6 Lessons I Learned From The Big Life

I can't remember the first time I read something written by Ann Shoket. It was probably back in her days as editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, a publication I read whenever I could get my hands on in high school. It could've been when I first moved to New York and started hearing the same names repeated by the women I worked with—women who inspired them and who ran the NYC circle of mentors I so badly wanted to be a part of. Either way, Ann's name is engrained in my mind as a go-getter who is out to help others achieve the kind of success she has in her career—an understanding that could not be more true as I have gotten to know her while reading The Big Life over the past few weeks. Let's just say it this way: I've never met Ann, but I know she's in my corner. As a young woman building my career in the best and most challenging city in the world, her advice and writing has been a turning point for me.

I found myself wanting to highlight and write down more sections of the book than would be practical (if you highlight everything, you just have a  yellow book that you need to reread for tips!), but I was able to pull out a few major lessons that will stick with me far beyond my first read-through. 

More than just reading what I've learned from The Big Life, though, I want you to go out and learn for yourself. You can get your own copy of the book here and connect with Ann here. And if you're interested in having a badass babes dinner with me, PLEASE reach out. I am ready!

You can’t boil the ocean, but you should at least want to.
— Ann Shoket, 'The Big Life'
Image courtesy of Levo League.

Image courtesy of Levo League.


1. Not knowing where to start is normal—and it's okay. I've been so focused on building my own Big Life that sometimes I worry that I didn't set off on the right path or start building my career the right way. Well, it doesn't have to be that way, because Ann has put together the guide for becoming a badass babe that doesn't make me feel alone for wondering where to begin.

2. Change is normal—embrace it! This is something I've been struggling with for a while. I'm not sure exactly what I want to do with my career, but it's not identical to what I wanted to do in high school or even college. But as Ann puts it, "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.”

3. You're never going to avoid FOMO—but know how much to value it. I'm the queen of wanting to do more—run more, work more, write more, network more. But frankly, it's exhausting, and I appreciate Ann's candor in acknowledging that.  "The feeling isn’t motivating; it’s paralyzing,” she says. And then she offers tips to help you move past it.

4. Building a squad is essential—but it doesn't have to happen right away. I have been out of school for about two years and am constantly worrying that I haven't found the 'squad' that will help me get to the next level in my career. I know women who are constantly talking about texting a friend who can help them meet so-and-so, or connecting with some powerhouse over drinks every night of the week, and it makes me feel like I'm behind. But while Ann praises the power of the squad throughout The Big Life, she also lets us know it's okay not to have one right away. “I never had a squad until I was much further along in my career," she says. Cue sigh of relief on my end!

5. Work-life balance is a sham. I know it, you know it, we all know it. But don't tell me it isn't comforting to hear someone as accomplished as Ann put down the concept as clearly as she does in the book. I try my best to balance work and play, but sometimes it just isn't possible. The best way to make for a happy life is to know when to go all in on work and when to take a step back—because what's the point of building a Big Life if you have no time to enjoy it?

6. Embrace the mess. Ah, life. It's messy business—and I wish more people would acknowledge that! One of my favorite quotes from this book touches on that point: "Life can get messy when you’re not following your heart.” At times that I truly feel like I've gotten off track and am out of control, it's usually when I'm not following my heart. It happens, but it's also avoidable when you truly listen to yourself and adapt your journey with every step you take.