Release year: 2013

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

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Link to my handwritten notes


You know what? I’m feeling impostor syndrome as I attempt to write this review. It’s ironic, because Lean In is a book that changed the lives of many people as it discussed, among many things, the impostor syndrome of women who work outside of traditional roles. Here I am, a white man, about to pose a judgement on these ideas. I feel completely out of my depth. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to say much more than, “This book is good, we should all read it.” Gender issues, man…

And yet. This is how many women and many people feel like every hour of the day. I’m feeling it now. It almost physically hurts. It’s only been 30 minutes and I already wish I could make this feeling disappear. How can some people tolerate this inner pain? I believe life isn’t meant to feel this way. To adapt a quote from the author, “I should seek out larger, possibly less sympathetic audiences. I should take my own advice and be ambitious. Writing this [review] is not just me encouraging others to lean in. This is me leaning in. Writing this [review] is what I would do if I weren’t afraid.” This gives me the courage to go ahead. If you have any feedback about what I say here, I’ll see you in the comments. 😄

With that said, on with the book. As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking of my partner, who is a woman with what I consider to be unmistakeable impostor syndrome (though she would say that’s not her feeling like an impostor, that’s her being “realistic”). While we have a strong feminist movement in our Western culture, there is still so much we (all genders) need to learn about how to make room for women in our organizations, even 10 years after Lean In was published. Like, what does “making room” even mean? It’s a vast subject. To me, the simple fact that having ambition is seen as a positive in men but a negative in women tells the whole story. This is what we have to train our minds on. We must reframe ambition as a positive for all.

I find that my mind most frequently reframes its deeply held ideas through stories, and I’m happy to say that this book has plenty. The author generously shares from her personal experiences, from her start as a “bossy smart girl” (and how that affected her relationships) to her unique perspective as one of the (tech) world’s most powerful women, as COO of Facebook. And she’s a mother, too! She has seen it all and she will make you feel seen.

I’ll finish by saying that this is not a book for women only. Many men would benefit from reading it as well. There are many questions we wish could ask women but wouldn’t dare. Lean In has some of the answers many men are looking for, like how a senior man can mentor a younger woman without it looking like flirting.

“Equality between partners leads to happier relationships”, as Sheryl says. And in tomorrow’s workplace, relationships are everything. With that said, I recommend you give Lean In a chance.

Félix rating:

⭐ Star quotes

  1. The holy trinity of fear is the fear of being a bad mother, bad wife, and bad daughter. (p. 24)
  2. Ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then find a way to go do it. (p. 26)
  3. The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a feeling of “I’m a complete fraud.” (p. 29)
  4. Like so many things, a lack of confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.(p. 33)
  5. A simple change in posture can lead to a significant change in attitude. (p. 34)
  6. 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. (p. 35)
  7. We need to acknowledge that women are less likely to keep their hands up. Woman have to learn to keep their hands up, becaus when they lower them, even managers with the best intentions might not notice. (p. 36)
  8. For women, self-doubt can become a form of self-defense. (p. 41)
  9. A long-term dream does not have to be realistic or even specific. Even a vague goal can provide direction, a far-off guidepost to move forward. (p. 55)
  10. The cost of stability is often diminished opportunities for growth (p. 61)
  11. Tiara syndrome: Women expect that if they keep doing their job well someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head. (p. 63)
  12. The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. (p. 63)
  13. A mentor is not someone you can freely speak to for an hour every week. That’s a therapist. (p. 71)
  14. It should be a badge of honor for men to sponsor women. (p. 72)
  15. All advice is autobiographical (p. 74)
  16. Rarely is there one absolute truth, so people who believe that they speak the truth are very silencing of others. (p. 79)
  17. Take out the “but” and everything after, since it tends to dey the preceding statement. (p. 81)
  18. The upside of painful knowledge is much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance. (p. 84)
  19. Miscommunication is always a two-way street. (p. 85)
  20. Sharing emotions builds deeper relationships. (p. 88)
  21. True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed. Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection. (p. 91)
  22. When it comes to integrating career and family, planning too far in advance can close doors rather than open them. (p. 93)
  23. The single most important career decisions that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. (p. 110)
  24. Equality between partners leads to happier relationships. (p. 118)
  25. Learn to be a perfectionist in only the things that matter. Decide what matters and what doesn’t. You can’t be obsessive about things that don’t matter. (p. 123)
  26. Dont is better than perfect. Let go of unattainable standards. (p. 125)
  27. Guilt management can be just as important as time management. (p. 137)
  28. Every job will demand some sacrifice. The key is to avoid unnecessary sacrifice. (p. 155)
  29. Social gains are never handed out. They must be seized. (p. 157)
  30. Our job is not to make young women grateful. It is to make them ungrateful so they keep going. (p. 172)