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Young Money: Reviewing ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg

blog by Caitlin Campbell McNulty  • 

For months, I’ve been planning to read “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. I love to read, but non-fiction is usually a lot harder for me to enjoy than my trusty fiction.

To be honest, I’ve had “Lean In” on my list mostly because I knew I should—I was a little skeptical about what Sandberg would have to say and if I’d really find resonate with what she wrote. That being said, as a woman working professionally and focused on my career, I felt like I owed it to myself to see what all the fuss was about.

I finally got around to it a few weeks ago and—good lord, guys—this book was amazing. I haven’t been this affected by a book in my life. I read the entire thing on a plane ride to Florida. That’s right. Whole thing. One-way flight.

I felt like Sheryl (we’re on a first-name basis now) was talking directly to me. I started frantically ripping up my paper ticket so I could bookmark the pages I wanted to remember. You should see what this book looks like right now.

Today, I wanted to share a few of my favorite, most profound, life-altering and affirming parts of the book:

The goal of a successful negotiation is to achieve our objectives and continue to have people like us. Sandberg talked about women struggling with negotiations (on everything from salary to business deals) for a whole lot of reasons, but the one that stuck with me is that we want people to like us.

She’s so right. How many times have I jokingly referred to myself as a professional b*tch, secretly hoping those around me refute what I say and tell me how nice, great, [insert flattering adjective here] I am.

Like it or not, women have to adjust the way they operate professionally in order to achieve the same objectives as male counterparts.

This doesn’t mean I’m a brat, it just means I need to re-evaluate how I interact with people in order to get the job done. Seems like a no-brainer, but now that I’ve read it in someone else’s words, I know that I can definitely work on doing things differently to achieve the same desired results.

Are you my mentor? Sandberg states ‘if someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no.’ Boy do I agree with that.

More than once I’ve been asked to talk about how to find a professional mentor in this blog.

My theory is that you don’t find a mentor—they find you. Then they don’t tell you they’re your mentor, they just do it.

You end up learning how to be a leader without even realizing you’re doing it. You just store it away somewhere in your mind and one day, when you pull it out to use, you realize how incredibly grateful you are to have had the chance to learn all that you have from this person.

When we recognize that we can see things only from our own perspective, we can share our views in a non-threatening way. Sandberg learned from “Conscious Business” author Fred Kofman that there is my point of view (my truth) and someone else’s point of view (their truth).

I like to say that the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. I try to remember this thought in both my personal and professional lives each day. It helps me take a step back, take a deep breath and then logically and rationally face the issue or problem with which I’ve been confronted. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this sometimes.

Don’t leave before you leave. In her book, Sheryl describes an experience with an employee at Facebook who wasn’t even close to having a child, yet was peppering her with questions on how she was able to achieve a good work-life balance.

Holy crow do I know this feeling.

I enjoy my career – a lot. I plan a lot of events which can lead to a not-so 9-5 day. My husband’s schedule is wildly varied as well. Not so conducive to raising a child. Subconsciously, and sometimes consciously, I’ve been making decisions about my career with an eye to a child who isn’t even part of this world yet.

Sandberg’s words made me realize that I’ve got to stop thinking as if I have one foot out the door already. I’ve been thinking about going back to school for my masters degree for a while now. It’s time to do it. I’m committed to going this fall and if a child comes along the way before I finish, oh well – I can figure it out when I get there.

The single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.

I’ve previously written about how lucky I am to have a strong support system. My husband is truly the yin to my yang and I know that we balance and complement each other in just the right ways. I firmly agree with Sandberg that to achieve what you want – whatever it may be – someone who unquestionably supports you is the key to doing it.

Should I proudly call myself a feminist? To be honest, I’m not quite there yet, but “Lean In” has absolutely started to change my mind about what feminism means.

I used to think it was something that described a political philosophy that isn’t quite mine. Sandberg’s book has challenged that belief and made me think about the word in a whole new way.

I still wouldn’t put that label on myself – but maybe not for the reasons I resisted it before. Now, it’s because I think there’s a whole lot more to the word than letters, and I’d like to spend some time thinking about what it means to me. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

If you haven’t read “Lean In” yet, drop what you’re doing right now and go get yourself a copy. Then leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite part(s).

TAGGED: caitlin campbell mcnulty, sheryl sandberg, young money

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  1. Nicole Johnson December 19, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Why not proudly call yourself a feminist? Feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” What’s so scary about that?

    Nicole Johnson's avatar