How Millennial Chicks Are Changing the Meaning of Success
(Excerpted from The Big Life: Embrace The Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be [Rodale, March 14, 2017])
If we’re being honest, at one point, your idea of a successful woman probably looked a lot like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. It’s a seductive fantasy of sexy work parties, chic new clothes, hot restaurants, and handsome power players. Carrie’s life is enviable. She pecks away on her computer between shopping and brunches with friends, her musings becoming fodder for her very own column. She’s in control of her time and also her money, and we all know where most of that goes: shoes.
Or maybe you imagined your first job would look more like Andy Sachs’s in The Devil Wears Prada. She’s full of fierce integrity with a vision that the world will one day recognize her talent. Andy knows in her heart that she has something big to contribute, and she’s desperate to make her mark on the world on her own terms (sound familiar?). But first she’s got to learn what the world wants from her — which turns out to be getting an ultrahot, 180-degree Starbucks coffee in record time.
But in the end, Andy realizes her true purpose and ditches it all (except the hair and makeup) for a job that speaks to her soul. That’s the enduring allure of Andy: We all want to make our work matter — to ourselves and to the world.
These are both amazing fairy tales, but when you look at the reality of your life now, they feel so…dated, don’t they?
In Sex and the City, despite the flashy careers of the main characters, their power is largely reflected by the men they’re dating. Mr. Big? I mean, come on! He’s about as emotionally supportive as a houseplant. The only thing appealing about him was his car and driver! Who needs that now? You’ve got Uber.
The only thing appealing about Mr. Big was his car and driver! Who needs that now? You’ve got Uber.
While Andy Sachs’s job might be tough at times, it’s only one job. How hard is it to fetch coffee and answer a phone? The entry-level assistant job is basically a relic. The job “a million girls would kill for” looks completely different today. If Andy were an “assistant” at Runway now, she’d be posting to social media, filing stories for the website, filming digital videos for the YouTube site, fact-checking senior reporters, following up with corporate on e-commerce initiatives, and building the influencer network.
Listen: You know you can’t fast-forward to the part where you are the rock star CEO or you’ve closed a big Series A for your kick-ass start-up. And so you see your early gigs of coffee fetching and schedule keeping as the medicine you have to take to get to where you really want to be in the world. But the tricky part is that where you want to be, and the path to get there, could be different from anything anyone’s ever done before.
THE NEW WORK-WORLD ORDER
I spent the early part of my journalism career interviewing powerful women about the secrets of their success and their advice to young women. Martha Stewart said, “Don’t stab people in the back.” Madeleine Albright said, “You have to be extra smart and well prepared…women have to try twice as hard.” Barbara Walters, my personal role model, gave me a quote that has become a mantra for me: “Don’t imagine that your life now is the way it’s always going to be. You have no idea the adventures in store for you. You have no idea how interesting your life can become.” All amazing advice. But these are icons from a different generation, when there was basically one woman at the table and she was a pioneer simply by insisting that everyone move over a little and make room for her to sit down. They challenged the traditional roles carved out for women, and their values represent some level of gratitude at the chance to be heard. That’s not your fight. You’re at the table. Now you want to customize your role and write new rules that work for you, and if that disrupts the status quo, bring it on! Ultimately you want freedom — from the office, from the entrenched ways of doing things, from the entitlement swipes from your bosses from the narrow definition of success that puts money or status above happiness.
Where you want to be, and the path to get there, could be different from anything anyone’s ever done before.
You know you have more to offer than the world is letting you. And yet, here is the truth: You are revolution — you might not see it now, but I do. I’ve been at the front lines of the changing tastes and values of young women for the last 15 years and this generation — your generation — is so laser-focused on personal success and achievement in an unprecedented way. Still, I know it’s hard to feel like you’re leading a revolution when you’re just one girl who is desperate to move up or move around in her career.
It’s hard to do big things, and you’ve got to give yourself credit for every victory, big and small. Yeah, it might be impossible to feel like you’re crushing it when you’re doing crappy tasks for your boss while other chicks are meeting with investors and giving talks at SXSW — but the next time you’re standing in line waiting for your boss’s chai latte, borrow my mantra: your life now isn’t the way it’s always going to be. You have no idea the adventures in store for you and you have no idea how interesting your life can become.
The Big Life will be out March 14, 2017. Can’t wait to read more? Pre-order your copy on Amazon now.