Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Career lessons in Nora Ephron's star-studded "Exit"

July 10, 2012: 10:00 AM ET

Nora Ephron at the 2010 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit Credit: Asa Mathat

The New York tribute to Nora Ephron brought out everyone from Mayor Mike Bloomberg to Barry Diller (IACI) to Meryl Streep and Martha Stewart (MSO)—800 of Nora's closest friends. She plotted her "Exit," as she titled the finale of her life, down the vital details.

I was invited to Monday's event at Lincoln Center and, sadly, am in California this week. So I asked another woman in Fortune's Most Powerful Women community -- where Nora had hundreds more friends and fans -- to share a few thoughts.

The reflections below come from Susan Lyne, the Gilt Groupe chairman who met Ephron at Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn's house in the Hamptons in the late 70s and, like everyone who knew Nora, felt inspired by her. It seems appropriate to have Lyne, whose multifaceted career we told you about in Fortune last October, reflect on Ephron. While Nora started as a journalist and could have comfortably stayed there, she constantly stretched. She showed the sort of gutsiness that Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook (FB), among others, wishes more young women today possessed.

Ephron wrote her first screenplay in her 40s. She directed her first movie in her 50s. She exited a couple of decades too soon, dying at 71 of complications from acute myeloid leukemia.

So, here's one powerful woman on another. Susan Lyne on Nora Ephron:

In her 2010 book of essays, I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron wrote: "I'd known since I was a child that I was going to live in New York eventually, and that everything in between would be just an
intermission. I'd spent all those years imagining what New York was
 going to be like. I thought it was going to be the most exciting, 
magical, fraught-with-opportunity place that you could ever live; a 
place where if you really wanted something you might be able to get
 it; a place where I'd be surrounded by people I was dying to 
know... And I'd turned out to be right."

Yes, Nora turned out to be right. Not because all those people she was dying to know came out to say goodbye (though they did), but because she went all-in on the opportunity part.

Nora had so many successes, brilliant successes -- as a journalist, essayist, novelist, screenwriter, director, playwright -- that it's easy to forget the flops, the efforts that critics hated and audiences ignored. Nora remembered, but it never cowed her, never stopped her.

She'd move on, pick a different medium for a while, and surprise and delight us all over again.

She put herself out there -- her observations, personal history, opinions, infatuations, her takes on life and love -- over and over again. She was gifted, yes, but she was also fearless and tireless.

Most of us lose that "I can do or be anything" elation that comes with moving to the city of your dreams as a twentysomething. Nora never did.

For Nora Ephon's Best Advice, click here.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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