are meeting a deadline. It’s a company. When that happens, you immediately take time for yourself. We call that Thrive time, Thrive days, whatever you need to completely refuel. The problem that creates the casualties that are proliferating around us, it’s the fact that you don’t quickly course correct. People never have a problem with that they do occasionally. It’s what’s expected of you every day that’s the problem.
JINGLE: And now for a new segment we call, “Reid’s Bedtime Thoughts.”
HOFFMAN: There’s one little nuance here. Part of the reason that there’s a focus on relentless pace is because more or less, a slow-moving startup is dead. So, it’s a key portion for the success of startups that they are speedy, that they are fast. If they’re not faster than big companies, they’re dead.
A key metaphor that I use for entrepreneurship is that as an entrepreneur, you throw yourself off a cliff and you assemble an airplane on the way down; and a key element of that metaphor which packs in a lot of things is that, by default, you’re dead. If you don’t assemble the plane, you hit the ground; and if you don’t assemble the plane in time before you hit the ground, it all crumbles; and that’s part of what makes entrepreneurship so grueling, so difficult, because the default state, until you get the whole plane running, is death.
HOFFMAN: Arianna is very clear that focusing on wellness does not mean trading efficiency or ambition. Rather, it means putting your focus on working smarter.
HUFFINGTON: There were some people at the beginning who joined the company thinking that this was an opportunity to chill under the mango tree. Clearly, these were not right for the company because we’re not chilling under the mango tree. We are growing very fast. We are working hard. We’re just not working stupidly. Because working long hours is not working smart once you start having diminishing returns.
HOFFMAN: Diminishing returns, in any situation, is not working smart. You find yourself expending more and more for less and less. But here’s the thing: You can’t always see this for yourself. But often others can. Arianna told me about an executive at a big tech company who found himself confronted by a poignant revelation.
HUFFINGTON: He told his young children, “Daddy is going to take you to the playground.” One of them said, “Oh no, can’t the babysitter take us?” He was crestfallen and asked why. The little boy said, “Because when you’re at the playground, you’re always on your phone.”
HOFFMAN: But knowing when to intervene to avert a burnout isn’t always child’s play. That’s why Arianna has made it part of Thrive’s culture to call out the warning signs.
HUFFINGTON: We actually catch each other, and we laugh at each other, when we catch ourselves going back to the very culture we are trying to change.
HOFFMAN: Whether you’re designing a company culture that supports this kind of balance or just trying to change your own approach to life — you have to recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Different people have different capacities, different priorities, and different ways to recharge.
JINGLE: Now, for another addition of “Reid’s Bedtime Thoughts.”
HOFFMAN: For me, recharging interleave rest moments into what you’re doing. So, don’t try to work 14 days straight, right? I almost never work on a Friday evening, and I rarely work the whole day Saturday, because it gives you kind of a recharge; and then Sunday is kind of the “I’m getting back up to speed with stuff, I’m reloading my stack”, and then Monday is, “I’m in it.”
I’ve noted entertainingly that I am much better disciplined than most of the people I know at not looking at my phone constantly. I only have the ringer on if I’m waiting for a specific phone call, which is almost never, and I don’t check messages. I think people are frequently messaging me because they think I’m gonna message back right away, and that are kind of surprised when I message back six hours later because that’s when I’ve gotten to looking at my phone and I go, “Oh, somebody messaged me.” If you don’t context switch too much, you can generally run longer between rest periods, as well.
HOFFMAN: You need a flexible system, and Arianna has a great solution for this. One I plan to borrow.
HUFFINGTON: We have what we call in our culture of values “the entry interview”. In the entry interview, we ask people, “What’s important to you outside your work?” At one of our Accenture trainings, for example, a woman said, “What’s really important to me is to take my daughter to school at 7:30 every morning but my manager sets up 7:30 in the morning conference calls every morning.”
We talked to her manager. Her manager said, “It’s not a problem to have the calls at 8:00. I didn’t know if you wanted to take her kid to school at 7:30.” There may be a day when she will have to have a 7:30 conference call, that won’t matter. What matters is, what can she do every day? The entry interview is also something that helps build a team spirit because even though that’s important to you, I’ll look at you a little differently. I want to know about your daughter, if it’s important for you to go to your 3:00pm violin class once a week, whatever it is. We begin to know each other beyond work.
HOFFMAN: The entry interview is a clever hack for scaling wellness to meet individual needs in an organization. But there are also many companies where employees face the same stress points, at different times. Take call centers, for example.
HUFFINGTON: Call centers are one of the most stressed populations and also one with the highest attrition.
HOFFMAN: The impact of a single angry customer call can cascade through an employee’s day, taking down productivity, team morale and ultimately employee retention. Arianna has a hack for this too.
HUFFINGTON: Through machine learning, you know when an operator has received a particular nasty customer call which is going to make them be not as good on the next call and which is going to increase their stress. So their next call which they expect to be another angry customer is a Thrive call that lasts under a minute – could be 30 seconds, 45 seconds, or 60 seconds because neuroscience tells us it takes under 60 seconds to course correct from stress. The call may say, “Remember three things you are grateful for in your life”, “Stand up and stretch”, “Take some deep breaths”, very simple things.
HOFFMAN: These may sound like simple things. And that’s the point. In the same way that small, iterative changes in a system can have huge impacts on efficiency — small course corrections in your culture can have a huge impact on wellness. It requires scale thinking.
A general pattern to succeeding at scale is making accurate decisions faster than your competitors. Part of this is down to having a better way of gathering and analyzing information. The other part is then being able to make sound decisions based on this analysis. To do this, you need to hire the right people. But you also need to cultivate an environment that maximizes their ability to perform.
If I were to write a wellness article for Thrive, I would focus on how it is that we can make each other better, how we can improve our cognitive performance and our ability to make decisions and move fast by working together. Some of that is paying attention to health and everything else, but it’s also how we play together, how we ally together, and remind each other to take breaks.
And this brings us back to the top of the episode, and the central theory we set out to prove. As an entrepreneur, how do you survive the startup journey? Every small tip and trick in this episode will help. But there are also times when you need to be reminded of the big picture.
At some point — and usually at many points — the startups I’ve founded or invested in hit dark days. The company faces an existential threat. It will live or die on how the emergency plays out. The team is tired. The team is discouraged. The team is scared. And one of the things I’ll do is give them a speech that sounds something like this:
“If startups were easy, everyone would do it. They’re hard. But that hardness is the thing that gives you the chance to change the world. All startups go through a valley of the shadow. All of them — PayPal, LinkedIn, things that I’ve done personally, things that I’ve invested inFacebook, Airbnb — all have valleys of the shadow where you’re like, ‘Why did we think this was a good idea? We didn’t realize there was going to be this landmine, that it was going to be this hard.’ But that’s where you have the possibility of being heroic, of accomplishing something that no one else has done. Of making a change in the world that gets reflected in society and changes millions of people’s lives. And that’s the reason why you face down these dark days, you band together, and you work very hard to solve them. And that’s your chance to be heroes.“
And with that piece of inspiration for the weary entrepreneurial warrior, I want to return to Arianna for one more question. There’s a theme that played out throughout our entire conversation, which I call the technology paradox. On one hand, technology gets in the way of rejuvenation. It distracts you from dinner with your partner or play time with your kids. On the other hand, it can be used in ways to create healthy reinforcement, like checking in with call center staff after a particularly stressful run-in with a customer.
HUFFINGTON: I believe we have an incredible opportunity to use technology for healthier lives. We need to very consciously create boundaries around what is sacred and most important to us. We actually developed an app, the Thrive app, which addresses that. When you put your phone on Thrive Mode in order to have a meal with your wife or your friends uninterrupted or do deep work, if I text you, I’ll get a text back that says, “Reid is in Thrive Mode until such and such are done.” It’s by direction, which is very important, because that’s also in a way to change the culture.
Right now, the expectation is that Reid is so amazing, he responds quickly, he’s always on. We want to change that to Reid is so amazing and has such a clear sense of what’s important in his life, that he can also disconnect. The second thing that it does, it gives you a dashboard of your social media, game, et cetera, consumption during the day, which surprises people. You spend two hours on Instagram today or three hours on Candy Crush or binge watching Netflix, whatever. Then, it asks you if you want to set limits. If you do, it sends you notifications. Let’s say you say, “I only want to spend an hour-and-a-half on Instagram”, it cuts you out at an hour-and-a-half for this one day. This is an example of technology helping you navigate your relationship with technology.
HOFFMAN: But technology-based solutions alone aren’t enough. You need to support them through the culture that you instill.
HUFFINGTON: You can tell people, ”You don’t have to answer emails after hours. If it’s urgent, we’ll contact you.” That doesn’t matter. People can still get super stressed unless they learned two things. One is to relentlessly prioritize. Two, to be comfortable with incompletions. Relentlessly prioritize is key. Nobody can do anything important, let alone thrive, if they don’t learn what’s really important, what I have to get done, and what is not important.
The second step is that there isn’t anybody in any interesting job who can complete everything they could have possibly done that day. If you are the kind of person who thinks “I haven’t done everything” and therefore moves into stress, it doesn’t matter what your company says, it’s an internally induced stress. Our whole B2B is based on the behavior change platform, broken down into science-based micro steps for change, the most important micro step in learning to live with incompletions is declaring an arbitrary end to your day. You have to declare it. You have to…
HOFFMAN: At this time, work is done.
HUFFINGTON: This is the end of my day. Because human beings learn through ritual, we recommend that you declare the end to your day by turning off your phones, iPods, laptops and gently escorting them out of your bedroom.
HOFFMAN: Well, yes. As you have helped the world know, taking your phone and moving it away from your bedroom is, actually, in fact a super important thing to sleep, stress, relaxation…
HUFFINGTON: And wake up in the morning and have a minute, that’s another micro step. Take a minute to remember what you are grateful for, set your intention for the day before you go to your phone. Over 70% of people sleep with their phones. The first thing they do is go to their phone. If you think of it, our phone is everybody else’s agenda for us. Our bodies are flooded with the cortisol stress hormone before we have even gotten out of bed. These are small changes, small microscopic changes that can have a huge impact. That’s what is so wonderful. That’s why I’m so optimistic. These are not huge changes. We are not asking people to leave their jobs or move to a Caribbean island.
HOFFMAN: Cool under the mango tree.
HUFFINGTON: Yeah, chill under the mango tree. We ask them to take these small micro steps.
HOFFMAN: My work here is done. Time to shut off my phone and find a mango tree to chill under.
I’m Reid Hoffman. Thank you for listening.