Want to be a mathematician and an artist? Want to pursue a career in nursing, but sell jewelry on Etsy? Want to become a CEO or founder and still raise a family? As one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business,” Karlie Kloss has proven that women can wear many titles (and should).
Karlie is often recognized for being a supermodel and a 36-time Vogue cover girl who has worked with designers like Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and Versace. But she isn’t just a model — like the rest of us, she has a multitude of interests. “I want to do it all,” she told Glamour in 2015, and if you look at her impressive resume, you would certainly say she is. Best of all, she’s doing it her way.
Discovered at just 13 years old, she made her New York Fashion Show debut by the age of 15 (walking for Calvin Klein), and hit the Victoria’s Secret Runway by 18, but she has other passions and is ambitiously pursuing them. Don’t believe me? Check out the Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World, where you’ll find her talking about the impact (and importance) of science.
Here’s what we can learn from this tenacious 25-year-old:
Embrace what makes you you
A self-proclaimed “six-foot-two giraffe from the Lou,” Karlie isn’t afraid to embrace her quirks and be herself. The Midwesterner (born in Chicago, raised in St. Louis) spends her free time baking, visiting her family, and taking college courses at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
“Being true to yourself, as cheesy as that sounds, is important. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing—if you’re pretending to be something you’re not—then it’s not sustainable,” Karlie tells Fast Company.
If you’ve been wanting to shift careers, do it. If you want to start a business, start your business (even if that means working late at night to build it). Want to write a memoir? Start journaling. You don’t have to pick one path; you just have to pick the right paths for you.
Know when to go and when to slow (down)
“There are three zones: comfort zone, learning zone, and panic zone,” Karlie explains in a YouTube video for her Klossy channel. “Be in the panic zone on occasion, because it pushes you to challenge yourself and [the] comfort zone is okay, but [you shouldn’t] become complacent. You want to keep reaching higher and dreaming bigger.”
Knowing when to push yourself and when to slow down is tough, but important. Statistically, women are burning out faster than men and the only way to counteract this problem is to pace yourself — and know when you need to switch zones. We can all go, go, go, all the time, but that doesn’t mean we should.
Taking short (effective) breaks is an easy way to slow down and is a strategy Karlie embraces on even her busiest days Karlie told Entrepreneur magazine, “Depending on how much time I have, I’ll walk around the office, grab a coffee or even meditate for a few minutes.” After that, of course, she’s right back to the “panic zone,” but that’s a good thing, remember.
Support others and support yourself
According to many experts, giving back is a secret to overall happiness, but it’s also an important role for a successful woman to take (no matter her industry or title). Just ask Sheryl Sandberg, who started the “Together Women Can” campaign that focuses on women helping other women in the workplace.
Vogue fashion director Tonne Goodman told the Wall Street Journal, “[Karlie] has the best kind of ambition, which propels her forward but in a generous way. She understands the power of success.”
As soon as she realized her passion for coding, Karlie started the nonprofit Kode With Klossy, a free summer camp that teaches young girls aged 13-15 to code and encourages them to become leaders in the technology space. “Every time I get to hang with the Kode With Klossy scholars, I leave in awe of their brilliance, creativity and boundless potential,” Karlie wrote on an instagram post.
Stay focused on your goals
Mae Jemison, first African American woman astronaut in space, said, “Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
Staying true to yourself can be a challenge, especially on social media, but remember to ignore the haters, follow your passions (however many there are), and keep pushing yourself. This is what Karlie has done — and what we should aim to do.
By Sarah Sheppard
Sarah Sheppard is a professional writer and editor. She worked as a senior manager at an independent publisher in Boston, earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and currently resides in the Midwest. She is working on her first novel. You can find her at sarahsheppardwriter.com , @writershep on Twitter, and @sarahsheppardwriter on Instagram