Big Lessons from Ann Shoket’s ‘The Big Life’

Truth: I’m not one for career books. More or less, I feel they all say the same thing in different ways. For young female professionals, the concepts of speaking up, asking for more, and going after what you deserve aren’t foreign anymore. There is still a ways to go in female advancement in the workplace, but very few career books truly relate to this generation and our hopes, ambitions, struggles, and fears.

Then I read The Big Life by Ann Shoket.

The Big Life gets right to the core of what it means to be a young female professional today who wants more out of life – who wants to do something Big in all facets, from career to friendship to relationship. It speaks to a generation of rockstars (or Badass Babes as Shoket calls us) who may not feel like they’ve taken center stage yet, no matter what it looks like from the outside, as well as to those still figuring out what Big things they want to do.

big life

Shoket has a breadth of experience with our generation already as the former Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen who helped us grow up and graduate to Cosmo and Marie Claire. She did extensive research for The Big Life through focus groups masked as intimate dinner parties in her apartment with frozen pizza and wine. She spoke to all sorts of Millennial women: those just starting out, those who have the awe-worthy job that leaves them less than fulfilled, those who took the leap and invested in their own ventures, those balancing family and work – the list goes on. Shoket then drew on her own experiences and interviewed successful role models who paved their own paths, like Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, to frame it all up.

Her understanding of what we go through on a daily basis is sometimes painfully accurate. It’s like a sucker punch that makes you truly ask yourself who you are, what motivates you, and why you feel the way you do. Most importantly, The Big Life provides the realization that no, you’re not alone in how you’re feeling about literally everything – we all want something Big.

Someone will always seem to have something bigger and better than you. 
Hardest things ever to remember, but it’s true. Those people who seem like they have it better always exist. The only person you should worry about and compare yourself to is you. At the end of the day, it’s not about someone else and their Instagrams that give you serious FOMO between all the seemingly fabulous accomplishments, travel, and pretty friends. No one else but you is on your unique path.

Who you surround yourself with is paramount to your success.
They say no (wo)man is an island, but your best friend doesn’t seem to understand your dream. When it comes to navigating your path, it is about finding go-to people who inspire you to do awesome things because they’re also doing amazing stuff themselves. They don’t have to be your best friends who know everything – and Shoket says that they actually shouldn’t be. These are your designated ambition advisers, which by the way you can meet at industry events, book clubs, interest groups, continuing education classes, and more.

Honor that voice in your head that wants to do more to feel fulfilled.
Shoket talks about “The Itch,” which is the drive to do something more that fulfills you, even if you’re not able to do that in your day job quite yet. This manifests as a side product, or side hustle. It could be the next big thing or not at all, but the key is going into it for fulfillment, purpose, and passion – not because you’re expecting to hit it big. One of my favorite examples of a side hustle in the book is Beyoncé (obviously). When Destiny’s Child hit major success, who would have thought that it could get bigger and better?

It’s not about balancing work and life, it’s about finding what works for you.
I would say it’s more about finding a mesh, especially as young professionals. Finding balance as it relates to raising a family, especially when you are still single, is not something to worry about right this second. However, I will say that for right now, I stand firm in having a life outside the office and boundaries, kids or not. It’s important for your sanity!

“Your Talent is Greater Than Your Ability to Photograph Avocado Toast”
If I could make wallpaper out of this quote, I would. It’s too accurate. As much as I’m proud of my food Instas (trust me, there are a lot and I am v. proud), I know there’s so much more to who I am and what I want to do. Every day is an endeavor in making your goals possible.

While these were just some lessons that spoke to me, find out which ring true to you! Get it here. I’m serious. It could lead to something Big.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Christine Strifas says:

    Hi Julia!! Love the blog and so happy for this book suggestion. 🙂 I can definitely relate and look forward to reading her book!!


    1. Julia Corbett says:

      Thank you so much, Christine!! Hope all is well. And yes, it’s a must-read!


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