Selected Highlights from The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg is a truly remarkable person. As an entrepreneur, as a designer, but also as a person, a partner and a parent. Her autobiography, The Woman I Wanted to Be is artfully written, honest and compelling.

It’s not just a story about growing a business, it’s a story about growing as an authentic human being. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and some of my favorite passages are below:

That first love and affection marks the way I presume men feel toward me. I simply take their fondness for granted, neither expecting nor looking for it. The biggest gift my father gave me was not to be needy. I had so much love from him that I didn’t really need any more. In fact, I sometimes had to push it away because his display of affection in front of people embarrassed me. (Page 17)
From the beginning, I treated Alexandre and Tatiana more as people than as children. I never talked down to them and always encouraged them to express their opinions and take responsibility for themselves. Making me independent is what my mother did for me, and I was, for sure, going to do that for my children. Just as I had started keeping a journal in my childhood, I urged them to start recording their lives and thoughts. They began even before they were old enough to read and write, drawing the events of their days in pictures. We ended the day by exchanging news about what they’d done at school and what I’d done at work during “discussion time” on their beds. I involved them in every facet of my life, including my business. “I have my job and school is your job,” I told them. “We all go to work, we all have our own lives, we all have our responsibilities. You deliver on yours and I’ll deliver on mine.” It turned out to be a very good approach. Tatiana excelled at school, Alex did very well, and I managed all right at work. (Page 42)
I have tried not to lie my whole life. Lies are toxic. They are the beginning of misunderstandings, complications, and unhappiness. To practice truth is not always easy, but as with all practices, it becomes a matter of habit. Truth is cathartic, a way of keeping the trees pruned. The truer you can be the better it is because it simplifies life and love. (Page 57)
Looking back, I smile at the ways I tailored my personality to merge with those of different men at different times in my life. I think most women consciously change their stripes or at least modify them in their relationships with men, especially during the delicious period of seduction. They become instant football lovers or sailing enthusiasts or political junkies, then taper back to their own personalities when the relationship is either cemented or over. No one I know, however, went to the lengths I did. (Page 82)
How can I explain my relationship with Barry? The fullness of it all? It is simply true love. His openness to me, his unconditional acceptance, his deep desire for my happiness and that of the children brings tears to my eyes to think about. Barry has a reputation for being tough, yet he is the gentlest, most loving person I have ever met. We have been in each other’s lives for decades, as lovers, as friends, and now as husband and wife. It is true that, as I did with my father, I took his love for granted. It is true that, as I did to my father, I sometimes rejected him. But it is also true, as it was with my father, that I love him totally and am there for him unconditionally. Love is life is love is Barry. (Page 92)
Character. Intelligence. Strength. Style. That makes beauty. All these attributes form beauty, and personality, that elusive state of being that is not necessarily perfect. “Beauty is perfect in its imperfections.” It is our imperfections that make us different. Personality, not traditional beauty, is always what I’ve looked for in my models. (Page 106)
And never, ever lie about your age. Who can lie with the Internet anyway? To embrace your age is to embrace your life. Lying about your age, or about anything for that matter, is the beginning of trouble; it is the beginning of lying about who you are. What is important is to live fully every single day of every period of every age so that no time gets wasted. Because the time goes by, faster and faster. (Page 128)
Like my life, my work has been a wonderful adventure. It allowed me to become the woman I wanted to be as I helped other women to feel the same. I went into it looking for confidence and spread confidence along the way. (Page 240)
I don’t know if I have reached wisdom, but hopefully my experiences, told with all the honesty and candor I could find in my heart and in my memory, will inspire others to take their lives in their hands, be their best friends, and go for it fearlessly. (Page 240)

Many business leaders’ biographries are interesting or instructional. Far fewer are profound, but this is one of them. If you like any of the passages above, give the book a read and let me know what you think in the comments below.