2020 Readings // Arianna Huffington – Media Visionary and Wellness Evanghelist

My stay in Romania gave me the opportunity to switch from German books to English ones and thus be able to understand more of the content I was reading. Just before Christmas I arrived in a huge library in Bucharest and let myself inspired from the English books I found there. As I was already familiarized with Arianna‘s path and this time a sort of biography was available on the shelf I took the chance the bought the book.

As 2020 has been a year of intensive readings for me and it keeps being so for the last days left, I was happy to add a new book on my collection and see if I can learn something while siting on the sofa and drinking coffee in Romania.

I can recommend the book for the people who are curious to find out more of Arianna‘s background, her parents, her family and the dreams that pushed her for the decisions she made. She inherited her father‘s passion for journalism and debate, learned from her mother to be persistent and find solutions and her sister Agapi was always there for her supporting with her love and creative style. Her two daughters came very late in her life, as she was 38, respectively 40 and even now in her 70s she keeps working 10 hours per day.

While there are many rumors about what she did right and wrong, there are also visible achievements she made in the media industry, not to forget that she coming from Greece, had a very strong accent and built her media empire Huffington Post thanks to her wit and persistence, social contacts and hard work.

I was particularly impressed by how her mother made it possible for her to be accepted at Cambridge, despite she didn’t even speak English at the time she (Arianna) told her mom about her dreams. Another particular interesting point in her life is her decision to abandon her boyfriend and put the Atlantic Ocean between them – then 20 years older than her, Levin – because she wanted to have kids and marry for the rest of her life and he wasn’t mature enough for it, only to be able to accomplish her dream 10 years later with oil mogul Michael Huffington and still go through a divorce later on.

Arianna wrote 15 books, reinvented herself throughout her careers, starting with the debates in Cambridge she loved to coordinate, writing autobiographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso, getting involved in politics and fighting on such topics, creating an online platform for bloggers worldwide and asking them to write for free and then selling it. Although she would have never given up to Huffington Post, as it was her third child, she eventually sold it and focused on Thrive – another platform focused on well being and spirituality.

Her life is an interesting example of hard work, determination, perseverance and strong persuasion skills and emotional intelligence in general. While she had to go through a burnout episode, she used the episode to later on create Thrive Global, write a book on the importance of sleep and create her new business.

2020 Readings // No Rules Rules or the story behind NETFLIX’ success.

During the second lockdown in Austria I had enough time to go through one of the books that I bought for myself and whose purpose was to improve my German language skills. Getting to understand the job market nowadays is and will always be a topic worth investing hours into. Things are chaning very fast and the mindsets and demands are different from one corner of the world to another.

While trying to look for various topics to entertain me and enable my fast, correct and fluent German, I saw Reed Hastings’ book on what makes Netflix successful. I bought it, curious to see if I can stay focused and go through the hundreds of pages put together by Reed and Erin Meyer, the author of the famous book “The Culture Map”.

While bringing a revolution in the entertainment industries and trying to reinvent itself with every new trend, Netflix managed to become one of the most used streaming network and combined original series with external ones.

It all started in 1998 when Reed started the online DVD rental service, because once he forgot to return a DVD on time and had to pay a very big fine. Over the time, the industry has changed again and again and as Reed is saying, what really helped the business survive was the overall culture of freedom and responsibility. this is a result of the 9 connecting dots he refers to in the book and are also graphically illustrated in the picture below.

While presenting small case studies, Reed explains why he decided to go for an approach or another, which benefits it brought to the business and how he decided to enable a competitive culture in his company by always firing the weakest employees – The Keepers Test. By keeping standards high and very talented people inside and increasing transparency and candor via feedback sessions, Reed aimed to reduce controls.

He lied a strong emphasis on innovation and enabled his employees to work through context, rather than controls. Also, whoever wanted to take more days off while finishing with the workload before the deadline was free to do so.

The culture candid feedback is what makes Netflix a bit different versus other companies. While keeping people stressed about the next feedback round, it also pushes the employees to speak up in a nice way about their colleagues and show them where they are wrong.

The book is full with interviews with current and past Netflix employees, written in a double perspective by Reed and Erin, together with Reed’s failures and the attitude of his colleagues in assuming that he was always doing the right thing. I can recommend the book, it has fresh insights and shows the entertainment industry from an inside perspective.