Not to brag, but if there’s one thing people admire about me it’s that I always stay on message. “Beth, I wish I could always be on message just like you,” they say.
For instance, my teenage sons will say, “Mom, we have no good food in the house and no clean laundry,” and I’ll nod serenely and say, “No mother is more interested in serving her sons Pringles and washing Tom Brady jerseys daily than I am.” And they’ll walk away satisfied, feeling that our goals are aligned.
Ivanka Trump and I are a lot alike in that way. Remember how she didn’t even flinch when the Europeans hissed as she defended her dad’s feminist management style?
So when an editor asked me to write about Ivanka’s new self-help book, “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” I quickly said yes.
I thought about what I most hoped to learn from her, and it’s this: to glide in heels.
This may sound shallow, but can we stop pretending there’s no correlation between heel skills and success? I’m not saying towering heels guarantee triumph, or that Hillary lost because she sometimes wore shoes that looked . . . comfortable. All I’m saying is that Ivanka appears as relaxed in stilettos as a normal human being does in Uggs, and look who’s in power.
“Women Who Work” was written before Ivanka needed to project the seriousness appropriate for an adviser to the president of the United States. (And nothing says serious like the new book’s pages of footnotes and bibliography!) But even so, its tone is more sober than her previous self-help guide, “The Trump Card.” That was published in 2009, when most world leaders likely didn’t even know there was such a thing as an Ivanka.
And look out for “Trump Card” Ivanka! She’s definitely her father’s daughter. “It was just my second [modeling] assignment,” TCI wrote, “but already I was realizing that models were the meanest, cattiest, bitchiest girls on the planet.”
Compare that with the current Ivanka — the “Women Who Work” Ivanka, or WWWI. She sagely counsels readers against gossip. “Keep things positive and professional,” she writes.
Ivanka includes inspirational quotes and advice from every famous person who ever lived. Socrates and Mindy Kaling. The Dalai Lama and Lauren Bush Lauren. Stephen Covey, Oprah, and the head of fashion partnerships at Instagram. John Quincy Adams and the founder of Spanx.
Ivanka says she wrote “Women Who Work” after getting a “flood” of e-mails from young women asking for advice, and her hope for the book, she writes, is to equip readers “with the best skills I’ve learned from some of the amazing people I’ve met, on subjects such as identifying opportunities, shifting careers smoothly, negotiating, leading teams, starting companies, managing work and family, and helping change the system to make it better for women — now and in the future.”
Ivanka’s chapter titles tell readers to “Dream Big” and “Lead With Purpose.” I was hoping for a chapter called “Stop Stashing Your Heels in a Stained Tote Bag and Sneaking Into the Bathroom to Change Into Them at the Last Minute.”
Alas, there’s no footwear tutorial, but readers do learn that Ivanka was blessed with a mother who modeled aspirational heel-wearing behavior.
As a child Ivanka would go with mom Ivana to check construction at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and absorbed an important lesson as Ivana inspected the prior day’s work. She was “impeccably dressed, in full makeup and four-inch high heels . . . ”
The second thing I hoped to learn from Ivanka regards working smarter, not harder. I figured this would be an area of her expertise because she seems to swoop in just for the good parts. Panels with international leaders, walking off Air Force One, that kind of thing.
I guess she works a lot, but given the amount of time she must devote to eyeliner alone, you don’t get the feeling that Ivanka spends mornings stressing because the blouse she needs for a presentation is still at the dry cleaner, and if she darts out to get it she’ll be late getting the kids to day care, and then miss her bus to work.
My favorite parts of “Women Who Work” come when Ivanka shares lessons from her own life. In one chapter she writes about how she spends New Year’s Day — when the family is usually in Florida — setting high-level objectives. The planning extends to her children.
“I put real thought into coming up with ideas for memorable moments I can create with each of them,” she writes. “Right now, I play cars with Joseph, on the floor, for twenty minutes each day. Arabella loves books, so I make a note to read at least two per day to her, and plan ‘dates’ to the library. With Theodore, I commit to ensuring that I can give him two to three of his bottles each day and to rock him to sleep at night.”
I set my timer and headed into my older son’s room. “Were you happy with who the Patriots took in the draft?” I asked, opening a favorite conversation topic. He started to respond but my alarm dinged, and our memorable moment was over. “Rewrite the rules for success,” I said channeling Ivanka and gliding out in my heels.
Ivanka’s life seems pretty smooth, but in her book she reveals struggles, like the time Anna Wintour heard that she was about to graduate from college and called out of the blue with a job offer, a challenge familiar to many aspiring writers.
The problem was that Ivanka had already accepted a job with Forest City Ratner, a development firm, and she had to tell Anna no!
“I just wasn’t willing to delay my dream of becoming a builder,” she writes. She called her dad expecting an atta girl, but he surprised her. “I think you should consider it, Ivanka,” he said.
Uh-oh. She was “unnerved.”
But — and brace yourself for a spoiler alert — it all worked out in the end.