Welcome to Life Lessons with Arianna Huffington, Francesca Martinez and Laura Bates discussing the 22 things every woman should know
Words: Lucy Foster. Photography: Getty Images, Rex Features
The world is still full of inspiration if you know where to look. And from national sporting heroes and Booker Prize-winning authors, to boundary-breaking artists and the brains behind the biggest global businesses, there’s certainly no shortage of women in this world who can teach us a thing or two about living life well.
Because let’s face it, life can get a bit tough sometimes, and good advice – which more often than not restrains us from spending an entire month’s wages on a pair of shoes – can also keep things in perspective in an increasingly complex world. Which is why we have launched our exceptionally exciting new Life Lessons series, a programme of talks from some of the most accomplished women around.
Last month saw media entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, comedian Francesca Martinez, and Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, take to the stage at our inaugural event at the Ham Yard Hotel in London’s Soho, where they regaled 175 lucky Stylist readers with the single most important life lesson they have learned.
Readers were also lucky enough to witness Francesca divulging her toilet habits to a room full of shocked faces; Arianna describing her everso-thoughtful gift from her ex-husband just before their divorce – elocution lessons so she could ‘sort out’ her Greek accent; and Laura’s humbling tales of women from the world’s farthest-flung countries reaching out to her with their experiences of sexual harassment.
It was an inspiring evening. But if you missed out, don’t fret. The Life Lessons series will become a mainstay on the Stylist calendar. We can also exclusively reveal tickets to our next event, featuring life lessons from Kirstie Allsopp, are on sale now (page 52). Until then, we’ve condensed the most valuable lessons of the night; prized and hard learned, direct from some of the world’s most impressive women. We think it deserves a place on your wall.
Arianna Huffington: “Value your well being above money and power”
Arianna Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post. She is the author of 14 books and has featured on Time magazine’s list of the world’s most influential people
1. "Something in our culture has made us identify with our jobs so strongly that we’ve come to believe we are our jobs. I love my job, and that’s a real blessing, but I know
I am not my job. Recently, I was doing an interview with Oprah and one of the things she asks all of her guests is: what do you know for sure? I said, ‘However magnificent your job is, you are, in your essence, more magnificent.'"
2. "Every night, give up something that no longer serves you. It could be a grudge, negative emotion such as jealousy, or a project that you were going to embark on, like in my case: learning to be a good skier. By dropping an unreachable project, you complete it. Now, while my children go skiing, I sit by the fire and read. Heaven."
3. "We know much more about the state of our smartphone than we do about the state of our own being. If you have an iPhone, like I do, you’ll get alerts saying ‘20% battery remaining’, ‘17% remaining’. By about 13% you’ll get really nervous and start searching for a charger. Why don’t we feel that way about ourselves? When I collapsed from exhaustion seven years ago, I must have been below 0% battery but I wasn’t even aware of it. We’ve created a ‘new normal’, where we think being burnt-out is the price we pay for success – a complete delusion. Even God worked for six days then took the seventh day off."
4. "Try unplugging. Padmasree Warrior is the chief technology officer at [multinational tech company] Cisco. She oversees tens of thousands of engineers. I saw her speak at a conference in New York and she said, ‘I sleep for eight hours a night, I meditate, and every Saturday I do a digital detox. I thought to myself, ‘If she oversees thousands of engineers and she can do a digital detox, so can I."
5. "Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s the stepping stone to success. Ignore that negative voice in your head. I call mine my ‘obnoxious roommate’. It has been the bane of my existence, telling me my accent was awful and I had to do everything I could to change it, especially while I was at Cambridge University and everyone was making fun of me. Then I moved to New York and met Henry Kissinger. He said, ‘Never worry about your accent because in American public life you can never overestimate the advantages of complete and total incomprehensibility.' He made me see things with a bit of humour."
6. "There’s nothing worse than comparing ourselves. Each one of us is unique and any time we spend comparing ourselves to others is like drinking poison. One of my favourite quotes is by ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov: ‘I don’t try to dance better than anyone else, I just try to dance better than myself.'"
7. "Women are going to lead a new revolution. I call it the third women’s revolution. The first was giving us the vote; the second, giving us access to the same jobs as men and the chance to be at the top, and the third is saying, ‘You know what? We don’t just want to be at the top of the world, we want to change the world.’ Men have made being busy a badge of honour. We need to change that."
8. "If we only value power and money, we’re never going to have enough – we’ll always want more. We have to realise what else we value and make sure that includes our wellbeing, our capacity to find our own wisdom and to wonder at life. We can all do that with more gratitude, more grace and, yes more sleep."
Francesca Martinez: “The secret to happiness lies in accepting who you are”
Francesca Martinez was two when she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and told she’d never lead a normal life. She’s now an actress and has performed at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival
1. "How you view yourself is the most crucial defining factor in your life. It makes me angry that so many women go through unnecessary suffering with self-esteem and body image issues. A shift in attitude and redefining the word ‘normal’ can change your life; it can empower you against what I like to call, ‘The onslaught of sh*t’."
2. "You know what the hardest three words I ever said were? ‘I like myself.’ Try it, it’s great. And it’s a lot cheaper than Botox."
3. "One day, I thought about how long I’ve spent hating my body, then realised that my body is what gives me life. I wouldn’t be here without it. So I apologised to my body there and then, and thanked it for keeping me alive."
4. "I once met a guy in a pub and told him that the world made me feel abnormal. He said, ‘You are abnormal; most people in the world live in dire poverty. You are lucky, so take your head out of your arse and open your eyes.’"
5. "We live in a world that focuses on what we don’t have. We’re told to aspire to more, to want more, but you know what? The secret to confidence and happiness does not lie in external factors. It does not lie in becoming more beautiful, or thinner, or richer. All of that is complete b*llocks. It lies in accepting who you are."
6. "Inner peace is this: lower your expectations."
Laura Bates: "Put yourself out there – it's the best way of creating possibilities."
Laura Bates set up The Everyday Sexism Project in 2012. She was recently named one of the Top 10 Game Changers by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour
1. "Take a leap of faith. Too often we hold ourselves back because we want to know what the ending will be and how we will get there. Trying and failing seems so scary that it’s easier not to start at all."
2. "Children are impulsive. They’re emotional, driven by feelings more than logic, and they’re fearless. They don’t let worries or doubts get in their way. Reclaim that kind of childishness."
3. "Before you start something new – like writing that novel or training for a marathon – focus only on the first step, don’t worry about the roadblocks. Not because you don’t know how to get to the destination, but because the destination is likely to change and get even better on the way."
4. "Put yourself out there. You might apply for a dream job and not get it, but then meet someone who recommends you for an even better position. Create your own possibilities."
5. "When presenting, picture the audience naked. It really works."
6. "The world won’t end if someone says something bad about you. Recently, a radio host asked me in a live interview: ‘Do you find that no-one tells jokes around you any more as you’re so uptight you don’t have a sense of humour?’ Once you get through the moment, and don’t sink to the floor, you realise it’s OK."
7. "Just say yes. Things might seem daunting at first but, it will all be OK."