How to Be a Boss: 19 Tips from Big Little Lies

Photo collage of the cast of Big Little Lies. From left to right, characters Mary Louise (Meryl Streep), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Jane (Shailene Woodley)

So you wanna be a boss. Netflix and chill will yourself to get off the couch already. How to Be a Boss (According to Your Favorite Shows) is your excuse to binge all the TV you want. It’s career inspiration, right?

On the surface, the women of Monterey may prioritize wealth, status, and the winning side of posh public-school politics. But Madeline, Celeste, Bonnie, Jane, and Renata of Big Little Lies are a lot more complex than they initially seem—and proof of what can be accomplished by working collaboratively.

Whether it’s Celeste (Nicole Kidman) feeling reinvigorated as she dips back into law, or Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) feeding her ambitions to put on a puppet-fueled musical, it’s nearly impossible for anyone in this show to chase their dreams, survive hardships, or jump into a passion project without the support of good friends. Or, at the very least, people they’ve been forced to cross paths with regularly. These, as anyone in the workplace knows, can often be one in the same.

So, with that in mind, here are 19 tips to live by should you find yourself navigating the stormy seas of worklife like the oceanside upper class.

1. Pursue your passion projects. Feeling successful is essential to your well-being, so find something you care about and throw yourself into it. (Just watch out for unnecessary drama.)
Madeline disagrees with her community theater collaborator, Joseph (Santiago Cabrera).
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
2. Dazzle allies, rivals, and frenemies alike with raw talent they can only aspire to. (Then, well, drop the mic.)
Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) performs at the Audrey Hepburn–themed party, dressed as Audrey in My Fair Lady.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
3. Or put everyone to shame with your commitment to theme parties.
Bonnie and Renata (Laura Dern) make the most of a disco party.
Jennifer Clasen/HBO
4. But you never know where loyalties may lie, so before deciding yours, meet and greet the power players in your social circle.
Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) shakes hands with Renata Klein (Laura Dern) as Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese) looks on.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
5. Check in with yourself when you start tending to your grudges like little pets.
Madeline leans back in her chair while wearing a burgundy coat.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
6. Watch for those who make bold, brazen declarations. (Because nothing screams “power” like reminding everyone of how much you have.)
Renata holds a wine glass and plots against her enemies.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
7. Keep loved ones close. Especially since they’ll keep you grounded amid the chaos they have nothing to do with and, frankly, may not even understand.
Madeline and Ed (Adam Scott) prepare dinner in the kitchen for their daughters, Abigail (Kathryn Newton) and Chloe (Darby Camp).
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
8. Team up to challenge those who’ve wronged you. (Pro tip: few things are as intimidating to rivals as the support of a best friend who knows how to legally navigate any and all situations.)
Celeste and Madeline sit at a table, successfully winning their case.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
9. But remember that, sometimes, the greatest bond is between family. And taking time to relax with them outside the confines of the office can help you unplug from work or distance yourself from daily pressures—like the grind of all those micro-gigs.
Jane hangs out at the beach with her son, Ziggy (Iain Armitage).
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
10. That said, try to keep a safe distance from anyone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart.
Mary Louise Wright (Meryl Streep) goes out of her way to make Celeste feel uncomfortable in the wake of Perry’s death.
Jennifer Clasen/HBO
11. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, or to accept the love of those who care about you. It doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you less of a boss.
Ed presents Madeline with flowers.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
12. Remember: familial matters aren’t the right situations to showcase your power. (So, ahem, using your kid’s birthday as a political game to out-maneuver your nemesis is a losing proposition.)
Renata speaks to her daughter, Ambella (Ivy George).
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
13. Avoid any professional or personal politics that don’t directly concern you. Particularly so you can build a life rich in what you love—or a life rich in observations and knowledge, should you ever need to insert yourself into a specific situation down the road.
Bonnie stands in a sunlit, holding a hat.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
14. Use your day-to-day routine as a way to stay present. Because, sometimes, without successfully preparing one’s fashion armor, it feels impossible to be prepared for battle.
Madeline prepares for the Audrey Hepburn party, perfecting her hair and makeup.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
15. Prioritize physical health—it can keep your mind sharp, your heart healthy, and most importantly, provide a way to spend quality time alongside those you know and trust most. After all, you never know when you might need one, or all, of ’em.
Jane, Madeline, and Celeste run along the beach.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
16. But also spend sufficient time planning for any upcoming confrontations and mapping out every potential outcome. Preparedness is key, even if it seems like an ideal scenario isn’t quite achievable—or even a possibility.
Jane, Madeline, and Celeste sit together outside, bonding after Jane’s first day in Monterey and shortly after meeting for the first time.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

17. Which is to say, remember that you’re more powerful when someone’s got your back.

Jane and Madeline are shocked by Celeste’s husband, Perry (Alexander Skarsgård).
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

18. It also gets easier to cope with stress when you form close bonds with real friends who genuinely care about you.

Celeste, Jane, Ziggy, and Celeste’s twins spend a night hanging out.
Jennifer Clasen/HBO

19. Just be sure to make amends when they’re due. Because if Madeline’s taught us anything, it’s that friendships can be formed even after years of animosity.

Bonnie and Madeline stand outside of Bonnie’s Jeep, talking.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO

Words by Anne T. Donahue
Feature image by Niall McClelland