Let it be known that I cannot remember the last time I have read a non-fiction book from cover to cover. This may actually have never happened…until Lean In. It was my dad who had begged me to get him a copy of the book, which I thought was strange. What does a very successful business man want to read a business woman’s ‘advice guide’ for? After reading Lean In, not only do I understand it but my respect for my father has grown. Before having read Lean In, he knew it was as important for men to be aware of certain concepts and issues and contribute towards making not just the workplace but the world an equal place for both men and women.
This book is geared towards men as much as it is towards women. Whether you’re just starting your career, almost finished with it, in the midst of it, raising a family, staying single, being a stay at home parent, or stacking shelves at your local grocery store—this is the absolute Must Read. Not just for 2013, but for life.
I don’t know where to begin. There’s not a single aspect of Lean In that I did not love or agree with. I had barely gotten through the first chapter before I started texting everyone I knew telling them they *had* to read this book. Everyone was skeptical of me, but the reward came when I got text after text as well as multiple tweets gushing about how amazing the book is and how it’s made a difference in their lives already. Think I’m kidding? Try me. Read the book.
Not convinced yet? Well here are just a few take-aways:
- What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?: This little question pushed me to find the root of my fears with personal and professional issues and tackle it the right way. The fear may persist but it’s pushed aside by reason and purpose.
- It’s a Jungle Gym, not a Ladder: AMEN to these words. For the longest time I’ve been wondering if I did the right thing by applying to get my Masters degree in Creative Writing. Here I am quitting a dream job in publishing (which, in case you guys don’t know, doesn’t exactly a millionaire make) to pursue yet another educational degree in a field that pays even less. Now I know that making lateral moves in my career is sometimes making the right move. Pushing myself to “climb the corporate ladder” means there are only two options–up or down. Real life doesn’t work that way. It’s possible to step to the left or the right, take a step back and jump around. It’s a Jungle Gym folks. What’s more is that there’s plenty of room at the top (for both women and men) of the jungle gym. There’s only room for one on a ladder. That’s a lonely way to go and a long way to fall…
- Mentors: You don’t just walk up to someone and say “Will you be my mentor”. If you’re sitting there, like I did, thinking, “Who the heck does that?” then good for you. I know for a fact that many people try to recruit their mentors rather than observing and learning on their own. Sheryl also gives great, proactive advice on how to approach topics while still respecting your mentor’s time.
- Make your partner a real partner: This is my favorite chapter in the book. There’s no better way to see gender distinction and think that it’s a normal part of life than to grow up in India. Every household has the same set of rules–the mother takes care of the children, the house, and the food. The father takes care of the business and comes home to see positive results. I’ve watched grown men stand in the kitchen, then walk away, sit down, and ask for a glass of water!!! I never once questioned it while growing up, which led me to barely question it as an adult. I know that I have always seen my past relationships in a similar light. I prefer to do the cooking and general cleaning and organizing. I expect my partner to help out here and there, but usually chastise them for getting it wrong. It quickly becomes a trend where I get huffy and “just do everything myself”. That’s not healthy, not necessary, and ultimately very detrimental to building a family. That’s not equality of the sexes at all. Heck, if my boyfriend wants to do his own laundry I should absolutely let him. There is no need for me to prove my worth or assert my ‘skills’ at domestic tasks. I don’t need to feel superior at it. I need us to both be equal. There were so many other little mentions that Sheryl discusses that made me step back and take a look at the relationship dynamics of my friends, my parents, and all of mine. It made me think and I’ve realized that my next relationship will be very different and easier to manage. Funny how I never thought of it.
- The Myth of Doing it All: If nothing else sells Lean In, this point should. My friend protested when I asked her to read Lean In because she didn’t want to read yet another manifesto about how women can “do it all and have it all”. I’m sure we’re all a little tired of those concepts. Sheryl Sandberg is here to tell you there is no such thing as doing it ALL. It’s about balancing your priorities and owning your decisions. I’ve always considered myself great at managing my time but I am also guilty of piling as many things as possible onto my list. I like to think of myself as one of the best multitaskers out there. What I never stopped to ask myself is why am I bothering to do things that don’t need to be done? Perhaps if I multitasked less and focused more, I’d do even better. What’s more, in my personal life I sometimes make decisions but then make excuses for them. No more. Own everything you do. If you feel like you can’t do that, don’t make the decision.
These are just a few top favorites. I’m waiting for my dad to finish reading the book before I snatch it back and cover every page with notes, tabs, and highlights. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most approachable writers I’ve ever read. I feel like I know her already. She lets you in to her home and her office as though you are an old friend with whom she’s having a catch-up. Ladies, she’s just like you and me.
I can say, without a doubt, that I will be turning to this book through every big step in my life. The advice and conversations in it apply to any and all aspects of being not just a woman but a driven individual in society. Do your bookshelves, your partners, your coworkers, and yourSELF a favor–buy Lean In and find out how it applies to you. It will.
…now that’s some endorsement!