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The Big Life

Written by: Ann Shoket
Published: March 14, 2017


"The Big Life" by Ann Shoket, a former editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, is a guidebook aimed at young women navigating the complexities of modern life. The book is filled with advice, stories, and insights intended to help readers find success and fulfillment on their own terms.

Shoket begins by addressing the aspirations and challenges that young women face today. She acknowledges the pressures to succeed in a career, maintain a social life, and balance personal and professional goals. The book champions the idea that women can have it all, but it also emphasizes that 'having it all' is a personal definition, unique to each individual.

One of the core concepts of "The Big Life" is the rejection of traditional career ladders in favor of what Shoket calls "the Big Life path." This path is non-linear and allows for exploration, risk-taking, and personal growth. Shoket encourages readers to embrace their ambitions, take chances, and not be afraid to step off the conventional path to find what truly fulfills them.

The book also tackles the topic of mentorship and networking. Shoket stresses the importance of building a "squad" – a support network of friends, mentors, and colleagues. She offers practical advice on how to establish and nurture these relationships and how they can be instrumental in navigating career and life choices.

Shoket touches on the significance of resilience in the face of failure. She highlights that setbacks and mistakes are integral to the journey. Instead of viewing them as defeats, she suggests seeing them as valuable learning experiences that contribute to personal and professional growth.

Another key aspect of "The Big Life" is the emphasis on personal branding. Shoket advises readers to be mindful of how they present themselves, both in person and online. She argues that a strong personal brand can open doors and create opportunities.

The book also addresses work-life balance, encouraging readers to find their own equilibrium. Shoket suggests that balance is not about equal time for all aspects of life but about feeling fulfilled and in control of how one's time and energy are spent.

Shoket includes various anecdotes and stories from successful women who have carved their own paths. These stories serve as inspiration and illustrate the diverse ways in which the principles of "The Big Life" can be applied.

The book concludes with a call to action for young women to define success on their own terms and to pursue their version of "The Big Life" with confidence and determination.

Final Thoughts

"The Big Life" is a motivational read that combines practical career advice with a broader discussion on life choices. It's a manifesto for young women to live boldly, embrace their ambitions, and build a life that is rich, fulfilling, and uniquely theirs. Shoket's message is clear: the path to "The Big Life" is there for the taking, and it's up to each individual to define what that looks like for them.

10 Big Ideas

1. Redefining Success

Success is a personal concept and should be defined on your own terms. It's about finding what truly fulfills you, not just following societal expectations.

2. Embracing a Non-Linear Path

The traditional career ladder is no longer the only path to success. Embrace a non-linear journey that allows for exploration, change, and growth.

3. The Importance of a Support Network

Building a "squad" of mentors, friends, and colleagues is crucial. These relationships provide support, advice, and opportunities.

4. Learning from Setbacks

Failure and setbacks are not the end of the road but valuable learning experiences. Resilience in the face of adversity is key to long-term success.

5. Personal Branding

A strong personal brand can be a powerful tool. Be mindful of how you present yourself, both in person and online, to shape the opportunities that come your way.

6. Work-Life Balance

Find your unique balance between professional aspirations and personal well-being. It’s about feeling in control and fulfilled, not necessarily dividing time equally.

7. Taking Risks

Risk-taking is often necessary for significant growth. Don't shy away from stepping out of your comfort zone to pursue your ambitions.

8. Authenticity

Be authentic in your pursuits. Authenticity resonates with others and leads to more meaningful achievements and relationships.

9. Continuous Learning

Adopt a mindset of continuous learning and self-improvement. Staying curious and open to new experiences fuels personal and professional growth.

10. Action-Oriented Approach

Finally, "The Big Life" encourages taking proactive steps towards your goals. Dreaming big is important, but taking action is what brings those dreams to life.

5 Exercises

Exercise 1: Define Your Own Success

Objective: To create a personal definition of success.

  • Reflect on what success truly means to you, beyond societal expectations.
  • Write down your vision of success, including career, relationships, personal growth, and other life areas.
  • Review and update this definition regularly as your goals and perspectives evolve.
Exercise 2: Build Your Support Network

Objective: To establish and nurture a network of mentors and peers.

  • Identify individuals who inspire you or can offer guidance – these could be colleagues, industry professionals, friends, or family.
  • Reach out to these individuals for advice, mentorship, or just regular check-ins.
  • Actively maintain these relationships through regular communication and mutual support.
Exercise 3: Embrace and Learn from Failures

Objective: To develop resilience by learning from setbacks.

  • Reflect on a recent setback or failure and write down what happened and why.
  • Identify the lessons learned and how you can apply these in the future.
  • Develop a plan to address similar situations more effectively going forward.
Exercise 4: Craft Your Personal Brand

Objective: To develop a strong and authentic personal brand.

  • Analyze how you present yourself in professional settings and on social media.
  • Determine the key messages you want to convey about your skills, values, and goals.
  • Implement these into your professional materials and online presence.
Exercise 5: Risk-Taking Action Plan

Objective: To encourage taking calculated risks for growth.

  • Identify a goal or project that feels ambitious but exciting.
  • Break down the necessary steps to achieve this goal, including potential risks and how to mitigate them.
  • Commit to taking the first step and evaluate your progress regularly.

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