When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Howard Lewis: Check all bodily parts are in functioning order.
TG: What gives you energy?
HL: Peanut butter on toast and a pot of green tea for breakfast. Highly recommended. Certainly beats slogging away in the gym at the crack of dawn.
TG: What is your secret life hack?
HL: Always keep an open mind and display a generosity of spirit. These are the two bulwarks behind the success of OFFLINE. Most people are far too prescriptive about the relationships they may develop, as they continually seek validation and approval. I don’t much care about such impositions, as OFFLINE celebrates the virtues of randomness and serendipity.I hosted a dinner recently for 50 guests; 28 had never attended before and, indeed, 14 of them I had never even met! That sense of the unknown offers huge potential. When you give to others without expecting anything in return, they tend to reciprocate in kind. Moreover, I am prepared to take a chance on people as that, assuredly, is where the juice lies.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
HL: I have read many hundreds of books but cannot point to one that literally changed my life. However, one book that embraces the nature of change itself that I unreservedly recommend is “You’re An Animal, Viskowitz!” by Alessandro Boffa, a set of ironic fables in which Viskowitz assumes the persona of various animals that mimic human behaviour. So we learn of a dormouse who has erotic dreams, a police dog who is also a Buddhist, a lion in love with a gazelle, a chameleon suffering an identity crisis and many more besides. It is a witty, provocative, wonderful book – simply sublime.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
HL: Certainly not. Firstly, I don’t find my phone very attractive and besides, unless you are on standby to learn of an imminent birth or death, nothing is so mission critical that you must keep your phone permanently on guard in the middle of the night. There are far more pleasurable activities to engage in while in bed. It is a sad indictment of the modern world that you even pose the question.
TG: How do you deal with email?
HL: Very comfortably. I read it when it arrives and I normally respond within 24 hours unless I need to craft a carefully worded reply. As I spend much of my day writing anyway, I don’t find email a major intrusion. Of course, I do have the advantage of ignoring virtually all social media platforms, which liberates my time considerably. That is one of the indubitable benefits of leading an OFFLINE life!
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day. What do you do with it?
HL: Think, read a book, stare out of the window, take a walk around the block, phone a friend, though obviously not all at the same time.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
HL: I have never felt burned out. I have certainly endured periods of great stress, both personally and professionally, but I have always sought to maintain some balance and proportion in my life.
TG: When was the last time you failed and how did you overcome it?
HL: That depends on how you measure failure. I was late for a meeting this afternoon but I salvaged the situation by offering my friend a blueberry pancake. The reality is that I fail routinely, as do we all. I am reliably useless at most things but I am not driven in all respects by a continual desire for self improvement. I am a great believer in playing to your strengths and not pretending to be all things to all people.
TG: Share a quote that you love and gives you strength or peace.
HL: “Man is a credulous animal and must believe in something so, in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones”. I love this quote from the philosopher and polymath, Bertrand Russell. It gives me neither strength nor peace but it is a particularly shrewd and apposite observation in a world of fake news.
Businessman, author, and raconteur Howard Lewis is the director of the Schorr Collection of Old Master Paintings and the founder and host of OFFLINE, an event that celebrates the discussion of ideas in an informal environment away from the pressures of an over-connected world.