1 In living

On Leaning In

On my flight home from Hawaii last weekend, I fully intended to finish our book club pick this month, East of Eden. Yet, somehow I found myself opening my Kindle to read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In—and I read it from cover to cover by the time we landed back in San Diego. Here are my favorite excerpts of the book (emphasis added)…

On what equality really looks like…
“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

On what leaning in really means…
“This book makes the case for leaning in, for being ambitious in any pursuit. And while I believe that increasing the number of women in positions of power is a necessary element of true equality, I do not believe that there is one definition of success or happiness. Not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both. I would never advocate that we should all have the same objectives. Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire. Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time. We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values, and dreams.”

On feeling like a fraud…
“…Dr. Peggy McIntosh from the Wellesley Centers for Women, gave a talk called ‘Feeling Like a Fraud.’ She explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are—impostors with limited skills or abilities.”

On taking criticism…
“Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, believes that learning to withstand criticism is a necessity for women. Early in her career, Arianna realized that the cost of speaking her mind was that she would inevitably offend someone. She does not believe it is realistic or even desirable to tell women not to care when we are attacked. Her advice is that we should let ourselves react emotionally and feel whatever anger or sadness being criticized evokes for us. And then we should quickly move on. She points to children as her role model. A child can cry one moment and run off to play the next.”

On the lack of mentors for women in the workforce…
“For their part, half of the junior women avoided close contact with senior men. This evasiveness must end. Personal connections lead to assignments and promotions, so it needs to be okay for men and women to spend informal time together the same way men can. A senior man and junior man at a bar is seen as mentoring. A senior man and a junior woman at a bar can also be mentoring … but it looks like dating. This interpretation holds women back and creates a double bind. If women try to cultivate a close relationship with a male sponsor, they risk being the target of workplace gossip. If women try to get to the top without a sponsor’s help, their careers will often stall. We cannot assume that interactions between men and women have a sexual component. And everyone involved has to make sure to behave professionally so women—and men—feel safe in all settings.”

On letting emotion and real life seep into office life…
“Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That type of separation probably never existed, and in today’s era of individual expression, where people constantly update their Facebook status and tweet their every move, it makes even less sense. Instead of putting on some kind of fake ‘all-work persona,’ I think we benefit from expressing our truth, talking about personal situations, and acknowledging that professional decisions are often emotionally driven.”

On finding the right partner in life…
“I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. I don’t know of one woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully—and I mean fully—supportive of her career. No exceptions. And contrary to the popular notion that only unmarried women can make it to the top, the majority of the most successful female business leaders have partners. Of the twenty-eight women who have served as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, twenty-six were married, one was divorced, and only one had never married. Many of these CEOs said they ‘could not have succeeded without the support of their husbands, helping with the children, the household chores, and showing a willingness to move.'”

On “having it all”…
“The very concept of having it all flies in the face of the basic laws of economics and common sense. As Sharon Poczter, professor of economics at Cornell, explains, ‘The antiquated rhetoric of ‘having it all’ disregards the basis of every economic relationship: the idea of trade-offs. All of us are dealing with the constrained optimization that is life, attempting to maximize our utility based on parameters like career, kids, relationships, etc., doing our best to allocate the resource of time. Due to the scarcity of this resource, therefore, none of us can ‘have it all,’ and those who claim to are most likely lying.‘”

I’ll leave you with these wise words, also from the book: “So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.”

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? In what ways do you need to “lean in” to your life more?

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Christine B.
    October 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    My boss just gave me this book to read! Excited to start! She has the quote “What would you do if you weren’t afraid” on her door. Makes more sense now :)

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