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How an article in The Atlantic ‘transformed’ Anne-Marie Slaughter’s life trajectory

Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America.
Brooks Kraft | Corbis News | Getty Images
Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America.

When looking at Anne-Marie Slaughter's career history, it's hard not to be impressed.

From working as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department, to taking on top roles at the likes of Harvard Law School and Princeton, and being the boss of a U.S. think tank; it's safe to say Slaughter has excelled on the job front.

However, when many think of Anne-Marie Slaughter, it's quite likely that they'll refer back to an article she wrote five years ago.

In 2012, Slaughter was propelled into the spotlight after she penned an article for The Atlantic entitled "Why women still can't have it all"; a piece which garnered huge success and helped reinvigorate a national debate on the obstacles surrounding male-female equality and work-life balance.

It's an article which, as Slaughter explains to CNBC, has opened up to all sorts of new opportunities.

"That summer (of 2012), I was planning to write a foreign policy book, (then the article) went viral. Suddenly, I just had non-stop demand on my time and publishers who wanted me to write a book based on the article," Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America, told CNBC's "Life Hacks Live" series.

Speaking at Viva Tech conference in Paris, the think tank CEO told CNBC that she then went on to spend the next three years working on work and family issues, and much less so on foreign policy issues.

"Doing that put me in a place where I was talking to broad audiences and I realized that going back to being a professor was just not going to be enough, and so I left academia."

"I left it to take over New America, which was a non-profit think tank but gave me the opportunity to do work and family, and foreign policy, and a lot of tech – so it really in many ways totally transformed my life trajectory," said Slaughter, who went onto discuss why it's important to seize and learn from new opportunities if they fit into your life goals.

Being at a crossroads career-wise

Reflecting back on the decision to leave her U.S. State Department role and focus more on her family, Slaughter told CNBC, that she had to think of the longer-term perspective and what would make her happier when she looked back at her decision later on in life.

"Everyone sort of says 'follow your heart, go with your gut' – what happens when those two things are pulling in different directions?" said Slaughter.

"So when I was in the State department, here I am at this fabulous job, I'm working for Hillary Clinton and I know that any of the next jobs I can get, they're all good, they're at the very top of the State department. And I've got a kid who really needs both parents, I mean he's home with his dad but he needs both of us, and that was one where I really had to just weigh my priorities and also think about my whole life."

"So what I kept thinking is: I'm going to look back at the end of my life and I had the choice between knowing I was Deputy Secretary of State (let's) say, or that I was home when my son needed me and my son is flourishing."

"And for me, putting it in that longer-term perspective, it became clear that it was the right thing to do, morally I thought it was the right thing to do – but it was also a decision I was going to feel really good about later."

Anne-Marie Slaughter is currently the CEO and president of New America, a think tank dedicated to renewing American politics, prosperity, and purpose in the digital age.

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full interview here.