When I ask powerful women what made them who they are (a question I've asked constantly over the years), they often tell me about their parents and then say, "Oh, my mother...!"
So when I read one mother's take on the topic of wealth, below, it struck a familiar chord. The passage is from Unbinding the Heart, a new book by Agapi Stassinopoulos, Arianna Huffington's sister. I knew a little about Mrs. Stassinopoulos from conversations Arianna and I have had, as well as from an interview that TV talk show host/media entrepreneur Chelsea Handler did with her on stage at last fall's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Larger than life and perpetually optimistic, Arianna's mother married a larger than life newspaper publisher—and "huge philanderer," as Arianna recalls her father. When Arianna was 11 years old, she convinced her mother to leave him--and from then on, with little money to raise two daughters in Athens, made the girls believe that they had wealth and opportunity galore.
Arianna went on to create, among other things, the Huffington Post. She sold her startup to AOL (AOL) for $315 million last year. So, it's hardly the case that she and younger sis Agapi lack an appreciation of money. But as Agapi writes in Unbinding the Heart, they learned early on that money isn't what life is about:
I knew that my mother was different from my father in some basic way, because she treated all people the same, and she herself behaved the same, no matter whom she was with. She had no status handicap, and it freed her. My father was much more attuned to hierarchy, and I saw how it hindered him, though he was a brilliant and exceptional man. One Sunday morning after he and his friend drove off, I burst out to my mother with the innocence of a puzzled nine-year-old. "Mummy," I asked her, "are we rich?"
In a matter-of-fact tone that I can still hear, confident in her knowledge, she said, "We are very, very wealthy." And then she gave me the Talk--not the sex talk but the wealth talk. "Being rich doesn't mean you are wealthy. Being rich means you have a lot of money. Being wealthy means you value the gifts you have and you develop them. Wealth means that you have everything you need, and that you share it, too. It means being generous with what you have, not living in fear of losing what you have, and not comparing it to what anyone else has."
Her passion was palpable as she spoke about these ideas. "Having intelligence is wealth. Being curious about life is wealth. Ethics is wealth--it is the integrity you have in all your relationships. Having friends who care for you and love you, and whom you care for and love, that is wealth. Taking care of yourself and being healthy is wealth, and so is having respect for yourself and your fellow human beings. Being educated, having a thirst for learning, being able to go to good schools with inspiring teachers who will help you cultivate your talents, is wealth too--the most important kind, because without that, it really doesn't matter what else you have."
She went on: "The arts and culture are wealth. The artists of the world are all wealthy. They have gifts that money can never buy. And if you know how wealthy you are, then you can go make money—but only if you want to."
Here in Rio de Janiero, the growth is booming. The infrastructure is creaking--the electricity went out here at the Sheraton twice this morning. And the talk at the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network conference is about how to break through the clutter in building businesses and brands.
On a brand-building panel led by Dell (DELL) Chief Marketing Officer Karen Quintos, I talked about Fortune's Most Powerful Women brand--the value of being first MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 7, 2011 1:16 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
The most head-spinning thing about Arianna Huffington's deal to sell the Huffington Post to AOL (AOL)--besides the sweet $315 million price, which is 10 times HuffPo's 2010 revenues and almost all in cash--is her expanded job description.
Once the acquisition closes, Huffington will oversee all of AOL's media content including the recently purchased TechCrunch, Engadget, AOL Daily Finance, and MapQuest and Moviefone as well.
Her new purview--overseeing platforms that reached MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 8, 2011 2:58 PM ET
Are the populists taking over the world?
One rabble-rouser, Arianna Huffington, has concocted a remarkable stunt, which she calls the Move Your Money Project, to rally consumers to transfer their deposits from big banks to small community banks across the U.S. Alas, there's no run yet on Citigroup (C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), or Wells Fargo (WFC). But the Move your Money campaign--which the blog queen dreamed up MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 8, 2010 12:47 PM ET
I've never been big on New Year's resolutions, but a year ago, 15 minutes before 2009, I resolved to friend--a Charlie Rose fan--at a party in D.C.: "I'm going to DVR Charlie Rose every night."
Three weeks later, I found myself sitting next to the TV interviewer at a dinner in New York. I told Rose about my New Year's resolution. "So, are you doing it?" he asked.
"Uh, no, I MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 4, 2010 1:38 PM ET
Betsy Morgan is out as CEO of HuffingtonPost.com -- and her firing came as a surprise to her, Morgan told me when we connected by phone late this afternoon.
"Bummer." That was the first word she uttered in our conversation. Morgan says she's not bitter, however. After all, what a ride Arianna's web venture has been these past 20 months. Morgan joined in October 2007 -- and I remember it well MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 16, 2009 6:11 PM ET
Sarah Palin changed the game for women and power, and it'll never be the same again. So say a few well-known women -- Arianna Huffington, former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, White House Project president Marie Wilson, and More magazine editor in chief Lesley Jane Seymour -- who met in New York this morning for "The Spin Room: Gender, Politics and Media in the 2008 Election." The lively panel was MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 13, 2008 1:44 PM ET
This morning, I read about the potential merger of General Motors (GM) and Chrysler. Then I read about the benign rivalry of two divas of the blog world, Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown. Two stories that have nothing to do with each other? You would think. But actually, they do. They point to a new reality of the business world: Competition isn't what it used to be. Competition becomes coopetition. MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 27, 2008 5:14 PM ET
Amidst the chaos in the markets, it's difficult to find time to breathe, much less pore over 2,500 pictures from our Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in early October. But I finally made it through our trove and want to share part of it with you.
If you've been reading Postcards, you know that we had Warren Buffett with us for three days. What a treat. More than that, the Berkshire MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 24, 2008 3:11 PM ET
Here on Postcards, you'll find a trove of video segments from last week's Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit. Click here to watch a riveting take on the fall of Lehman Brothers by Barbara Byrne, a vice chairman who spent 28 years at the now-bankrupt firm. Today, since Barclays bought Lehman's North American core, Byrne is a vice chairman at Barclays Capital (BCS).
We also just posted the first of several highlights MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 8, 2008 12:41 PM ET
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