Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lean Upon, 'Lean In' !

So here we are, women united as one.  From Eve to the woman of 21st century, we have wandered, gathered food, fed our families, fought for it from Roe vs.Wade to our right for equal pay. Today almost a century and half later since the Syracuse convention, as we bask in our respective glories of achieving the lives we love and dreamed about, there comes a huge thunderbolt.  A book that tells us we forgot to 'Lean In' and it creates a rift between us sisters. Sisters who have for centuries thought of each other as one. 

I am  joining the 'Lean In' discussion very late, I know. The media buzz is fading out and yet, here I am, a laggard just joining the discussion.  I am going to take a few steps back. I downloaded the book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg on March 11, 2013.  It's the day it was released. What took me so long? Well to be quite honest, I had to read it twice, before I was confident enough to write this post. 

Read it twice! I know its odd. Well here's why? The first time I read this book, it left me feeling angry, frustated and annoyed. It made me feel that everything I had done so far in my life was wrong. It made me feel that if I had  been just a little more adamant, maybe just maybe I too could have continued to have a career and a family like all my friends. And this was within the first 20% of the book.  I wasn't enjoying, so I just stopped reading it.  

I was confused.  I know what I was reading, but logically or emotionally it didn't make any sense at all.  How can a woman icon; Sheryl Sandberg write a book that generates  such strong feelings of self doubt. This book was supposed to be about empowering women, I said to myself.  It just didn't add up. So I decided to let it sit and not read it any further. 

Then, ironically Facebook came to the rescue. A women's group decides to read  Lean In as part of their book club initiative.  I pick it up again, this time instead of continuing where I left off, I start from the beginning, and try very hard to not think about what the media said or what I read in its reviews. I try very hard to not take every word in the literal sense but rather apply it to my situation and see if the logic works. And interestingly it does. 

This post is not about critiquing the book or analyzing it in anyway. The merit of the book is given. It's amazingly written and speaks to every women irrespective of geographical boundaries. Instead, this post is about what I am taking home after reading the book.  

Lean In has interestingly allowed me and other women alike, to Lean Upon Sheryl Sandberg, and I say this metaphorically. It has allowed women across the globe to lean upon her experience, her insight, her familiarity to the subject, her exposure to the corporate world, her understanding of the problem and above all her maturity of accepting that we are all alike and yet different. Sheryl Sandberg has allowed us to lean upon all this and take in her worldliness and apply it to ourselves.  

What do you think, this is leaning on ? :-) 
As I lean upon , 'Lean In',  I realize, that it's okay for me to not want a high profile career like my fellow friends. I realize that its okay for me to continue being adamant about saying NO to job offers that do not allow me to leave at 2.00pm and pick up my kids from school and more importantly I realize that it's okay for me to be a mom first and everything else, there after. 

Happiness has an academic definition, but I am yet to find a definition that fits us all. Happiness is relative.  

The book in some ways tells us to focus our energies on the internal locust and not on external locusts. It tells us too not worry about the world around us, because guess what the world doesn't care. 

At the first read, my interpretation of the text was that every women needs to be an executive striving for success and if she doesn't, she is short selling herself.  Second read, I read it differently. It does not say that. The book simply asks us to identify our aspirations irrespective of the conventions around us.  It could be interviewing for that dream job or the vice versa leaving corporate world and doing something for yourself. Either way, it tells us women to find what makes us happy and go for it. 

This is important because what makes us happy changes as we move along in life. As a 20 something, I wanted to own the world and then came along my son and I didn't care about the world as much. Maybe it was hormonal, maybe it was his smile, maybe it was my wish to be there for all his firsts.  Today, when I have a little bit of "me" back; the concept of "myself" is coming back in the happiness equation.   I am sure as I grow up, my equation will change again. 

To find your happiness quotient, lean in to your network. It does not matter if you are a high profile corporate executive or a newly wed, we all have a network. Sometimes its just a matter of asking. As a SAHM when reading this book, I thought to myself, where in the world will I find such a network? Interestingly, when I started talking, I found quite a few who were willing to talk and give advise and that's really what it is.  

It's my job to reach out and go for my dream, but if I can find a few who are willing to point me in the right direction, it makes the journey shorter and allows me to enjoy the success faster.  

How the book will change corporate America is yet to be seen. It has however succeeded in waking us up from the complacent stage that we were all in.  It might even add a new measure of success that goes beyond the profitability of a company. 

As I come to the end of this post,  I thank Sheryl Sandberg for allowing the women of the world to lean upon her know-how and apply it to their unique situation. 

To me this quote sums it up beautifully:

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." - Nora Ephron 


  1. I would surely like to read this book...

  2. have great art " Touching people's Heart ""
    You proved it again with your writing today talking about book.
    Feels proud to be friend of friend !