Sometimes in life, we reach a new starting line where we sense that everything we have experienced and done so far has been preparing us for this next step. When I met Arianna Huffington and we talked about her new venture, Thrive Global, I immediately knew I wanted Thrive to be the next chapter in my life. Before I tell you why, let me give you some background.
I have had the honor to work as a CTO at great companies with exceptionally talented and effective people including some of the best software developers in the world.
Since I left The New York Times, I’ve been through a learning journey in my professional and personal life. I joined a promising startup full-time pledging 20% of my equity to charity. When the venture funding I had hoped for didn’t materialize, I transitioned to an advisory role and continue to root for their success. I co-founded a consulting business which led to a client asking me to join full-time to build their team in New York City. In a twist of fate, soon after I joined and hired some exceptional talent, the company had a change in ownership and asked us all to move to Los Angeles. While the relocation offer was compelling, I couldn’t bear the thought of being so far away from Fitz Raj, my 4-year-old son. My (now former) wife Julie and I had recently separated. If you think persuading your spouse to move the family across the country is hard, imagine trying to convince your ex-spouse. Yes, I tried because LA offers great opportunities in her line of work. No, she politely declined.
If you think persuading your spouse to move the family across the country is hard, imagine trying to convince your ex-spouse.
So, I decided to return to my consulting practice in NYC. While I was consulting, two well-known, highly-respected companies asked me to join them full-time. While I was mulling over whether to join one of them as CTO & chief product officer or to continue building my consulting business, I was invited to a party. It was there I met Arianna for the first time and we talked about Thrive. It was the professional equivalent of love at first sight.
We found numerous connections we had in common: mission, shared values, the scientific evidence based approach, former colleagues, friends, and foreign accents. Arianna had even spent some time studying at Santiniketan Visva-Bharati University in India, where my grandmother Jayanti Devi Pant had studied for her advanced degrees under Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. (My grandma was reasonably fluent in eleven languages, a family record I can only surpass if I count programming languages.)
Meeting Arianna and discussing Thrive was the professional equivalent of love at first sight.
What makes a great match? Why do we work?
When you seek to join an organization, you should look for three things:
- Do you support the organization’s mission?
- Do you have the skills, experience, and knowledge to help the organization succeed?
- Do you fit into the organization’s and your team’s culture?
They are three dimensions to help determine the location where you should be. In Thrive Global, my answer to all these is a strong yes, and I also found spiritual connections that transcend them.
Even before I learned about the company Thrive Global, I have passionately believed in the practical wisdom that Arianna’s works present, practice and teach. Having had my own wake up calls, I’ve worked to incorporate some of these lessons in my life and work, and I’ve championed them to colleagues, friends, and family.
In her book, Arianna describes coincidences as “life’s secret door to wonder”. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer referred to coincidences as “wonderful pre-established harmony.”
Soon after I decided I will not move to LA, my friend and coworker Melanie sent me a Business Insider article about Thrive Global followed by the text: (quote) “Your new job?!”
Two months later, I received another message from Melanie: “Hi Rajiv! So great to see you last week! I read again about [Arianna Huffington’s] new venture and thought of you. Looks so interesting and I’m sure she can use your help!” This time she included a link to an NYTimes article about Thrive.
A few days later, an invite to a speakeasy-themed party showed up in my Inbox. What caught my cybersecurity-enthusiast brain’s attention was it said you needed a password to get in.
During our interviews at Arianna’s home, I also had conversations with her coworkers, family, and friends. She greatly values a personal connection in additional to professional experience. After all, as a CEO, she needs people she can rely on.
Like most CEOs, Arianna looks for competence, skills, experience, knowledge, and cultural fit when interviewing candidates. However, I found that for critical roles, she also looks for a spiritual kind of personal connection: Someone who shares her values, but also brings complementary traits; Someone she can trust, but who also has the courage to disagree with her. Someone who is kind at heart, but one you don’t want to mess with. I fit right in.
Working with her for four months has upheld what I had initially felt about Arianna’s leadership style. She sets a high bar, demands excellence, and does not hesitate to be direct and tough but she respects, empowers, and supports teammates who earn her trust. She respects and defers to others’ expertise. As a fellow human being and as a friend, she genuinely cares about the well-being of other people. Despite being a well-respected and well-liked celebrity CEO with power, I’ve experienced firsthand that she has both the humbleness and courage to apologize to someone in her team.
I met Arianna on a Thursday evening. Following intense conversations about work and life and reference checks over the next three days, I started full-time at Thrive the following Monday before either side had signed any papers. Genuine trust beats legal contracts any day of the week, twice on a Sunday. Yes, my longtime employment attorney couldn’t believe it either.
I met Arianna for the first time on a Thursday evening and started as CTO at Thrive the following Monday.
I feel that I serendipitously found the job that is my calling. After all, the party where I met Arianna required the password ‘Intentional Serendipity’ to get in.
Genuine trust beats legal contracts any day of the week, twice on a Sunday.
It seemed the ancient Greek and Hindu Gods had rigged the decision in both Thrive’s and my favor. Which reminds of something Arianna said to me quoting the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”
“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” – Rumi
Besides serendipity, there are rational reasons why I feel Thrive is my calling.
5 Reasons why Thrive Global connects with me
- Feel – I’ve felt passionate about this mission since long before I had heard of Thrive. My family, friends, and I personally experience the problems in this world that Thrive aims to solve. I’ve always wanted to work in a job where we aim to help anyone and everyone, not a select demographic. Thrive fits the bill.
- Improve – During the past year, I faced tough challenges in my personal and professional life. Thrive principles are the way for me to improve using behavior change science. Continuous personal development is necessary to be able to thrive in life and work. Application of behavioral, social, and cognitive science is necessary to bridge the knowing-doing gap.
- Learn directly from Arianna. She accomplished multiple great successes while facing life’s challenges and imperfections.
- Evangelize – Be a public face and spokesperson for something I deeply care about: Thrive Global’s concepts and the science supporting them.
- Grow professionally in and beyond product, technology, and design. Master organizational culture, well-being, and productivity. Gain the most effective, science-backed skills to manage organizations, teams, and myself.
Application of behavioral, social, and cognitive science is necessary to bridge the knowing-doing gap.
As an engineer, I have a strong preference for data, and Thrive’s scientific approach with evidence based learning resonates with me.
As a technologist, I am concerned that we are more worried about recharging our devices, than recharging ourselves.
That brings me to what organizations should do to succeed. There must be a clear, well-known, and good primary reason behind every product, service, and project.
3 ‘M’s: Why we do projects at Thrive Global
- Mission: Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.
- Money: To be successful in its mission, Thrive needs to make substantial and recurring revenues and be profitable.
- Marketing: To achieve the first two, Thrive needs to continuously become increasingly well-known, widely-respected, and highly influential.
All work should primarily support one of the 3 ‘M’s: mission, money, or marketing.
Where we go from here
Practicing what one preaches is often hard. I have a long way to go in my own journey and won’t pretend I have already incorporated the practice of most of the Thrive principles in my own life. If it were that simple, you wouldn’t need Thrive Global as a company. Everyone could just buy Arianna’s book and need nothing more.
There are no shortcuts to success, but there are microsteps.
In the book, Arianna writes “The second truth is that we’re all going to veer away from that place [of being centered] again and again. That’s the nature of life. […] The question is how quickly we can get back to that centered place of wisdom, harmony, and strength.”
As Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
There are no shortcuts to success, but there are microsteps.
Also published on Medium.