“The critiques I’ve read of her book aren’t so much “cranky” as pointing out its rather classist for a highly educated, high-earning, white woman to tell other women they aren’t succeeding because they’re pulling back from success. Women get fired while pregnant, or have high risk pregnancies, or end up working jobs that pay less than daycare. They get injured, or end up as single mothers (or start out as single mothers) before finishing their degrees.”   –   lglbchck

If you’re like me, I spent a majority of the past few weeks, skipping over any status updates or tweets with the words, “Lean In” anywhere in the sentence. I couldn’t believe that such a complex problem had such a relatively-easy solution. No more battling a glass ceiling! No more playing against those MEN and frankly, no more excuses. Sandberg, “nailed it,” everyone said.

It was only tonight, that I started researching and thinking critically as to why Sandberg’s simple solution was so incredibly frustrating. I spent hours on research combing over the words of other men and women in book reviews and anecdotes. I read the book months ago and had pinpointed millions of reasons why the Facebook executive had gotten part of it so wrong. After ignoring the trend, I became enthralled by the sheer number of how  many people believed so fiercely that the book had started a, “revolution.” There was no denying the discussion or the importance of looking at the issue another way.

 

“Women aren’t “holding back.” Men (and now women) are being taught that their success is measured by their executive status and the numbers on their paycheck. We need to re-evaluate how we measure success in society. Men have the larger paycheck and higher positions because they have been brainwashed to think thats what’s expected of them. We should be urging young people (both men and women) to measure success based on their own values and standards, then there might be more balance in thr (sic) workforce.”   –  piemax

Whether it’s immigration reform, abortion, unemployment rates, social security, foreign policy or our national debt, we know that the largest problems have complex questions to answer before a solution is presented. Six Sigma taught me that solutions come from questions and questions, come from not over-generalizing or simplifying an otherwise difficult problem. As much as we try to make an issue simply light or dark, we end up causing more harm. The fact of the matter is, the wage gap and success gap between men and women simply exists because all people define success differently. Why aren’t more women in positions of leadership, we wonder- yet, have we asked a true sampling of women, (from all demographics?) Do women even WANT to be in those positions? Surely, there MUST be a reason economically? (Sex-ed could play a role. Welfare could play a role. Gender stereotyping and parenting could play a role.) This discussion isn’t easy, that we know.

Do I want what Sandberg has? Ask me and you might hear my answer of, “It depends on the culture.” Being an executive isn’t my end goal. In fact, the title and the “power” of the corner office, or executive floor doesn’t entice me, whatsoever. At the moment I sit in the middle of the hallway of a start-up, simply because I’m easily-accessible. There are days I wish for a door, but I also know the sacrifice. When drawing up office plans today for new spaces we’re planning to move into, I didn’t truly WANT to take a room with a door. I don’t need to be locked away to be valuable. The truth is, I don’t want to be an executive at a Fortune 1000, 500 or 100 company simply because I don’t WANT that lifestyle  to rule over what I believe to be the more important parts of my life. This does not mean I’m any less of a, “go-getter,” or someone who is not capable of greatness.

I redefined my, “all,” a long time ago. I can, “have it all,” because my “all” is measured only to my own happiness. My “all” is not linked to anyone else’s perception of success. I don’t lament over the fact I lack what Sandberg has. Her, “all” works for her and my “all” works for me. I am proud of my accomplishments, intelligence and “power” simply because I believe I am worth whatever I ask for. My value system revolves around time to go after my dreams, (which are not mutually-exclusive of my work,) and time to cherish two children in the rooms adjacent to mine. It’s not work/life balance to me, anymore,  it’s LIFE balance. I am able to afford my children, vacations and the incredible freedom to go after my dreams because of the knowledge and skillset I’ve earned. I’m proud to work in an executive role because I want to bring value and insight to my team. I lead for the sake of wanting to do GOOD, not for a title or the approval of other’s in the field. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sandberg’s book and advice are specific: If you have the means to go after what you want, do not hold yourself back. That, in itself is a sound preposition for anyone wondering why they don’t have a chair in the boardroom. However, simply saying, “the chair is yours, take it,” denies any outside fault of our own society, greed and behavior patterns. Sandberg’s success did not come easily and in the recent interview with 60 Minutes, CBS actually noted how Sandberg seemed uncomfortable, perhaps even doubtful of her own success:

 

“Sheryl Sandberg is an unlikely revolutionary. At 43, she is one of the few women at the top of corporate America, yet she’s surprisingly uncomfortable with her own power and influence – something she has fought since her days at North Miami Beach Senior High, where her classmates voted her most likely to succeed…” (CBSNews)

The memoir and novel are masked in quiet judgement and out-of-touch reality in a nation that is struggling to create new jobs and flatten unemployment rates. Sandberg’s, “truth” is her truth alone, forged by insights, realities and memories from her past experiences and knowledge. In true transparency  I absolutely am aware of the wage gap and fight for equality online and off. I consider myself extremely versed in this concept from a Human Resources standpoint as well as that of a vocal  journalist. But I also know, I’m not done asking questions. I have so much more to learn.

Sheryl Sandberg has been able to rise “above,” because of many things  none more important than remembering she chose her sacrifices and lived with the consequences. But at least, she was able to choose. Many women are not offered a choice, that is where the discussion should begin, not that women “ignore” the choice. They choose, alright, and usually it’s for keeping food on the table. 

This book to me, is nothing more than another exhausting snippet of classic “1%” wisdom: “I did it, (with the help of a nanny, great husband and publicist.)” Most women will never have those luxuries. Luckily for Sandberg, she was able to leverage help from the outside-in. This does not diminish what she did. She chose her sacrifices, worked hard and make a positive impact out of the results. That is to be congratulated, from any view. However, it’s HER few. The ivory tower in which she sits, isn’t liberating other females, not in the least.

 

“”The world needs women to redefine success beyond money and power. We need a third metric, based on our well-being, our health, our ability to unplug and recharge and renew ourselves, and to find joy in both our job and the rest of our life. Ultimately, success is not about money or position, but about living the life you want, not just the life you settle for.”   –  Arianna Huffington 

Here’s MY truth: Stop it. Don’t lean. Don’t take your career advice from a single book or notion. Don’t go backwards or forwards. Stay on course, find your own core truth and stop measuring yourself against everyone around you. Leaning in, offers one potential that is harmful: falling over.  How about, “bracing yourself” to recognize the truth of how smart, talented and WORTH it, you truly are, that’s more important. I’d much rather have a nation of HAPPIER, HEALTHIER and more motivated individuals than more women in board or executive positions. Wouldn’t we all?

One thing is certain: “Lean In” has started a discussion that needed to happen. However, the answers can’t be found in a single book, blog or even, a national study. While I appreciate Sandberg’s truth and passion, her narrow-sighted answers are nothing more than her offering advice in a busy chat room. If it inspires you, DO SOMETHING about it. But please, don’t allow anyone to make you feel less because you are not living up to a pre-defined pattern of success. Ask any mother who works 2 jobs to keep her children fed and clothed, her dreams are not of the corner office, they are of much, much, more.