Good Reads Life

BOOK NOTES: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

My colleague Nim gifted me Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In for my birthday last year. It couldn’t be more apt. I just turned 29, which meant I have just one more year on my so-called “twenties”. It is, indeed, a very good time to look back at the past decade of learnings, mistakes and whatnot, and move forward to a better, (hopefully)more mature me.

But after reading the book, what I immediately thought was, hell, had I read this years ago, I could’ve prevented some of the mistakes and negativity that creeped into me from time to time throughout my career. Books truly are mentors of a kind.

Which is why I then handed it over to my cousin, Raya. She’s not into books, but she just graduated from university and is out looking for a job. I thought it was worth the try to hand her the opportunity to learn the things I would’ve wanted to in my early twenties.

And for every body else (as well as for my future self), here are my notes and quotes from the Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which is the first out of the 24 books I promised to read this year.


Inspirational posters in the Facebook office:
  • “Fortune favors the bold”
  • “Proceed and be bold”
  • “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

When I don’t feel confident, one tactic I’ve learned is that it sometimes helps to fake it.

They were impatient about their own development and believed that they were capable of doing more. And they were often right. —Pertaining to men

Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.

At a certain point, it is our ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters.

There is not perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make opportunities fit for you, rather than the other way around.

I learned to keep my hand up. —Pertaining to women shying out in school

On negotiating:

Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.

When negotiating, think personally, act communally.

On negotiating salary:

“My manager suggested I talk with you about my compensation”

“My understanding is that jobs that involve this level of responsibility are compensated in this range”

A woman needs to combine niceness with insistence… “relentlessly pleasant”

Learning to withstand criticism is a necessity for women. (Arianna Huffington)

The cost of speaking her mind was that she would inevitably offend someone.

One of the things he told me was that my desire to be liked by everyone will hold me back. He said that when you want to change things, you can’t please everyone. If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.

Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder. Ladders are limiting – people can move up or down, on or off. Jungle gyms offer more creative exploration. There’s only one way to get to the top of a ladder, but there are many ways to get to the top of a jungle gym.

Only one criterion mattered when picking a job – fast growth. When companies grow quickly, there are more things to do than there are people to do them.

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.

Letting the other side make the first offer is often crucial to achieving favorable terms.

If the other path made her happier and offered her a chance to learn new skills, that meant she was actually moving forward.

In business, being risk averse can result in stagnation.

Staying in the same functional area and in the same organization creates inertia and limits opportunity to expand. Seeking out diverse experiences is useful preparation for leadership.

I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.

Hard work and results should be recognized by others, but when they aren’t, advocating for oneself becomes necessary.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Do not wait for power to be offered.

On getting a mentor:

Excel and you will get a mentor.

Being unsure about how to proceed is the most natural feeling in the world.

Mentoring and sponsoring relationships often form between individuals who have common interests or when the junior members remind the more senior members of themselves.

***I thought of my late boss, Jim, a lot when I was reading this part of the book. I never really used the term “mentor” when referring to him before, but this chapter reminded me of our relationship a lot.

Personal connections lead to assignments and promotions, so it needs to be okay for men and women to spend informal time together.

Someone else’s performance is assessed by someone else’s perception.

Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding the sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest.

There is my point of view (my truth) and someone else’s point of view (his truth). Rarely is there one absolute truth, so people who believe that they speak the truth are very silencing of others.

Being aware of a problem is the first step to correcting it.

True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed.

Don’t enter the workforce already looking for the exit. Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision is made.

On relationships:

It is always worth the battle to change an undesirable dynamic.

You can’t do it all. No one can have two full-time jobs, have perfect children and cook three meals and be multi-orgasmic oil dawn… Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movement. (Gloria Steinem)

Done is better than perfect.

Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.

It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess, It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened; you can always change your mind. I know: I’ve had four careers and three husbands. (Nora Ephron – 1996 Wellesley commencement speech)

On being in control:

[We have] to exert more control over our careers. McKinsey would never stop making demands on our time, so it was up to us to decide what we were willing to do. It was our responsibility to draw the line.

***Very good point. We have to stop complaining about our jobs being too much, and starting being more in control.

Counterintuitively, long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.

On doing it all:

The traditional practice of judging employees by face time rather than results unfortunately persists. Because of this, many employees focus on hours clocked in the office rather than on achieving their goals as efficiently as possible.

Setting obtainable goals is key to happiness.

The right questions is not “Can I do it all?” but “Can I do what’s most important for me and my family?”

Success is making the best choices we can… and accepting them.

The secret is there is no secret – just doing the best you can with what you’ve got.

Whoever has power takes over the noun – and the norm – while the less powerful get an adjective.

We all just want to be the noun.

Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.

Social gains are never handed out. They must be seized.

Own Who You Are – Melody Hobson

It would be lovely to think that my success has a result of being extraordinary, but the answer is far more boring. I worked hard. Really hard. And that is the key. I was competing with people who were more knowledgeable and better connected. The one thing I knew I could do is outwork everybody.

I also learned how to study others. I am in some ways the quintessential “inside outsider”. All through my life, I’ve kept an eye out for people who’re doing cool things, and I took notes.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. (Yoda)

The point of the drill was to make you feel comfortable being uncomfortable, because that’s how most of us spend our day. It teaches you to relax into it and get through it.

The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off. (Gloria Steinem)

Matthew’s Story

I started to realize that, to some degree, all of them are making it up as they went along. We all are.

Do one thing everyday that makes you slightly nervous.

Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it means you’re trying. And isn’t that something you can – and maybe even should – live with?

There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. (Oprah Winfrey)

When we invest ourselves in worrying about what other people think, we lose touch with what we stand for.

Proceed and be bold.



Well, that would be it for now. And I hope this is as useful to you as reading a page from my journal. My next book for the latter half

So, what do you think?

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