Leadership

4 secrets to living your best life from Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Ginsburg
Joanne Rathe | The Boston Globe | Getty Images
Justice Ruth Ginsburg

At 83 years old, the second woman to ever be sworn in as a justice for the United States Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, remains a leader and an inspiration.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg took the oath to the highest court in the land in 1993.

Since then, she has become well known for being a champion of women's rights and for often being a lone dissenting voice in high profile cases.

Her fierceness has also earned her the nickname Notorious RBG, a play on the moniker of the famous rapper Notorious BIG, and she has a pretty hip Tumblr chronicling her intellectual swagger.

In coordination with her newest recently released book My Own Words, Ginsburg summarized some of her best advice for how to be successful in the New York Times. Highlights are below.

Haters? Don't engage

Ginsburg says that when she got married to her beloved and late husband, Marty Ginsburg, her mother-in-law advised her that it's to your best advantage "to be a little deaf." That's advice that Ginsburg employed both in her personal and professional life.

"When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade," writes Ginsburg.

Care about matters other than work

Ginsburg entered law school when she was also a new mother. She was diligent about studying when her nanny was on duty and after her child went to bed. She says that being divided in her attention facilitated her ability to focus and gave her valuable perspective.

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Rehnquist (R) administers the oath of office to newly-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (L) as President Bill Clinton looks on 10 August 1993.
Kort Duce | AFP | Getty Images
Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court William Rehnquist (R) administers the oath of office to newly-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (L) as President Bill Clinton looks on 10 August 1993.

"Each part of my life provided respite from the other," she writes, "and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on law studies lacked."

Pick a life partner who believes in you

Marrying well won't ensure that you will become the next Notorious RBG, but the justice believes that she would never have achieved such stature without a supportive partner.

"Marty coached me through the birth of our son, he was the first reader and critic of articles, speeches and briefs I drafted, and he was at my side constantly, in and out of the hospital, during two long bouts with cancer," she writes. "And I betray no secret in reporting that, without him, I would not have gained a seat on the Supreme Court."

Don't just keep your enemies close; make them into friends

Ginsburg, a liberal justice, and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunchly conservative one, were famous pals. "Despite our strong disagreements on cardinal issues — think, for example, of controls on political campaign spending, affirmative action, access to abortion — we genuinely respect one another, even enjoy one another's company," Ginsburg says of their friendship.

That, she says, is critical to operating as a free-thinking and successful individual. Now more than ever, given the ferocious polarization of the current presidential election, that's sound advice for the nation as a whole.

"Collegiality is crucial to the success of our mission. We could not do the job the Constitution assigns to us if we didn't — to use one of Justice Antonin Scalia's favorite expressions — 'get over it!'"