The sale of The Huffington Post is a major development for not only the so-called new media, but also the mainstream media, for reasons that go well beyond business maneuvering and related industry dynamics. The jury, of course, is still out in terms of AOL's potential return on investment from its acquisition of HuffPost, which strategically is an integral and very important part of AOL's continuing efforts to reposition and reboot itself by expanding its holdings in the online media sector.
In my view, any references suggesting that Arianna Huffington may have "sold out" by agreeing to sell The Huffington Post to AOL are ill-founded and those critics don't understand or fully appreciate the intrinsic motivational base from which she operates. Indeed, although she may refer to herself as an ordinary "Greek peasant girl," Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington is anything but ordinary! And readers of The Huffington Post should pay attention and display pride for what Arianna has accomplished so far and, perhaps more importantly, for what she still has yet to do in the future. Besides relying on what she calls her "Greekness" as a foundation for sustaining her during uncertain and/or challenging times, her uniquely Greek upbringing and value orientation are also essential parts of the engine that drives her to achieve.
Moreover, let me suggest that a large part of Arianna's well-deserved success is due to what I would characterize as not being a prisoner of her own thoughts. Instead, it is her innate ability to go with the flow, to be open to opportunities, to trust her intuition, to exercise the freedom to choose her attitude, and most importantly, to extend beyond herself by directing her attention and relating to something more than herself that has guided her through the "labyrinth of life," much like the Greek hero Theseus used the ball of thread given to him by King Minos' daughter, Ariadne, to find his way out of the Cretan Labyrinth after slaying the mythological Minotaur.
I started writing for The Huffington Post in August 2008. The invitation to do so came via an introduction by Arianna's sister, Agapi Stassinopoulos, who, in addition to being a well-established author and motivational speaker, as well as a HuffPost contributor, manifests the deeper meaning of her given Greek name with an ethics of authenticity that has a magnetic, meaning-focused quality. An expert on gods and goddesses (one of her books, not surprisingly, is entitled, "Gods and Goddesses in Love"), her empowering work includes helping teenagers build their self-esteem and realize their dreams. In addition to supporting and collaborating with her sister Arianna on various projects, Agapi was featured recently as a special guest in "Greece: Quest for the Gods," a public television special.
So I received the invitation via Agapi to contribute to The Huffington Post with enthusiasm and viewed it as an opportunity that shouldn't be missed. And I haven't been disappointed. Nor have I ever felt like a "galley slave" as some critics have alleged, especially in the aftermath of the recent AOL acquisition. If anything, I envision the new "partnership" as much a benefit to The Huffington Post's future as I do to AOL's future as a transformational leader in the online media industry. Of course, there are those on the Left side of the political spectrum who are concerned about this uncharted, merged future (i.e., will the HuffPost lose its liberal darling identity and have to sacrifice too much of what brought it to where it is today?) just like there are those on the Right who are concerned that the newly-endowed AOL media group will now have to follow HuffPost to the Left. After all, Arianna Huffington, widely recognized as the crowned Queen of New Media, has been named the leader of this conglomerate and it is even being called "The Huffington Post Media Group."
However, let me suggest that if The Huffington Post "goes" anywhere, it will be towards the middle or center of the spectrum. Now let me explain why I think that this will be the case. At this juncture, it is unlikely that The Huffington Post's direction can be unhooked from its founder and for good reason. Much like Oprah, Arianna has become a "brand" with an unmistaken identity. It would be foolish for Arianna to go in one direction and for HuffPost to go in another. I predict that Arianna will move to the center (although we may have to come up with a different word or label for this position), not only because of the AOL deal but because it is in her Greek DNA and in line with her spiritual purpose to do so. Importantly, Arianna knows in her heart and soul that "The Fourth Instinct" actually requires it!
What do I mean by this? Even though I've been associated with HuffPost only since 2008, I've been familiar with Arianna's work for many years, going back to her earliest writings. In particular, I was most struck by a book that she published in 1994 called "The Fourth Instinct: The Call of the Soul." This book was released around the same time that I was becoming actively involved -- and eventually became president of -- an international nonprofit group, Renaissance Business Associates, dedicated to advancing sound business ethics and elevating the human spirit at work and in the workplace. I also was passionately pursuing my own writing on the search for meaning, a topic that essentially framed what Arianna called "The Fourth Instinct," and it was not too much later that Viktor Frankl urged me to write my book, "Prisoners of Our Thoughts."I don't believe that it was a coincidence that Arianna chose to begin "The Fourth Instinct" with a chapter entitled, "The Search for Meaning" either. In this chapter, Arianna underscored that:
The Fourth Instinct serves as our 'highest common denominator,' enabling us to overcome alienation and achieve community. It leads us to inner peace and outer harmony, reconciling our first three instincts with our spiritual purpose. To follow the Fourth Instinct is to obey the law of human development. It is a universal law, but it expresses itself differently in each individual. Indeed, there are as many paths to wholeness as there are those who would walk them, threads through the labyrinth of life that we can follow to the center of ourselves and of all existence.
In order to follow and leverage the Fourth Instinct in her own life, and thereby respond to the "call" of her own soul, Arianna will necessarily seek to lead others to inner peace and outer harmony, reconciling her spiritual purpose with the other basic human instincts (survival, sex and power). In this way, she'll not only be able to help transform the limiting effects of the other three instincts for herself and others but also help herself and others -- by providing threads like Ariadne -- through the labyrinth of life so that they can follow to the center of themselves and of all existence. This is not a Left or Right kind of challenge. Rather than being a polarizing force, it must involve reconciliation, cooperation, and collaboration. It must also provide for a common understanding through authentic dialogue; a process that can only be achieved successfully by being open to diversity of thought and by providing all sides to an issue in order to reach common ground by going to a higher ground. This is Arianna Huffington's manifest destiny and, ultimately, her legacy. It transcends anything that she's done before, including her megadeal with AOL, and I have no doubt that she's up to the task. Heck, how could the "fastest-rising Greek since Icarus" not be!
*A version of this post first appeared in my weekly column for The National Herald, the Nation's leading and oldest (since 1915) Greek-American newspaper.
You can find out more about Dr. Alex Pattakos, author of the internationally bestselling book "Prisoners of Our Thoughts," in his HuffPost bio. You can learn about his new initiative, the OPA! philosophy of living and working, as well as join the new OPA! Village and OPA! people at www.theopaway.com.