The BEST Life Advice For 2015 — From 16 Bona Fide Superwomen

PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Our favorite thing about the end of the year isn't the tinsel or the party dresses or the excuse to wear metallic makeup...or even the cookies. (Although, don't get us wrong, we love all of those things.) What we most enjoy about this part of December is the opportunity to reflect — on the year behind us, the year ahead, and what we want out of life, for all the years to come.
In honor of that moment of introspection and level-setting for a new year, we're looking back at the best life advice we got from some of the most powerful, inspiring women out there: this year's boundary-pushing, ceiling-shattering, success-redefining Superwomen.
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These 16 ladies each sat down with us for a gorgeous, in-depth feature, culminating in the 30+ badass pieces of advice ahead. These are the nuggets of wisdom that you don't hear everywhere else — straight from some of the most powerful women in the country. Meaning, you want to pay attention and take heed. This is your secret weapon for what could be the best year of your life.
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Create Your Own Path (In Guitar & All Things)
"Practice. Learn and then unlearn — that's the trick in finding your own style of playing. You can't merely emulate, you have to innovate, or at the very least create your own path into the process."
Carrie Brownstein, writer, actress, musician, Portlandia co-creator
2 of 32
PHOTOGRAPHED BY FRAN PARENTE.
Negotiate!
"I absolutely want to say three things to young women about how to negotiate salary and to find their true value to a company. The first is they just have to negotiate. There was a study done within the last year that identified that over the course of a lifetime, women end up something like one-and-a-half million dollars behind men of equal ability and on equal career paths because from the very moment out of college, starting at their very first job interview, men negotiate salary and women don’t.

"We have this ridiculous scenario where men always think they’re worth way more than they are and negotiate accordingly, and we [women] always think we’re worth way less than we are and are pathetically grateful for anything we get offered. So, the first point is: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. You must. The key thing to know, though, is that as always, with everything else in the workplace, we are subject to an appalling double standard. When men negotiate they are seen as confident, assertive, go-getting. When women negotiate, both women and men don’t like it. The bias is innately subconscious, unfortunately, within women as much as men.

"My second point is that to women, I think, the very word ‘negotiate’ holds a sort of horror of ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to step up, be tough, do all that stuff that men do.’ Absolutely not. Negotiate in your own way. A negotiation is simply a negotiation, and you can negotiate any way you want.

"The third point I would make is, in the context of being valued for what you’re worth in the company, women fall into the trap of thinking that they need mentors. But, what I say to women is this: Strike the word ‘mentor’ from your vocabulary. You need champions. Because men champion men automatically. Within the workplace, a senior man, the CEO, will look at a young male and go, ‘He’s just like I was at his age. I can see myself in him.’"
Cindy Gallop, ad executive and founder of Make Love Not Porn
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ELIZABETH WEINBERG.
Remember: You Don't Have To "Think Like A Man" To Be Successful
"People always say you can’t take that stuff personally, but that has never worked for me. I actually do take things personally and that’s okay, too. I do feel like our work is personal and sometimes we feel personally about it. I think one of the great gifts of being a woman in the world is that we take things personally — and our work is different because of it.

"I don’t ever try to back away from what the female version of a showrunner looks like. I never try to do my job like a man; I’m trying to do my job like a woman. I do take things personally and I do very much care about the feelings of everyone including our crew, our cast, and our writers. And, I think we have a very functional cast and crew because of it, not despite it."
Jenni Konner, co-executive producer, Girls
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY TINA TYRELL.
Be Strategic — Even When You're Angry
"There's a lot to be angry about. I think we have to have outlets to express that anger. And so, I wouldn’t necessarily tell someone, or any woman, to soften yourself so that people will like you more, but I think it's all about strategy. What are your goals when you go into certain spaces? How do you show up in those spaces and what do you want to say? So, I wouldn’t say 'Fuck it, just go out and rage.' I think sometimes you need to do that, but sometimes you want to be strategic. I always talk about there's someone who's working from the inside and someone who's working from the outside, and we need both people. We need all forms. Martin Luther King wouldn’t be able to do the work if it weren’t for Jesse Jackson, on the front lines, yelling."
Janet Mock, journalist and activist
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY JESSICA HAYE AND CLARK HSIAO.
Be Your Own Role Model
“In #GIRLBOSS, I talk a lot about being your own idol — that when you look up, you keep yourself down. I prefer competing with myself rather than others. And, I do my best work in a vacuum. My dad said at dinner the other night something that I really loved — he said, ‘Hope is not a strategy,’ which is so true. The best things happen with not only hope, but ingenuity, self-awareness, and a lot of elbow grease. That’s when the real magic happens.”
Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO Nasty Gal Vintage
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY TINA TYRELL.
Clothes Matter — Don't Pretend Otherwise
“Pay a bit more attention to what you wear, funny enough. I do think it’s oddly important — and I don’t think I cared enough when I was younger. It’s partly because the options weren’t as good as they are now. I think now, readers at R29 or Cosmo are spoiled by choices. You have amazing choices in Zara or H&M, Express, Club Monaco, Ann Taylor…on the lower end of the scale. And, of course, I could spend my life in Barneys or on Net-A-Porter. But, there were fewer great choices when I was growing up. My hair was kind of a mess, and I didn't want to be judged on what I looked like. I didn’t realize that people were doing that anyway, so you might as well pay attention to it.”
Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and editorial director of Seventeen
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Don't Say Maybe
"I think the most crucial thing is to learn how to say 'no' rather than 'maybe.' Women want to be liked, so we say 'maybe' to things, whether it’s sexual relations or friendships or work relations, and that word gets you into trouble. 'Maybe' is a bad word, because then [the other person] keeps coming back to you, and you feel guilty. So, saying 'no' early is key.

“What I found is that it’s easiest to say no to entire categories of things, and you get more flexibility to do that at work the more senior you become. When I worked at HBS, one woman didn’t travel outside of Boston. I didn’t go to conferences. I never wrote anything in an edited journal. These were categories of things, and that’s how I made my peace with it. "
Debora Spar, president of Barnard College
8 of 32
Don't Micromanage Your Dreams
“Live for the moment. It’s all about your perception. When you can change the way you look at things, the things you look at start to change.”
Jamie Anderson, Olympic gold medalist
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Contribute Something
"It’s obvious, but [you want to] add value wherever you are, in life [or] in work. As long as you’re adding value, I think you’re putting yourself in a good position and you’re putting your organization in a good position. As long as you focus on contributing, anticipating where you can add value, just taking responsibility without having to be asked, that's it."
Rachel Haot, chief digital officer and deputy secretary of technology, New York State
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Don't Fear The Mistakes
"Don’t be afraid of not knowing, or making a mistake. That’s where the learning comes from, by not knowing and asking for help. Mistakes are the crash-courses. When I was in Europe in the '80s, we had a terrible quality problems with the snowboards that only impacted my market. It was bad — the bindings would rip out of the boards when people were riding them. It was one production run and they all ended up in Switzerland, and it was really difficult for me to manage through it. But, in the end we were so determined for that to never happen again, that we became quality freaks. That has really served us well.”
Donna Carpenter, co-founder of Burton Snowboards
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY TINA TYRELL.
Don't Be Afraid To Blur Work With Life
"For me, [having my main studio in my house] works. It couldn’t work any other way. I’m so invested in that little girl that I used to be, who was told certain things and raised a particular way, that it is kind of a pleasure for me to have my girls witness this as a norm — as a normal way of living. There’s no shame and problem in how I work, and I’m not tucking my art into one little corner of the afternoon. It's on the weekend, it's every day, and they also see how serious it is, and how sometimes I have to be away from them, travel, go to openings, do whatever."
Wangechi Mutu, artist and sculptor
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ELIZABETH WEINBERG.
Ignore The Haters
"You can’t take anything online personally, especially if it is negative. You can have 10 positive comments, but the one negative comment will get to you. I learned you have to stay focused on the people who love and support you…. Remember that hate comments can be a cry for help or attention. I recommend not responding at all, but if you do, be kind."
Bethany Mota, YouTube star
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY AMY HARRITY
Hire People Who Are Better Than You
"Find and invest in the very best team you can. It is so critically important to find and hire people who are better than you. It’s probably even harder as a business owner and founder, to let that sink in, because you are the one with the ideas and the vision, but [good people] are really imperative if you want to grow."
Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Plan Ahead For Parties & Work Events
"For the purpose of networking, you have got to channel [confidence]. You have to walk in the room with something prepared to talk about. Have a five-point checklist of things that are interesting that you can talk about it. Two of them should be social and three of them should have to do with your career or the event at hand.

“Shy people have to plan ahead more when they go into rooms like that. And, project your voice. I don’t mean scream, even though I’m screaming right now. Also, nobody likes a weak handshake. Anytime I shake someone’s hand and it’s weak, I’m like, ‘Oh, weak.’ And, I immediately do an entire character assessment. Finally, give firm eye contact.”
Wendy Williams, TV and radio personality, producer and writer
15 of 32
Don't Take Your Stress Home
"We always try to remember that at the end of the day, it’s just cookies. Don’t stress that hard, because it’s a terrible thing to take home with you."
Christina Tosi, founder, Momofuku Milk Bar
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
"Competitive" Isn't A Dirty Word
"Early on, I was a female publisher at an all-men’s magazine. And, back to 1976, or whatever, I was the only girl in an all-boys cross-country team. I'm just very comfortable with being competitive. I think one of the things you have to focus on — accepting your competitiveness as not being a negative thing. And, once you can [acknowledge] that it’s okay or that being tough is still feminine, then you’re home free.”
Gina Sanders, president of global development, Conde Nast
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY FRAN PARENTE.
Sometimes, You Have To Ignore Your Biggest Obstacles
“It was obviously very male-dominated in the upper echelons of the [advertising] industry — and it still is. But, to be frank, as a young woman in her 20s — and I think this is true still, for most of the young women in their 20s today — I didn’t notice. Because that was the way it was, and I just loved advertising. I worked really hard, and to be honest, coming up through the advertising ranks on the career ladder, I really never stopped to think about how male-dominated it was.”
Cindy Gallop
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Don't Let The World See You're Not Strong
"What do I say to women that don’t have the strength? You’d better find it. Because, the world will run you over. Nobody has time to wait for you to get strong. And, none of us are strong in the beginning, but you can’t let the world see that you’re not strong. Through the sleepless nights of crying and loneliness, [you've got] to do your hustle."
Wendy Williams
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Create Your Own Board Of Directors
“I’ve cultivated a lot of mentors over the years. As an entrepreneur you sometimes think that you’re the first person to ever go through this, and chances are, you’re not. It’s always comforting when someone else says they’ve dealt with it as well. It gives you perspective. So, one thing I always tell women to do, is to create their own board of directors. I have people around me that are interested in seeing me succeed and give me candid feedback. I think that sometimes we develop blind spots, so [to] have people that will really call bullshit on you, and get you to look at the stuff that maybe you don’t want to look at, is helpful."
Donna Carpenter
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Take The Crazy Risks!
"The one thing I'd always say about career choices is: choose the less conventional by design. In fact, I always joke that I know I’m on the right path if my peers think, Oh my God, she was fired! Because, that means I’ve done something that doesn’t make conventional sense."
Gina Sanders
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY JESSICA HAYE AND CLARK HSIAO.
Nothing Can Compete With Hands-On Experience
“When I look back on the early days, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for that time in my life. It was hard, but fun, and there was something new to learn every day. Quite honestly, I’m so glad that I can say that I feel the same today, but the lessons are very different. I’m dreaming up big ideas rather than executing small ones — but without the meticulous hands-on work I did in the early days, we wouldn’t have a brand today.”
Sophia Amoruso
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Follow Your Passion
"I love this James Baldwin quote: 'You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life, you won't live any life at all.'"
Carrie Brownstein
23 of 32
PHOTOGRAPHED BY CLARKE TOLTON.
Ground Yourself & Don't Overthink Things
“[Always be] learning new tricks; the stuff we’re doing is really next-level, it’s big and dangerous. You have to be in tune with yourself and trust your instincts and find that balance between the fear and the excitement. If one thing is off, it can go extremely wrong. So, making sure I’m really connected to myself is important. Almost every time I’m stuck in my head or overthinking something is when I get injured. You’re using your physical, mental, emotional self [on the slopes] — all of the elements need to be connected in order to accomplish it."
Jamie Anderson
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY TINA TYRELL.
Try To Learn From EVERY Job
"Even if it's not your dream job, there's always something you can learn from being in that space. What do you want to take away from this, how can you be intentional about the work that you do every day? You spend most of your time in the office wherever you're at, right? So, if you're gonna be there from 10 to 6, what do you want to take away from that?"
Janet Mock
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Remember That Mentorship Should Be A Two-Way Street
"It’s important to have mentors, and people to look up to. But, sometimes, the way this advice is presented, especially to younger people, it’s almost selfish. In every mentorship relationship that I’ve had, I’ve always seen it as more of an exchange, where perhaps the more experienced person is imparting wisdom to the less experienced person, but then the less experienced person also perhaps has a unique perspective or access or approach that’s very valuable. That’s what I would say, if people give you this advice to find a mentor, I think it’s important to sort of look for a symbiotic relationship that’s really a two-way street. It’s not like finding someone and sort of leaning on them. If you’re looking for a mentor, make sure that you’re as focused on what you’re contributing as to what you’re getting out of it.”
Rachel Haot
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY WINNIE AU.
Know When You've Outgrown A Job (& When You Haven't)
"If I put my mind to something, I’m going to own it like it’s mine, regardless. I think [David Chang] saw that. Every job I had prior, I left because there was a point where I stopped feeling challenged and there wasn’t room for me to grow. I think he saw that in order to retain me that was going to be a big part of it. He knew I always wanted a bakery, and he said, ‘You helped me accomplish so much of my dream and vision, and I want to do the same for you.’"
Christina Tosi
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY TINA TYRELL.
You Really Can Do Anything (But Find A Support System To Help You)
"You're way more capable than you think. I remember in my 20s, or even in my 30s — my god, I couldn’t birth a child. How do you make your art and raise kids and still retain respect in a very male-dominated art world? How do you go, 'I’m still an artist; I'm a mom-artist. I'm an artist and I'm a mother?'

"It's hard, but it's doable, and it's doable in dignified ways. I can't [overstate] how important it is to have a supportive group of friends and an extremely supportive — in my case — husband. My partner, he's into the program. He gets it, he loves it. He's not intimidated or frightened by what I do.

"That is important for women, I think, because when you have kids, your vulnerability is much higher, so if you don’t have a protective group around you, things could get kind of difficult for you and your children."
Wangechi Mutu
28 of 32
Own Every Part Of Your Multi-Faceted Personality
"I’m constantly impressed by Kirsten Gillibrand, who's one of the smartest people you can come across. You can talk about the banking crisis, the Middle East, or childcare with her. You can also talk about whether she’s wearing Oscar de la Renta. I don’t understand why men are allowed to talk about sports and women aren’t allowed to talk about fashion. And somehow, women who do talk about fashion are taken less seriously than men who drone very boringly on about sports."
Joanna Coles
29 of 32
Never Let Them See You Cry
“I’m hardcore. Don’t cry in the office. Obviously, if you hear horrible personal news, that’s one thing. But, if you get upset at work, don’t cry. Go to the bathroom, or go for a walk. Screaming in the office isn’t professional, and there’s a whole range of unprofessional office behaviors — but, crying is absolutely one of them."
Debora Spar
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ELIZABETH WEINBERG.
Don't Chase Fame
"I always wanted to create content. I can say that this is my job, but I don’t see it that way. I always think about what I can create for my audience, not what they can do for me. Because, wanting to be famous on YouTube is already the wrong mindset. Going in wanting something for yourself is going to make it feel like a chore."
Bethany Mota
31 of 32
PHOTOGRAPHED BY AMY HARRITY.
Take A Leap (& Then Mentor Someone Else To)
"I think women should step up by taking that leap to start companies and take our ideas forward, and [do] things on our own. There is no lack of entrepreneurial spirit among women. But, really being able to find those resources and networks that encourage women to go down that start-up path is important. We need to have women as role models, both inside and outside corporate America’s leading tech companies, leading the path for other women."
Kimberly Bryant
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PHOTOGRAPHED BY ELIZABETH WEINBERG.
Tell Your Own Truth
"Until I met Judd [Apatow] there were not a lot of people telling me how important the truth in my work would be. Telling your most truthful story can be really really powerful, but before I met Judd that was not something I was in touch with. And then, when I met Lena [Dunham] it became much more crystalline. She is my very young mentor for that reason — because she is so good at bringing the truth to everything."
Jenni Konner