Author of 'The Big Life' and Former Editor-In-Chief of Seventeen on Dream Jobs and Dreaming Big
It’s safe to say Ann Shoket knows a lot about growing up as a girl. Not only does she have first-hand experience, but, as Seventeen’s former EIC, she’s also helped literally millions of girls do the same. Now she’s trading print pubs for another kind of written word: a book. The Big Life (out today!) wraps years of super smart life advice into one small must-read. But because not all of Ann's wisdom fit in the hardback, we reached out to find out more.
There's a lot to be said about outgrowing your dream job. Seventeen EIC is a dream job for many; what was it like to figure out your next move?
When I was editor in chief of Seventeen, and one of the launch editors of CosmoGIRL before that, we had such deep, meaningful, complicated conversations about how you grow into the woman you’re meant to be. Why does that stop when you’re 20 years old and your subscription expires? I knew I wanted to continue the conversation as this generation of young women who grew up with me moved into the next phase of their lives when the emotions are even more complicated and the stakes are even higher.
Where did the idea of having a "big life" first come from for you?
This generation of young women is laser focused on career, ambition, and success in an unprecedented way—I mean, you know, this is YOU. In the last two years, as part of the research for the book, I had hundreds of young women around my dining room table. We ate pizza and talked about the itchy emotions around being young, hungry, and ambitious. I always ask, "When you were 16, what did you imagine your life would be like now?" Whether they could name their dream or it was just a feeling they were chasing, I heard again and again that young women wanted to do something BIG.
I believe that we all spend our lives trying to honor that dream of what we wanted to be when we were 16. I have interviewed some of the most powerful and influential women in the world: Madeleine Albright, Arianna Huffington, Martha Stewart, even Taylor Swift, who was just a newbie with a MySpace page when I first met her. And they ALL remember what they wanted to be when they were 16. It’s the first moment you pick up your head and see your possibility in the world.
We love the advice about embracing your "mess." For those who have perfectionist tendencies, how do we start welcoming messiness?
When you are young, hungry, and ambitious, and you want to make your mark on the world, you have to say yes to everything: side-hustles, passion projects, task-forces. A big life is a messy life. But you have to see that mess as the mojo that’s keeping you moving closer to your dream. Embrace the mess!
After dispensing wisdom to girls for decades, what's your best advice for getting through those often tough teen years?
Working through all those complicated, uncomfortable feelings and all those doubts and fears is making you stronger and braver than you ever imagined you could be. You are proving to yourself that you can handle more than you thought you could—and succeed! You are pure possibility at this moment. Anything is possible. This is your life and it’s going to be BIG!
What do you wish you could have told teenage Ann?
Be fearless, try everything, don’t plan too much.