Cosmopolitan (UK)

‘You have to suss the secret rules’

Lawyer and former Senior Minister of State BARONESS SAYEEDA WARSI, 47, shares her hard-won wisdom


➤ Overcome your fear of losing I’ve always been political. I was the vice president of the students’ union at college and grew up with the sense that if something feels wrong or broken, you should be the one to fix it. I became a defence lawyer for refugees in a bid to help fix my clients’ lives, and that’s what inspired my move into politics, too. So many people don’t try to change anything because they’re afraid they won’t be successful, but to make any kind of difference in the world you have to overcome the fear of losing. ➤ Live life on your terms In politics, your whole life is put under a microscope. In 2012, especially, I faced a huge amount of scrutiny and had moments where I questioned whether what I was trying to achieve was worth the personal trauma that accompanie­d it – until my husband said,“You have to live your life on your terms.” I could have walked away, but that would have been allowing others to determine my life’s outcome. The criticisms [of her skills as Conservati­ve chairman, and a separate expenses inquiry] I faced were unfair and, ultimately, turned out to be untrue. But I’m glad that even when I was privately reduced to tears, I found the resilience to keep going in public. ➤ Set specific goals, make specific plans Every New Year, my family and I write our resolution­s in a shared journal. My sisters say I’m the only one who achieves them, but it’s because when I set a specific goal, I make a specific plan. In 2015, I vowed to write a book, and blocked out two days a week to work on it. It was published within a year. Bringing something to a proper conclusion relies on immense discipline. ➤ Figure out the unwritten rules In law and politics, there are unspoken rules, which, as a working-class Yorkshire woman, I didn’t immediatel­y understand. I used to think that if you were really smart, good at your job and put in the hours, that was enough – but it isn’t. You have to master the ability to small talk – don’t stop yourself joining in with a conversati­on because the subject’s unfamiliar. Ask questions and learn about others’ lives. People make decisions about your career not on how dedicated you are, but on the relationsh­ips you build. The Enemy Within: A Tale Of Muslim Britain by Sayeeda Warsi (Penguin) is out now

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