Leaning In With Sheryl Sandberg

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Dear Self,

Please forgive me.

I have not accomplished even half of what I set out to do this past week and a half. I am forced to admit that I do not have the fortitude to be a participatory mom during Spring break AND a prolific writer AND a domestic goddess and a savvy businesswoman, all at the same time, at maximum level of awesomeness.

In short. You suck for ever thinking that was possible. But I still love you. Even though you are dreaming.

Sincerely,

Me

PS – Best spring break ever.

I posted this on Facebook last week. As you can see, I was feeling a little conflicted.

Like many of you, I’m in transition right now. Just launched my own company, selling my house… it feels like everything is up for grabs. It’s one of those times requiring a terrific amount of self-motivation. Having a ten-year-old boy home from school for a week and a half was not the magic bullet for productivity, I’ll tell you…

I believe this personal transition of mine is emblematic of the larger one that is happening all around us. The world is changing, faster than you can spit. Bees are dying, economies are crumbling, the ice is melting, and hearts are opening. In some quarters, boundaries between religions and political parties show signs of softening… I feel like everything is shifting and old categories are beginning to lose their meaning. I do believe we are entering a new age.

However, many issues persist, and the one most pertinent to me right now is how the hell I’m going to balance all these responsibilities in my lap! As a woman and a single parent, I think my life is fairly defined in terms of what is expected of me at any given moment. The stakes seem higher to me right now than ever before, so I am as open as I can be to inspiration.

Rather than thinking of “having it all” as rooted in some business model, I like to imagine it as living life by my own rules, and working to develop the structures I need to help support the kind of existence I desire. Having it all, to me, means creating the freedom to step between the raindrops and identify myself anyway I choose, to engage in whatever odd combinations of activities make me excited to be alive, and to feel the excitement of connecting with people, places and ideas regardless of whatever boundaries have separated us in the past. I say WHY NOT??

Enter Sheryl Sandberg. About a week ago on April 3rd, I was invited to hear her speak at an event produced by Levo League as part of their Office Hours platform about her new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of writing about the League’s co-founder Caroline Ghosn as part of the young entrepreneur interview series I author at under30ceo.com. Levo League was formed to help young women develop their careers by offering access to jobs, skills and community. Sandberg has been one of Levo League’s key investors and continues to work closely with the group.

Sheryl Sandberg photo courtesy of the Levo League

Sheryl Sandberg photo courtesy of Billy Farrell Agency

When the COO of Facebook, who happens to be a woman, writes a book, it’s worth checking out what she has to say. I can’t say I was disappointed. Inspired by her own experience in the corporate world, she shares her take on how to address the continuing disparity of women’s position relative to men’s, in that world. Exploring topics such as fear of our own ambition, success & likeability, the importance of mentorship and finding supportive life partners, she tracks a path to progress that many of us can embrace and make our own.

This particular audience was skewed towards Levo League’s key demographic, professional women in their 20’s and early 30’s. Sandberg seemed especially inspired to address this group who represent, in so many ways, the future of women in business and society at large. It was hard not to be taken up by her passion, as she shared personal stories and anecdotes related to her own life as a high powered businesswoman.

As someone in the midst of my own unconventional journey towards professional fulfillment, I resonated to many of the things Sheryl said during her presentation:

Men still run the world, and I’m not sure that’s going so well.  I think this one is self-explanatory.

Pretend to have self-confidence you don’t yet feel. I often use the “act as if” method to get through times of low confidence… a.k.a. tricking myself out by telling myself somet hing so often that eventually I believe it’s true.

One day the sexiest thing in the world is going to be a man doing laundry. There is data behind this…  This one got lots of chuckles…

Answer email quickly- Two sentences now is better than three paragraphs in three weeks.   I don’t know about you, but I have put this one into action right away.

I think we’re better when we share our real selves.  I couldn’t agree more. Nothing makes me dissociate faster than having to pretend to be something I’m not. Worst. Feeling. Ever.

Here’s the thing. I realize that with every expansion into the unknown, there’s going to be some discomfort, some floundering around in the darkness, some moments of wondering if I’m actually going to drown. I expect it. It’s not to say I like it. Moreover, it does help to know that on some level, what I’m experiencing as a middle-aged single mom rewriting her career path is similar to what a recent college grad is experiencing as she finds her way into the corporate world for the first time.

In some ways, there is not much difference between the quest to break through the glass ceiling of the corporate world and the urge to create a livelihood out of decades of writing, production, small business and other creative experience. Both involve utilizing a multitude of hard-earned skills and either breaking or rewriting many of the rules that are currently on the books. Undoubtedly, each path also involves continuing acts of courage and fortitude.

As women, it’s good to know that despite the natural diversity found within our gender, there are still many things about which we can still come together and support one another. As each of us, in our own unique way, leans into our lives in order to forge our own distinct path, perhaps we can seek increasingly frequent opportunities to support each other and model behavior for one another. I look forward to that!

To see a videotape of the April 3rd Office Hours with Sheryl Sandberg, click here.

For more information on the Lean In Movement, click here.

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2 responses »

  1. I’ve felt for a number of years now that we women need to stick together and hold each other up. Guess b/c I do believe that now is the time when women will pull us through, this is our time to shine and I certainly want the light to be bright. ;-)

    • I couldn’t agree more… I feel like so much is coming together around this underlying principle. So many amazing women have come into my life over the last couple of years, and I believe now is the time to begin building on these connections. I look forward to profiling more of them in this blog and working on challenging projects with the most creative of them – like you! :)

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