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"Ann has always seen the power and potential in young women. The Big Life helps make all our dreams closer than ever." —Lauren Conrad, designer and New York Times bestselling author of Lauren Conrad Celebrate
"The Big Life is a guide for women in their 20s and 30s who are hungry for a job they love, a supportive network of friends, respect from their bosses, and partners who want all those things for them as badly as they do." —The New York Times
Millennial women are changing what it means to be powerful and successful in the world—for everyone. Forever. You want The Big Life—that delicious cocktail of passion, career, work, ambition, respect, money, and a monumental relationship. And you want it on your own terms. Forget climbing some corporate ladder, you want a career with twists and turns and adventure. For you, success only matters if it’s meaningful. Ann Shoket knows the evolving values of young women more than anyone. She’s the voice behind the popular Badass Babes community, a sisterhood of young, hungry, ambitious women who are helping each other through the most complex issues around becoming who you’re meant to be. As the trailblazing editor-in-chief of Seventeen for the better part of a decade, Shoket led provocative conversations that helped young women navigate the tricky terrain of adolescence and become smart, confident, self-assured young women. Now that they are adding muscle to the framework of their lives, she’s continuing the conversation with The Big Life.
The Big Life is packed with actionable guidance combined with personal advice from high-profile millennial women who have already achieved tremendous success, plus intimate conversations with a cast of compelling characters and Shoket’s own stories on her quest for The Big Life. You’ll learn to tackle all of the issues on heavy rotation in your mind such as:
• How to craft a career that’s also a passion.
• How to get respect from a boss who thinks you’re a lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed millennial
• Why you need a “squad” of people who support you as you build your Big Life
• How a side hustle will make you smarter, hotter, and more in control of your destiny.
• Why work/life balance is a sham and your need to embrace the mess.
• How to find a partner whose eyes light up when you talk about your ambition.
Written in Shoket’s friendly and authoritative style, The Big Life will help you recognize your power, tap into your ambition, and create your own version of The Big Life.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
THE BIG LIFE
THAT SEXY COCKTAIL OF CAREER, AMBITION, RESPECT, MONEY, AND A MONUMENTAL RELATIONSHIP
Whether you realize it or not, you are redefining what it means to be powerful and successful in the world. For everyone. Forever.
I've never really known where the conversation will go when I sit down with a new group of women--everyone is at a different place in her journey and has different experiences to share and concerns to discuss. I remember being in awe of one group of women who were true power players. These women had quickly risen to the top of their fields. They've managed to get major funding, disrupt entire industries, and become CEOs of companies they'd created themselves. I was energized by a dinner where many of the women were right out of school or starting their first real jobs. They came to my table bursting with excitement, swapping stories about taking their first steps in the world, and wondering how to conquer those next challenges. One common thread links all the women interviewed for this book: Whether they were about to sell the company they started for millions or they were working three jobs to make rent, they understood that their vision for the Big Life was utterly their own.
"I never had a path that I wanted to be on. I never knew what the noun was, but I always knew what the adjective was, and that was 'big shot.' I just wanted to be an important person." "When I started at university as a freshman, I wrote down a life-goals list. It was like, I'm going to law school, and after law school, I'm going to work at the UN. I could see myself as a politician, and I was going to be very worldly."
"I've always had that ambitious drive in me. I had this idea that my career could be something bigger than me. It started as just an idea. I had the vision of what I wanted my career to look like before I was even working. I wanted to make my own stamp."
These women didn't need to be convinced that they could do interesting things with their lives. They weren't bogged down by a quarter-life crisis or confused about what path to follow. They knew nothing was off-limits. They understood that the Big Life doesn't start with a nugget of sage advice from some remote mentor, and that ultimately the journey is much deeper and richer than any path suggested by the guy running the career counseling department at college. The Big Life is about making yourself a stronger, happier person--whatever that means for you. These women understood that dreams come in all shapes and sizes, and that there is no one pre-prescribed picture of what the Big Life can look like.
ON YOUR OWN TERMS
You've inherited a world that has moved beyond the idea of "having it all."
Whatever that means.
You want to define success on your own terms. You have no interest in climbing that dusty old corporate ladder, even if it leads to a corner office with a killer view and a collection of Louboutins in a massive closet--that's not what's important to you. You want to forge your own path. You want a career born from your passions. You want validation in the workplace, and a culture that supports and inspires you--whether that means providing opportunities for you to do good in the world or the chance to have a vodka tonic with your colleagues after a long-ass week. You have a side hustle that you're hoping will turn into the next big thing, and give- back projects that matter to you.
This is a new work-world order. It might seem obvious and expected--after all, most of your friends see the world this way too. But this isn't the way things have always been. The truth is that the game has changed, and you're changing it. You are demanding candor and authenticity in everything- -especially with salary transparency. And that's starting conversations about equal pay across the board. When you insist on freedom from the office and fewer face-time meetings, it has bigger implications for all of us. You're actually paving the road now for an easier conversation ahead about how we make room for ambition and children. You're replacing the cold transactional networking previous generations had to suffer through with warm, friendly groups of colleagues who are endlessly devoted to helping one another succeed--in work and in life. The cynicism that was the 20- something trademark of your Gen X bosses (we practically invented the eye roll) has been replaced by overwhelming optimism and positivity.
Your Big Life isn't all about work either. No one dreams of working all day and then coming home to some shoebox apartment, tipping cat food into a bowl, and sitting down to eat cold leftover pizza while watching Netflix. The life you imagine for yourself is full in every way. Your Big Life has you running from meetings to lunch to volunteer opportunities to cocktails. You can see yourself traveling too. You want to experience everything. At the end of the week, you meet up with the superhot someone who adores you and talks proudly about your big ambitions to his or her friends.
The key is that you're not waiting for someday. You are living your version of the Big Life now, while acknowledging that it will change and grow as you do.
YOU MIGHT HAVE A CLEAR VISION . . . OR NOT
Maybe you could imagine the course you wanted your Big Life to take early on. Gabriella, 28, has had a major vision for herself since she was a kid growing up in a small New Hampshire town. As a teen, to pay for the private high school that she knew would give her a leg up in the world, she refinished discarded pieces of furniture, turning them into charming vintage treasures that she then sold for a nice profit. In college, she created a business that helped women overseas sell their handmade goods, and now she's started a fintech company focused on young women. If you ask her what her ultimate destination is, Gabriella says without a pause, "Governor." That is clarity. While she's not necessarily going to be taking the oath of office soon--and it's not an easy step from where she is today-- being able to name it can help her strategize and develop a rounded outlook on what she'll need to do to eventually step into that role.
But even if you can't imagine the specifics of your Big Life, that doesn't mean the world isn't yours for the taking. Maybe you can identify with Sarah, 24. She left behind her parents and beloved brothers in rural New York to pursue her Big Life with her sorority sisters in New York City. Sarah's friends are jumping right into dream jobs. One friend has a job as an assistant editor at a major magazine, and another has a gig that's landed her on the red carpet in a fancy dress interviewing celebs. Sarah can't help feeling slightly self-conscious that she still can't name her ultimate goal. Deep down, she knows she could reach any goal she set for herself, if only she knew what those goals actually were. So how is a Badass Babe supposed to start building her Big Life when she doesn't even know how to put together the basic pieces?
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MEANING
Right now, Sarah doesn't know what her dream actually is, so for the moment, she's grinding away at a commission-based job at a real estate company. This job is simply a placeholder, but she knows the feeling she's after, and that's what really matters. Sarah wants to fall in love and have a family and go to work every day at a job that makes her feel smart and capable. Ultimately, she knows these pieces will make up a life that's full of meaning for her.
There's so much talk these days about finding your passion or fulfilling your purpose, but that feels like such a high bar, doesn't it? The message the world is sending is that if you can't find your passion or your purpose, then you're lost. But I see things differently. For me, it all starts and ends with the meaning. Ask yourself what means the most to you, and that's where you'll find the core of your Big Life. It's what we all want: to do something meaningful for ourselves, for someone else, and for the world.
It has been my greatest honor to create work that has been meaningful in the lives of young women. My mission is to make you feel smarter, stronger, and, most importantly, validated. It can be incredibly lonely to grow into who you're meant to be. Especially when your vision doesn't fit with the way things have always been done. But what matters most is that you feel empowered to fight for that vision. That's the meaning of my message: Your dreams are worth achieving, and you are worth your dreams.
Your meaning doesn't necessarily have to be weighty and serious. Fun is meaningful; adventure is meaningful. And the beautiful thing about crafting your own Big Life is that meaning can be expressed in any way: running your own tech company, saving a corner of the world at a nonprofit you founded, writing a novel, writing code, raising a family, or running marathons.
THE MEANING IS YOUR NORTH STAR
It's meaning that matters, whether you're the chick who has known what she's wanted to do since sixth grade or you're still trying to piece it all together and stay open to every possibility imaginable. The meaning is your North Star, and if you follow it, you'll go somewhere big.
The Big Life isn't about ticking off a list of goals--or some elusive someday when you've hit a bunch of external life markers. There's no need to wait for the job or the guy to feel supremely satisfied. There's no magical moment when you suddenly sit back and start enjoying it all. You want to enjoy it all starting now.
The Escape Hatch
An Escape Hatch is an easy way out of the promise you made to yourself when you were 16 to go for something big. In every sci-fi movie ever, the Escape Hatch is the kind of thing you use to dodge a Big Scary Alien Monster. But the truth is, even when the hero uses it, she ends up fighting that monster anyway.
BEWARE THE ESCAPE HATCH
LET'S BE HONEST: None of this is easy. You're clearing a forest, charting new territory. It's scary and complicated stuff. At the end of one dinner, a Badass Babe quietly admitted that building her Big Life feels so hard that sometimes she's tempted to move back home and reunite with her high- school boyfriend. As cute and sweet as that guy might be, he's just an Escape Hatch from the hard part of her journey. The Escape Hatch is a shortcut to a life that's safer, a path that's well worn, a story in which you already know the ending. An Escape Hatch is an easy way out of the promise you made to yourself when you were 16 to go for something big. When you're facing a particularly rough moment, it's easy to think that your dream, even if--especially if--it's just a feeling and not a concrete goal, isn't realistic, or that you didn't want it anyway, or worse, that you won't be able see it through or don't deserve it after all.
Dreams change. There's no need to pretend that you are exactly the same person you were when you first started planning for the Big Life. Experience adds depth and weight to your vision of yourself. Often you'll be charging down the road toward the Big Life and you'll realize there's another big, fun, fulfilling idea you want to pursue--a plan B. But that's not the same as the Escape Hatch, which is a way to opt out of the quest altogether.
So the questions I asked that Badass Babe are the same ones you should ask yourself: "Am I running toward something or away from something? Am I getting closer to the dream, even though I'm momentarily in a dark place, or am I racing toward something safe that I think will make the darkness go away forever?"
In every sci-fi movie ever, the Escape Hatch is the kind of thing used to dodge a Big Scary Alien Monster. But the truth is, even when the hero uses it, she ends up fighting that monster anyway. And even if that Badass Babe decides to move back home and make a life with her high school boyfriend, she's going to have to figure out how to satisfy that feeling of passion and meaning she wants in life. It's hard to do big things, but you owe it to yourself to stay the course, resist the Escape Hatch, and see where this big adventure takes you.
YOUR STORY IS JUST BEGINNING
Right now, it may be hard to see the direction your story will take. It's not a narrative yet; it's a page brimming over with ideas, goals, thoughts, and hopes. But those early stages of your story are where your Big Life begins. It's where the meaning starts to make itself known. The stories we tell matter--whether it's around my dinner table, over coffee with your friends, or just to yourself when you're trying to make sense of the threads of your life.
We're all in this together, sister. I want you to take the reins of your Big Life, so what follows in these pages is both actionable and inspirational. Let go of the anxiety about when or how, and focus on honoring your ambition, dreaming big, and building the Big Life you know you deserve.
Badass Babes CONFESS What the Big Life Means to Me
"What's most important to me, what I really want in this Big Life, is to capital-L Live. That's all I've ever really wanted: to see the world, to create, to love, to have experiences, to care for others, and to make a life for myself that I am proud of."
"Every day, the hope of attaining the Big Life keeps me moving forward. I am working toward a life of fulfillment, which includes a challenging and engaging career, an income that allows me certain freedoms and luxuries, and a husband who acts as a true partner in all areas of my life: career, family, heath, and adventures. I want children eventually too! Working toward the Big Life, however, often keeps me from appreciating the present. I have to remind myself that the path toward whatever I am reaching for is equally as transformative and important."
Table of Contents
Foreword Michelle Phan ix
1 The Big Life 2
2 Bye-Bye, Carrie Bradshaw 16
3 Get a Job, Any Job 42
4 What's Your Side Hustle? 62
5 #SquadGoals 84
6 Embrace Your Mess 108
7 The Journey Matters 132
8 Stop with the What-Ifs 160
9 The Pressure to Be Perfect 180
10 The Big Life for All 196
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Whenever I received a new "Seventeen" magazine, I'd flip right to the letter from the editor. I've never been able to get enough of Ann's perspective. So I've been hoping she'd write a book like this for literally a decade. But even if you're new to Ann Shoket's writing, you're going to love this book. It's breezy and fun but also meaningful. There's a sense of relief in identifying in the powerhouse women featured throughout. And there's a sense of clarity that comes from soaking up her tips for living The Big Life. Plus, this book comes with a community -- hello, Badass Babes newsletter. I can't help but recommend it to all of my friends.