The Secrets To Success From 9 Superstars

It’s an age-old question: How do we measure success? One person’s New York Times best seller is another’s Emmy Award, is another’s launch of their own website, is another’s night at home with their family. But no matter what definition you adhere to, we can all use a little inspiration to get moving in the right direction. 

So, we did a little reaching for the stars ourselves and spoke directly with influencers who don’t need much of an introduction at all. We don’t mean to name drop (okay, actually we do), but if you are looking to launch the next Nasty Gal, produce the next Girls, or be the Next Big Thing, these folks can tell you exactly what it takes. Read on and let your inspiration soar.


Zooey Deschanel — actress (New Girl500 Days of Summer); singer-songwriter, She & Him (heading on tour this summer); and co-founder (Hello Giggles)

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“It’s hard to say the BEST piece of advice since I can’t recall every piece of advice I’ve ever received, but a really good piece of advice I’ve gotten was on my first movie, the director, Lawrence Kasdan, told me to always give my best performance, even if I was off camera for another actor because people can tell a generous actor. I always think of that when I’m working, it’s important to be generous!

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success?
“I talk to my parents every day. We always have interesting conversations, and I love how much I can learn from them. I think they like it, too!”

Photo: Courtesy of PMK BNC


Jenni Konner — executive producer, Girls 

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“My father, Larry Konner, is a screen and TV writer (now teacher, too!) and his advice has always been deeply pragmatic. He told me to write five pages a day. It doesn’t matter if it takes five minutes or all day. It’s a very manageable goal and tricks you into thinking you have a lot of freedom.”

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success?
“I cannot believe I’m actually saying this, but exercise has become critical to my days. I wasn’t a person who exercised growing up or ever enjoyed it. I literally failed P.E. for so many semesters that I had to play every team sport senior year of high school. But I’m really a cultist now. I have found that when I exercise (for me it’s Tracy Anderson all the way), it makes me better at every other aspect of my job. It’s the time I can really shut my brain down and just enjoy myself. I’ve become so obsessed I’m going to rope in the crew and have Tracy classes before call time. Yes, I’m that insane.”

Photo: Courtesy of HBO


George Saunders — writer (most recently ofTenth of December: Stories), New York Times best seller, 2006 MacArthur Fellowship winner

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“When I was in my 20s, I had this big plan to go down to El Salvador and write about the war. Never mind that I had never written anything and didn’t speak Spanish. I ran into the father of a friend of mine, and told him about my plan. I kind of expected him to shoot me down but he didn’t. Instead, he thought about it a bit, then said, ‘Well, if that’s your dream, you’ve got to do it. Because you know who you’re going to blame if you don’t, right?’
“I thought about this, and was pretty sure I knew where he was going. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’ll blame myself.’
“‘Bullshit!’ he said. ‘You’ll blame your wife and kids, when you get them.”
“Somehow this has stayed with me all of these years; this idea that, one reason to try and do the things you want to do (especially artistically) is that, if you don’t at least try, you’ll be discontent, and may take this discontent out on those closest to you. Or, to put it more positively: If you at least try to do the things that excite you, it will make you a more expansive and present person — you’ll feel, at the end of your life, that at least you took the shot.”

What does success mean to you?
“Artistically, it means getting as much truth and fondness for life as I can into a story without becoming sentimental — making a beautiful weird little life-evoking machine out of words. Personally, it means having the freedom to interest yourself in the highest things possible — to gradually be lucky enough to leave behind the ‘have-to’ things and get to turn your attention to the ‘want to’ things. And this, in turn, might lead to more chances to give back — to your art form, your community, young writers, etc., etc.”

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success?
“Well, I try to take a little time to remember to do whatever it is I am doing that day out of a positive, light, playful place — as opposed to doing it out of fear or anxiety. Not easy, but I find if I can remember this, things tend to go better.”

Photo: Courtesy of Random House


Sophia Amoruso — founder and CEO,NastyGal

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received? 
“I love this quote: ‘It was the straying that found the path direct’ by Austin Osman Spare — not necessarily advice, but certainly the philosophy I’ve followed to find my place in the world.”

What does success mean to you?
“Success is a scary concept. I think that being successful is doing your best every day, acting with integrity, and learning from your mistakes.”

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success? 
“Psychological flagellation. It’s unfortunate, but I’d say that I’m a pretty good self-critic. It keeps me honest but it also keeps me on my toes. Ouch!”

Photo: Courtesy of NastyGal


Betsy West (left) and Dyllan McGee — producers, Makers

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
BW: “Of all the wisdom I’ve heard from all the women we interviewed, these words of advice from Ruth Bader Ginsburg have stuck with me, ‘Anger is a waste of time.’ Despite facing brutal discrimination in her early career when she couldn’t get a job, Ginsburg went on to forge a path as the legal architect of the women’s movement and the second woman on the Supreme Court.”
DM: “One of my favorite pieces of advice from our MAKERS interviews came from Hillary Clinton who said her mom used to say, ‘You can’t control what happens to you, but can control how you respond to it.'” 

What does success mean to you?
BW: “Success is being able to do the work you love and help support your family.”
DM: “Success to me is knowing that you are doing what you are great at.” 

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success?
BW: “Talk to my best friend who happens to be my husband.”
DM: “Sit down dinners with my family.”
Photo: Courtesy of Edelman 


Neil Blumenthal —co-founder, Warby Parker

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“My dad always told me, ‘Pursue what you love, and everything will work out.’ I have no idea how old I was when I first absorbed this line — he said it so many times that it’s impossible to remember when he first started indoctrinating me!”

What does success mean to you?
“Success would be knowing that I didn’t waste too much time with my life and that I positively impacted the lives of a few people. On a broader scale, success would be if more people used business and design to do good.”

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success?
“Eat, smile, and walk into every meeting with explicit goals to accomplish.”

Photo: Courtesy of Warby Parker


Mara Roszak — celebrity hairstylist (clients include Emma Stone, Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, and Kat Dennings) 

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received? 
“Whenever a big opportunity came my way that I found intimidating or scary, my mother would always say ‘just go for it.’ She’s always been supportive of my dreams and she taught me not to let fear keep me from reaching my goals. Her words of advice to ‘just go for it’ are really what started my career (at age 16).”

What does success mean to you?
“To me, success is happiness and living a whole, honest life. I only have one life to live, and I truly want to make the most of it — spending time with people I love and doing what I love to do.”

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success? 
“Sleep and a lot of it. Also staying calm no matter the circumstance. I find that when I keep level-headed, even in the craziest situations, the end result is usually a much better one. I can walk away feeling good about how I handled myself, instead of stressing more!”

Photo: Courtesy of Starworks Artists


Anne Heche — actress (Six Days, Seven NightsMen In TreesHung); Daytime Emmy Award winner (Another World); and creator of Tickle Time, a children’s mineral sunblock

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“As an actress and business lady, I’ve received lots of helpful advice over my career. That said, the best piece of advice I got long before I started acting. My mother told me, ‘Always wear sunblock. You’ll never regret having nice skin.’ I’ve worn sunblock from the beaches of Atlantic City to the shores of Los Angeles and I’m lucky enough to still be on camera. Which brings me to my next, most current piece of good advice: Put your money where your mouth is.
“I came up with the idea for Tickle Time because I want children to have an easy safe way to protect their skin. My husband, James Tupper, wants the same thing. ‘I believe in you, I believe in this product,’ he said. James put his money where his mouth is and partnered with me for Tickle Time. It tickles me to think that people are talking about something we created together both on screen and off. It’s funny to know that my kids might tell their friends that their mom gave them the same advice my mom gave me.” 

What’s the one thing you do every day that is critical to your success?
“It may sound simple, but being happy at home makes me happy at work. I try to make my family happy.” 

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