Badass Anais Nin

Although she doesn’t look it, Anais Nin (1903 -1977) was a badass with a capital B.

Although her time to shine as an enigmatic American author was the middle of last century, her approach to life was far ahead of her time.

“How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself”, she said.

Such a comment may be part of the norm now, but way back then, it was kinda radical.

Although most commonly known for being one of the finest writers of erotica in history (I still remember the beetroot embarrassment as a teenager, when I inadvertently picked up my mother’s copy of Delta of Venus from her bedside table), her musings and quotes surprisingly offer some food for thought for leaders today.

Here are just a handful of my favorite Anais Nin quotes to set you on your way for the week.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

Organisations also suffer from a reluctance to evolve and let go of past states, especially when the past has been successful, taking them to the giddy heights they are reaching today.

The product that was a roaring success, but which has reached the end of its lifecycle and should be laid to rest.

The old structures, the sacred cows, which have been sacrosanct, but which no longer are relevant or suitable.

Organisations, as well as people, must be willing to have the courage to let go of one state, in order to allow the new, more relevant state to emerge.

Ask yourself, what now irrelevant “states” are your organisation holding onto?

“Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.”

Being a leader is tough, especially in today’s complex, nanosecond speed of change. And yet, we still seem surprised and hard done by when we encounter adversity. Change your attitude to the difficult and hard. Accept it is part of your journey. Welcome it.

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.”

Our ability to perceive our current situation from different angles, and more importantly, how we respond to it, can have a huge impact on how successful the outcome.

See here for more on the power of perception.

“Good things happen to those who hustle.”

Hustlers understand that for all the great ideas in the world, taking action is the vital ingredient, even when you may not have the perfectly formed strategy yet.

A former colleague of mine was a superb hustler – he would go after prospects, ask for business and hustle his way into a multitude of opportunities, and reaped the rewards as a result, when many of us were still contemplating our navels!

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

This talks to remaining within our comfort zones. Which is the antithesis to success. And when this happens, when we keep ourselves wrapped in cotton wool, somewhat ironically, it hurts. Although it takes a certain amount of risk to catalyse change, it’s better than the alternative. If nothing changes, then nothing changes.

And finally,

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

Great leadership takes courage.

Anais Nin demonstrated a willingness to meet fear head on. And this is why she left such a strong legacy.

Think about what’s holding you back due to fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of success. Your own legacy could be at stake.

Be like Anais. Think big. Be courageous. Be a baddass.

If this post resonates with you, please share it…

Tweet: Be like Badass Anais Nin @suzimcalpine #leadership


  1. Rebecca on May 20, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Nice work Suzi, you’ve brought Anais’ quote to life – “the writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.”

    • The Leader's Digest on May 20, 2014 at 12:48 am

      Thanks for your feedback Rebecca – that’s quite a complement! Cheers, Suzi.

Leave a Comment

Recent Posts from The Leader's Digest

Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

Welcome to

The Leader's Digest

Subscribe to The Leader’s Digest

Receive trending leadership topics and tips, straight to your inbox.

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Internationally Recognised


The Leader's Digest App