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Just Get On.

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I recently (finally) read Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist manifesto Lean In. Reading it on my flight home from Tanzania was really impeccable timing. I was coming down from the high of the trip and contemplating a job offer for one hell of a major career switch. My intention upon my return was to waltz in and say, “Thanks but no thanks” but much to my own surprise the words (that I think might not have even been my own) came out more like “Game on. Let’s do this.”

I can’t say a book dictated my decision in this case; there were lots of factors at play–among them: boredom, recklessness, cashmoney, and an overwhelming desire to create distance and start all over. But there is one thing she said that I think shook a little sense into me.

When offered the role of “business unit general manager” at this little startup thing called Google, Sandberg hesitated and (like any MBA grad might do) created a pro/con opportunity list, ultimately deciding the job was not a fit. Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt put it to her this way: “Don’t be an idiot. When you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.” She took the job and later another one at Facebook, and the rest is history. The woman is untouchable.

I’m not saying I’m Sheryl Sandberg or that I’m on the next Google rocket. But I do think that what she wrote in Lean In impacted me in a profoundly positive way and I think that is worth sharing in case it is of value to anyone else. These are some of my personal favorite highlights from the book…

“Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from making them better.”

“My generation fought so hard to give all of you choices. We believe in choices. But choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you would make.”

“Millennial women were also less likely than their male peers to characterize themselves as “leaders,” “visionaries,” self-confident,” and “willing to take risks.”

“I said no to a lot of opportunities when I was just starting out because I thought, ‘That’s not what my degree is in’ or ‘I don’t know about that domain.’ In retrospect, at a certain point it’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters. One of the things I tell people these days is that there is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

“I recognize the sheer luck of being born into my family in the United States rather than one of the many places in the world where women are denied basic rights.”

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.”

“An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements. This difference has a huge ripple effect.”

“Junior women and senior men often avoid engaging in mentoring or sponsoring relationships out of fear of what others might think. A study published by the Center for Work-Life Policy and the Harvard Business Review reported that 64 percent of men at the level of vice-president and above are hesitant to have a one-on-one meeting with a more junior woman. This evasiveness must end.”

“One thing that helps is to remember that feedback, like truth, is not absolute. Feedback is an opinion, grounded in observations and experiences, which allows us to know what impression we make on others.”

“What I’m arguing is that the time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives–not before, and certainly not years in advance. The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in.”

“Imagine that a career is like marathon–a long, grueling, and ultimately rewarding endeavor. Now imagine a marathon where both men and women arrive at the starting line equally fit and trained. The gun goes off. The men and women run side by side. The male marathoners are routinely cheered on: “Lookin’ strong! On your way!” But the female runners hear a different message. “You know you don’t have to do this!” the crowd shouts. Or “Good start–but you probably won’t want to finish.” The farther the marathoners run, the louder the cries grow for the men: “Keep going! You’ve got this!” But the women hear more and more doubts about their efforts. External voices, and often their own internal voice, repeatedly question their decision to keep running. The voices can even grow hostile. As the women struggle to endure the rigors of the race, spectators shout, “Why are you running when your children need to you at home?

“Done is better than perfect.”

“My friends and I truly, if naively, believed that the world did not need feminists anymore. We mistakenly thought there was nothing left to fight for.”

“Currently only 24 percent of women in the US say that they consider themselves feminists. Yet when offered a more specific definition of feminism–“A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”–the percentage of women who agree rises to 65 percent.”

“The hard work of generations before us means that equality is within our reach. We can close that equality gap now. Each individual’s success can make success a little easier for the next. We can do this–for ourselves, for one another, for our daughters, and for our sons. If we push hard now, this next wave can be the last wave. In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

“Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going.”

8 Comments

  1. Hillary Hillary

    This has been on my reading list for a while now. Thanks for reminding me that I need to pick it up ASAP. At a time when I’m coming out of grad school and looking at opportunities that are now available to me, so much of this is thrilling to read.

    • I had it on my list forever too. So glad I finally picked it up. Enjoy, and good luck with your career hunt…

  2. I read this book about a year ago and it definitely made me look at my career a bit differently. And I should probably read it again now. I’m just about to finish yoga teacher training and I’m trying to figure out how teaching yoga and my career job are going to work together. Congrats on your new position!

    And this quote… gosh, all the time I have put into thinking about my future kids and what to do about my career at that point. “What I’m arguing is that the time to scale back is when a break is needed or when a child arrives–not before, and certainly not years in advance. The months and years leading up to having children are not the time to lean back, but the critical time to lean in.”

  3. Rachel Rachel

    Great post, Katie!

  4. Stephanie Stephanie

    Wow, the quotes you posted from this book really resonated with me. Thanks for posting!!

    • Love love love it. Glad you connected with it. You should definitely read it!

  5. […] Regardless, I wanted to roll out the red carpet of emotion with a recap of my personal highlights from Maryanne Williamson’s A Return to Love. (You can see my favorites from Lean In here.) […]

  6. Cindy Spivey Cindy Spivey

    I read this book a few months back and found I couldn’t agree with her idea of just getting on. Why is it YOU want that seat? Is it because its what everyone else wants? Is it because its going the same place everyone else wants to go? Do you love that spot on the rocket ship or do you love the idea of having it and being in a position that makes you feel comfortable with where you are in live? Its okay to not be headed in the same direction as everyone else. Are you settling so as to NOT start back at square one? Goes for jobs and relationships, but especially relationships. Hope your decision brings you happiness for all the right reasons.

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