“Keep the mysteries intact and one’s talents in dignified service.”

 – Tina Brown

This is a quote from the new bestseller The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 to 1992 by Tina Brown, the brilliant editor who ran Vanity Fair for almost a decade. The book is incredibly entertaining for anyone interested in the media landscape because it’s filled with fascinating insider details, but it’s also a great read if you’re a woman in a competitive field and want smart insight into navigating sometimes perilous waters.

Despite Brown’s confidence, talents, and wonderful cunningness, she still struggled early on with self-doubt and at times was too nervous to ask for what she wanted. Through the course of the book you see her grow far stronger at dealing with some of these issues, and her evolution is inspiring.

The quote is from a moment in the diaries when Brown has just left a meeting with her boss (Si Newhouse), who has recently fired another exec in the company, one he frequently socialized with. She’s reminding herself of the importance of being a mystery to one’s boss and not becoming too familial with that person.

That’s a piece of career advice you don’t hear very often, but I think it’s so smart.

No matter how fabulous your boss is to you, and how good the rapport between the two of you, it’s important to keep a healthy distance.

If your boss knows too much about you, it can color his or her impression of you in ways that could bite you in the butt. For instance, let’s say you confess to your boss that you’re having a major crisis with your romantic partner. Even if she seems understanding, she might view your future behavior through this lens. If you slip up in some way, which we all do at times, she might begin to tell herself you’re preoccupied with your crisis and it’s affecting your judgment. So:

1.) Keep your private life private. If your boss presses you with personal questions, answer in a general way that comes across as friendly but doesn’t necessarily reveal a lot, such as, “Yes, we had a great holiday, but it was so cold we wore parkas over parkas. How did you guys stay warm?”

2.) Have a sense of how much direct contact your boss prefers to have with you and stay within that boundary. Never seem needy.

3.) Don’t engage with your boss on social media unless it’s totally necessary because of your specific job.

4.) Don’t badmouth people to your boss or share office drama that’s not relevant

5.) If your boss is a mentor to you, ask for guidance about excelling at your job and thriving in the company and field, but keep your fears and insecurities to yourself.

Be gutsy!