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Lean In

I’m coming out of retirement for a short review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

As a newly working mom (a couple years now), I was looking forward to reading this book. I had read an article about Sandberg in the New Yorker, and I liked the fact that she championed finding your career first before having children.

The career advice in this book is beneficial to both men and woman. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Make sure you have a seat at the table. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. According to Sandberg these things are essential for a woman to advance their career. The short answer is of course this is sound advice.

On the other hand, there are huge things to consider before embarking on this approach. I myself have struggled from making $12 an hour to a good job as a Senior Software Engineer. I can’t stress enough that this was not an easy trajectory. And here is what I think needs to be emphasized. You can do everything that Sandberg recommends, and you can be an extremely talented person, but if you are in the wrong place it will fail spectacularly.

I have worked at least two places where being frank, bold, talented, smart, and outspoken worked against me rather than for me. At least one of these places was like this due to sexism. There are some work places that will resent you more for your talent. It seems bizarre. You would think most work places would want talented good employees, but some dysfunctional places would prefer a subservient employee who knows their place than a bold super performer.  Odd, but true. So here’s my advice. When you discover yourself to be in one of these places, get out. Don’t try to change them. Find a new place and hope to find one that is more amenable to your success. There are a lot of bad places out there. Don’t burn bridges but keep moving until you find a place that appreciates your talents. That is the best place to grow.

It’s been written already, but Sandberg focuses a bit too much on what women are doing wrong rather than the deficiencies of the system. I have known timid men who don’t get ahead. It’s not about characteristics of women that prevent them from getting ahead. I have known both men and women who have failed to get ahead due to being too afraid to lean in. So failure to “lean in” can’t be the only problem. I think Sandberg gives men an easy way to say, see we don’t need to change. It’s women who need to be bolder. That fails to take into account women who are bold but still experience the glass ceiling.

Not everyone can be a leader. Note to readers I am not a leader. This book is no secret formula. Some people just don’t have it in them to push ahead (lean in). They expect their talents to be noticed but don’t go out of their way to get themselves noticed. I think this usually happens due to some people being raised to be humble. Humility does little in the workplace.

I always use the Keanu Reeves example. I read somewhere that he dissed Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet to Branaugh’s face. Think about the character of Reeves. He’s one of the worst actors ever but he sincerely doesn’t know it. Think of all the people along the way that have noticed his extreme lack of talent. High school counselors, agents, directors, fellow actors, parents, friends. Many helpful people probably told him that he should pursue another interest. He didn’t listen. He became a successful actor. With no talent. Humility will prevent a good actor from getting ahead. Lack of humility can create a Keanu Reeves.

Sandberg’s chapters on men sharing more of the household work are spot on. Many of the couples I know now including myself are pretty equitable, so the good news is that this is a realizable goal for women.

A lot has been written about Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged and why this book fails to acknowledge that her experience is hardly transferable. True. She doesn’t exactly help herself by telling us Larry Summers approached her about being her adviser at Harvard. Then there was the treasury job with Summers. Then there was the job at Google and then an offer from LinkedIn. It’s a little tone-deaf because how many of us are going to even get in for an interview at Google or LinkedIn the startups with no experience. She had no experience.

And yet that is not the most tone-deaf part of the book. It comes when she talks about how important it was for her and her husband to stay in the same city so that they could raise their children and how her husband was struggling with flying from L.A. to the Bay Area on the weekends to be with the kids. Well readers when such a thing happens, don’t despair. All you need do is find a job at a new company and move that company’s headquarters to the Bay Area. Hear that? Work for Boeing and live in Bakersfield? Have Boeing move their company headquarters. Problem solved.

But wait there’s more. Sandberg’s husband’s company was SurveyMonkey in Portland. They are now based in Northern California. I live in Seattle. I like the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to live in California. Maybe some SurveyMonkey employees felt the same way. So moving to NoCal might have helped Sandberg’s family, but possibly at the cost of some pretty decent Portland families. Yeah, life sucks sometimes.

Finally, Sandberg says you can continue the discussion by finding the Facebook Lean In page. Well guys, guess what? I’m not on Facebook and I’m not going on Facebook. So there you go. My review stays here.

Awesome

This cartoon is found many places, but I found it on Huffingtonpost.

An anti-abortion rights organization is withdrawing an award it planned to present Rep. Bart Stupak, after the Michigan Democrat announced Sunday he would support health care reform legislation.

The Susan B. Anthony List had chosen Stupak to receive the “Defender of Life” award at the “Campaign for Life Gala” Wednesday here in the nation’s capital.

Because we all know Susan B. Anthony was pro-life.

From Yglesias. Emphasis mine.

We should also, however, spare a thought for the unsung hero of comprehensive reform, McConnell and his GOP colleagues, who pushed their “no compromise” strategy to the breaking point and beyond. The theory was that non-cooperation would stress the Democratic coalition and cause the public to begin to question the enterprise. And it largely worked. But at crucial times when wavering Democrats were eager for a lifeline, the Republicans absolutely refused to throw one. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other key players at various points wanted to scale aspirations down to a few regulatory tweaks and some expansion of health care for children. This idea had a lot of appeal to many in the party. But it always suffered from a fatal flaw—the Republicans’ attitude made it seem that a smaller bill was no more feasible than a big bill. Consequently, even though Scott Brown’s victory blew the Democrats off track, the basic logic of the situation pushed them back on course to universal health care.

Today, conservative anger at the Democrats is running higher than ever, and for the first time in years the GOP leadership’s blanket opposition has won them the esteem of their fanatics. But in more sober moments in the weeks and months to come, my guess is that the brighter minds on the right will recognize that their determination to turn health reform into Obama’s Waterloo sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Universal health care has been attempted many times in the past and always failed. The prospects for success were never all that bright. Many of us, myself included, at one point or another wanted to try something more moderate. But the right wing, by invariably indicating that it would settle for nothing less than total victory, inspired progressive forces to march on and win their greatest legislative victory in decades.

Paul Krugman

Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.)

And a word of my own on “death panels.” Now that healthcare reform has passed (barring something catastrophic in the Senate), I predict the same people who whipped their followers into a froth over the government using death panels to put granny down, I predict that these same people will start to talk about the burden of keeping the poor and illegal immigrants alive. They are costing us money in insurance. Why should they get a life-saving transplant, they will say. I’ve done everything right all my life so why should I be punished.

Predators. I predict they’ll say child predators can get health insurance and it will cost insurance money to keep them alive. Those costs will be  passed on to us. In short, that they very people who fear mongered are now going to be the ones who want to go back to the old system where they can choose who is worthy of life-saving treatment.

I haven’t read anything before about it, because quite frankly one does get tired of reading about sexual abuse and the Catholic Church. But this article is well worth a read as it describes just how fucked up the church is, and the existing pope.

And when you think about the Church’s ridiculous obsession with homosexuality and abortion, articles like these just make you scratch your head.

I have a hard time respecting any of the benefits such a church could possibly have when I read something like this.

The priest at the center of a German sexual-abuse scandal that has embroiled Pope Benedict XVI continued working with children for more than 30 years, even though a German court convicted him of molesting boys.

I’m a big fan of Toshiro Mifune in Akira Kurosawa movies. This clip from the movie Red Sun, while enjoyable, just doesn’t get close to the charisma of Mifune in The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashoman. What is it about him? I think it’s that he intimidates you and he laughs at you at the same time. Anyone seen this movie?

It’s real

And you can buy it at Etsy.

Spring is here

What a difference a week makes. It was really heartbreaking to see the U.S. lose to Canada in the Men’s Hockey Final, but at least it was a great game. You can’t say we didn’t try.

Yesterday was a brilliant day in Seattle though. The sun was shining. The temp was surely in the 60′s, and despite being depressed over the hockey I decided to get back into my exercise regime and go for a run. With getting sick and then traveling to Vancouver, I haven’t had much opportunity to exercise. Boy I was looking forward to it.

Then 2 blocks into my run, I tripped on some protruding cement in the pavement and landed very hard on my knee caps completing skinning one of them. It reminds me of being a kid really. Remember all of those cement playgrounds? I was always skinning my knees as kid, and I wasn’t the only one.

So I might have to delay running for another couple of days while the bruises heal. Another sign of spring was a big fat gray squirrel tearing up my newly planted garden. At first I thought he was eating my chard or spinach. But no. Must have been looking for a nut he may have planted last fall. He was persistent. After I chased him away, he came back. Who knows what I’ll find upon returning home today after work.

Here’s a pic from Major Changer on flickr.

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