Today is our official launch day. We are at an inflection point in history where technology has granted us powers that accelerate the speed of life beyond our capacity to cope. We’re more aware than ever that this way of living leaves us depleted, distracted and unfulfilled. Thrive Global is born in response to the need to take control of our lives, offering new strategies and tools, based on the latest science, to address the unintended consequences of these profound and invasive changes.
The Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot has called burnout “civilization’s disease.” And the casualties are proliferating around the world. In The Thrive Journal, Thrive Global’s media platform, you’ll read this week about the rise of stress and burnout in China, by Yan Mei; in Europe, by Emily Reynolds; and in “The United States of Burnout,” by Bradley Stulberg.
Our first video series, “Turning Points,” tells the stories of several millennial women who were all, in different ways, advancing in their careers in ways the world would consider highly “successful.” But they were also paying a heavy price, sacrificing their health — both physical and mental — and their happiness. Individually and collectively, their stories are incredibly powerful: each woman, for her own reasons, realizes she must change her life. Check out the series to see how they leave behind their ostensibly enviable careers and instead pursue — and achieve — a different goal, of not only succeeding but truly thriving.
My own wake-up call came in 2007, two years into building The Huffington Post, when I collapsed from exhaustion and burnout, breaking my cheekbone and waking up in a pool of blood. After going around to various doctors, what I learned was that nothing was wrong — except everything was wrong. “Is this what success looks like?” I asked myself. This was the moment when the seed of Thrive Global was planted.
Then came two books — Thrive, and The Sleep Revolution — on well-being, success, and sleep, along with hundreds of speeches and media appearances. As I went around the world and saw how deep the crisis was, and how urgently people want to change their lives, I felt compelled to move beyond speaking and writing and spreading awareness to actually doing something about it.
It’s hard to read all the stories of people falling victim to our collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success. Like Zhang Rui, a 44-year-old tech startup founder who died of a heart attack in October, whose story became a flashpoint about the culture of burnout in China. Or digital designer Sean Villafranca, who used his own wake-up call — a frightening mini-stroke — to plead with his friends on Facebook to learn from his experience. “I want everyone to use this as a cautionary tale,” he wrote. “If your body shows symptoms, don’t ignore them.”
It’s not about balance. For too long, as technology has enveloped our lives, and our lives have become busier and more stressed, the response has been to seek “work-life balance.” The reason this response has been so inadequate is because its premise is wrong. Thrive Global is based on the truth that work and life, well-being and productivity, are not on opposite sides — so they don’t need to be balanced. They’re on the same side, and rise in tandem. Increase one and you increase the other. So there’s nothing to balance — increasing well-being and the productivity that goes along with it is a win-win, for work and life.
We have already ceded a lot of ground to an unsustainable way of living. And we cannot wait any longer before we collectively wake up. To accelerate this urgently needed culture shift, Thrive Global has three interconnected core elements: corporate trainings and workshops; our media platform, The Thrive Journal, designed to be the global hub for the conversation about changing the way we work and live; and an e-commerce platform that offers our curated selection of the best technology and well-being products and services. These three components are mutually reinforcing, with each touch-point — trainings, e-courses, and all the latest science, reported pieces, and personal stories on The Thrive Journal, as well as products from our store — supporting and amplifying the other elements to make them more effective and sustainable.
The science is clear and conclusive: when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, our creativity, our productivity and our performance dramatically improve across the board. And one of the goals of The Thrive Journal is to bring you the latest science from leading experts around the world, including, on launch day, Professor Margaret Levi at Stanford, Dr. Dan Siegel at UCLA, and Dr. David Agus at USC, who also serves on our Thrive Global board.
In order to scale the cultural shift that’s already happening, we need new role models, and The Thrive Journal will bring you examples of leaders in business, sports, media, entertainment, and technology who are proving that taking care of ourselves, far from detracting from success, enhances productivity and creativity. Like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who reveals that getting eight hours of sleep a night is good for Amazon shareholders. Or JPMorgan’s Private Bank CEO Kelly Coffey, who has taken our Thrive 28-day challenge and has committed to charging her phone outside the bedroom.
Those who continue to equate burnout with dedication and success should look to the arena where performance and winning are everything: sports. To professional athletes, there’s nothing “soft” about well-being — it’s about what works, it’s about winning. So The Thrive Journal will be putting a constant spotlight on elite athletes who are demonstrating that sleep and recharging are the ultimate performance enhancers. And today we’re launching our video series in partnership with VICE, beginning with the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala, the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 NBA finals, who credits sleep with a dramatic improvement in his numbers on the court (and who, in the interest of full disclosure, is also an investor — the tallest investor — in our company).
Corporate launch partners include Accenture (read the post about our partnership by Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s head of global HR); JPMorgan Chase (here’s the post by JPMorgan’s CMO Kristin Lemkau); SAP (Jennifer Morgan, President of SAP North America, describes the partnership here); Uber (see a video interview with Uber founder Travis Kalanick here and his Facebook post on our partnership); Airbnb; and Glassdoor.
Because stress and burnout and our relationship to technology are global problems, Thrive Global is global from day one. We’re delighted to announce partnerships in India through The Times Group, India’s largest media company which publishes The Times of India; Italy, through Gruppo Espresso, one of the country’s leading publishing groups; South Africa, with Discovery and its global Vitality Network, which will also make Thrive offerings available to its global insurance partners in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the UK; and with the international media and entertainment organization Antenna Group, which will help bring Thrive Global to Greece, Cyprus, Romania, former Yugoslavia, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Turkey and Russia.
Though this is a global epidemic, the solutions Thrive Global will bring will be localized and rooted in the philosophy and ancient wisdom of different cultures and regions. In China, there’s Taoism and the philosophy of Yin Yang, which teaches us to go out to achieve and return inward to refuel. In Japan, there’s the aesthetic of Ma, about the awareness and appreciation of creating space in one’s life. In India, there’s not just the practice but the philosophy of yoga — the term coming from the idea of union or connecting with our essential nature. In Italy, there’s the tradition of la dolce vita (“the sweetness of life”), in contrast to our modern, frenetic existence. And also in the West we have the philosophy of the Stoics, based on the idea that our happiness should be founded less in our external circumstances than in how we choose to react to them. The modern science about well-being and productivity is universal, as is the need to tap into our inner wisdom — how exactly we do that is different the world over.
Core to a Thrive culture shift is addressing our relationship with technology, which is one of the most pressing issues of our time. We all feel it — we’re addicted. And it’s getting worse. We’re being controlled by something we should be controlling. Our technology — especially in the form of our ever-more-powerful smartphones — allows us to do amazing things. But it also consumes and controls our attention, crippling our ability to focus, think, sleep, meaningfully engage with others, and connect to what’s around us and, especially, what’s inside of us.
Correcting this is made even more difficult by how essential our technology has become to our daily lives. Our phones, email, being connected all the time — it’s all extraordinarily useful in ways that improve our lives on a daily basis. But on a long-term basis, what we’re now coming to realize is that we’re losing more and more of ourselves. We’ve haven’t yet learned how to regulate and manage this increasingly powerful and addictive new element in our lives to serve our best interests.
This is the background for Thrive Global’s partnership with Bennett Miller, the Academy Award-nominated director of Foxcatcher and Capote, who also has a documentary coming out soon on our troubled relationship with technology. Together, as a step toward recalibrating that relationship, we’ve created an app called Silo. By selectively blocking distractions, alerts, and notifications on your phone, Silo allows you to reclaim space in your life for focus, creativity, and truly connecting with the world, those around you, and yourself.
Now, obviously one app isn’t going to solve all our problems with technology. But what we need to do — what Silo aims to do — is to create some breathing space, to put a foot down and stop this inexorable slide toward ceding more of our humanity to this evolving and addicting technology. By creating some space and time that allows us to think, to consider the big picture, to gather ourselves and regroup, Silo is meant to be a first step in a long-term campaign to change our relationship with technology — to make disconnecting not only an option, but a regular part of our daily lives. So being disconnected, instead of connected, becomes the badge of honor. In the coming months and years, along with Bennett, we intend to build on Silo’s AI functionality to fortify this boundary between ourselves and our technology, so that we can maximize the benefits of technology while also maximizing our humanity and well-being.
We’re also introducing three other apps. ThriveAway is a vacation email tool that, by deleting your incoming emails while you’re away, allows you to truly disconnect and recharge. ThriveAway’s insight is simple: the key is never seeing the email, and letting the sender know when you’ll be back.
With our Thrive for Alexa Skill, available on Amazon’s Echo, Thrive Global offers our first of many Thrive Skills, an eight-minute guided meditation from my sister Agapi Stassinopoulos, which can help you get a good night’s sleep and can become a regular part of your bedtime routine.
And on a lighter note, we’re also introducing Joy Trigger, a browser extension (right now for Chrome only). Each time you open a new tab you’ll see a whimsical animal GIF, while also getting some tips about how to bring more joy and well-being into your life right away. The tips vary depending on the time of the day, since what we need and feel first thing in the morning can be quite different from the mid-afternoon lull.
And there will be more to come, since helping us manage our relationship to technology is so central to Thrive Global.
On our e-commerce site, live right now, you can give the gift of well-being — and get all your holiday shopping done in one stop — with the best products, all vetted by our team of experts. Also available is our six week e-course, which, with just two steps a week, can help you decrease stress and burnout and improve overall health, performance, and happiness. (And for those in the New York area, you can stop by our Pop-Up Shop, located at 419 Broome St., which will be up through January 15th.)
What distinguishes The Thrive Journal from other media platforms is that we go beyond informing and entertaining to action. Our goal is to help you bring about changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, Well-Being, and Productivity. These microsteps and tips are embedded in every piece of content we produce.
Change is particularly difficult when it goes against what is still the prevailing culture. But within a supportive, engaged, and active community, it has a much better chance of being both successful and sustainable. And because people learn best from other people — by exchanging stories, and along with them, ideas, inspiration and motivation — Thrive Global is partnering with Medium’s unparalleled platform to serve as its contributor hub. So please add your story to this global conversation.
You can start by taking our Thrive Pulse survey, and finding out how much you’re thriving — or not thriving — right now. And you can also ask your employer to sign on to The Thrive Pledge, which we’ve created in partnership with Glassdoor, to allow businesses to show they embrace Thrive principles and that they’re working to prioritize well-being in their workplace.
And because giving is an essential Thrive pathway, we are launching the Thrive Global Foundation, which is offering free trainings to leaders of non-profits as well as civic leaders, who are on the front lines of serving others. Those who have already received training or who are scheduled to include Khan Academy, Lean In, Global Citizen, Alliance for Children’s Rights, EduCare Foundation, as well as the mayors and mayoral staffs of Boston, Minneapolis, Oakland, and Providence.
I’ve been blessed to have been part of a lot of amazing things in my life, but I’ve never been more excited than I am now to be doing something that I believe will have a real impact on people’s lives, at a time when it’s so urgently needed. I announced the launch of Thrive Global on August 11th, and in the past three-and-a-half months I’ve assembled an amazing and growing team that has brought us to today and is ready to lead this global conversation. I’m so proud of the talent and commitment of the Thrive Global team and am inspired by what is to come. To get to know the team, please go here.
Thanks for coming along on this journey. Together we will change the way we work and live and truly thrive. And now, you tell me. Are you affected by burnout, or the adverse effects of your relationship with technology? Are you working on a solution, or are you inspired to start? Did this piece resonate with you in another way? I’d love to hear your story! Personal narratives and experiences from the members of Medium’s global community will be a central part of our contributor platform, and the conversation we are beginning today. Let me know how you feel by clicking in the “write a response” box below, and telling me about your experience, or highlighting your favorite part of this post. I’ll recommend my favorite responses as they come in. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com