Former Seventeen Editor and Author Ann Shoket On "The Big Life," Sisterhood, and More
Since she was 16, Ann Shoket dreamed of moving to the Big Apple and becoming a writer — a future that made her then punk rock friend Jen "dubious."
But despite the doubts, the possibility was endless to the girl who was at an age of "pure potential." So she never stopped fighting for it.
Read her exclusive Q&A with MAKERS below to learn about her new book "The Big Life," the importance of telling women's stories and following your dreams, and her teenage feeling of possibility that got her to where she is today.
Q. According to your book, what does it mean to have a Big Life?
A. The Big Life is a life on your own terms. Millennial women couldn’t care less about “having it all,” whatever that means. They want a career of twists and turns and adventure. They want a relationship that feels like a partnership. They have side-hustles and passion projects. They want to move up, move ahead, move around. But they’re not even sure they want to be at the top. They want to carve their own path. They don’t subscribe to someone else’s idea of what their lives should look like. Happiness is important to them above all else. They are re-writing the rules for work, love and life…for everyone.
Q. What does your book offer readers that other self-help, career books do not?
A. Sisterhood. The goal of the book is to create a sisterhood of women who are working through the trickiest bits of who you're meant to be together. As part of the research for the book, I had a series of dinners at my place — 6 or 8 young women around my dinner table drinking rose and eating fancy frozen pizza. I call them the Badass Babes Dinners because the women are the game-changing, rockstar pioneers you want to have in your orbit. We talked about all the itchy emotions around being young, hungry, ambitious and wanting to make your mark on the world. Over the course of two years I had dozens of dinners (and still counting) and the women at my table honestly and bravely shared their stories and tips and tricks to help other women who are going through the same complicated issues. I’ve started a weekly Badass Babes newsletter, to keep the conversations going. And I’ve created a guide so other women can host their own dinners and craft their own conversations. I Skype into the dinners whenever I can.
Q. Was there one thing in your life that stood in your way of having a Big Life? What was it? How did you overcome it?
A. I almost didn’t throw my hat in the ring to be editor-in-chief of Seventeen, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t find a partner. I was 34, single and dating. I was worried that I wouldn’t have time for a personal life if I took such a demanding job. And actually, a lot of people around me agreed — Yes, I would be too busy for dinners and drinks. Yes, men are intimidated by successful women. What an agonizing feeling to be torn between personal and professional success! But it was my best girl friend who told me to go for the job and worry about dating later. And she was right. It wasn’t until I had pushed myself to see how much I could achieve on my own that I was ready to meet someone who could be my partner. And 10 months after I got the big job, on a random night out, I met the amazing man who would become my husband…and he wasn’t intimidated by my ambition—he loved it. He has been my biggest champion!
Q. What is one piece of advice that you would give women of all ages that you did not include in the book?
A. We should all be more millennial. We are all being asked to prepare for careers that are longer and more unpredictable than we expected. So many women talk about reinventing themselves for second acts…we should take our cues from young women who are inventing themselves for the first time with their rule-breaking approach to work, life and love!
Q. What do you think it means to be a "MAKER"?
A. To make the world work for you — on your own terms! Isn’t that what we all want in life?
Q. Why (if at all) do you believe it is important for women's stories to be told?
A. The stories that the women around my dining room table told about themselves created a safe place for them to honest about their ambitions and how hard it is to make your mark on the world. It’s not a conversation you can have with your boss — you can’t be that vulnerable with her. You can’t talk to your co-workers — you're still a little competitive with them. Your mom probably doesn’t understand the texture of your life. But at the end of the day, over pizza and wine, they were able to toss away the Instagram-perfect image they spent all day projecting to the world and connect. The more they shared, the more they felt validated. The more they felt seen. That’s the power in telling your story. We’re all in this together.
Q. What is one thing about your life story that most people do not know?
A. When I was 16 I told my punk rock friend Jen that I wanted to move to New York and be a writer. We were sitting in her bedroom, eating cool ranch Doritos and shredding the knees of our jeans. Jen looked at me through her pink bangs and said, "I'm dubious." I didn't even know what dubious meant, but I knew it wasn’t good! And so I stopped talking to Jen about my dreams. But I never stopped wanting it. I think we spend our whole lives trying to chase that 16-year old feeling of possibility. In that moment you are pure potential. That’s the feeling we should all hold on to at every stage of our lives. And now that "The Big Life" is out, I want to tell my 16-year-old self how awesome it’s all going to be!
"The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be" is available online and in stores now.
Last night's launch party for The Big Life was Christmas, New Years, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one! We had a STANDING ROOM ONLY crowd at @neuehouse! We talked love, ambition, money, success. We ate pizza and drank wine! Thank you for all your love and sisterhood! The Big Life keeps getting BIGGER! XOXO --A. #thebiglife #badassbabes
Photo Credit: Anne Menke