Preparing to Win: When you Lean In...there be monsters

It's official. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's excellent new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has been released. Moreover, her Lean In Foundation has also launched.

This means two things:
  1. Women (and men who are smart) have access to tools, knowledge, data and insight that will help them move forward in achieving their goals - no matter what those goals might be.
  2. Women who follow that advice (because this part won't apply to men) and pursue their goals will meet a whole new world of obstacles - with some from very unexpected sources.
In short: There be monsters.

I was reminded of this a week or so ago when talking with a colleague of mine - a very successful woman who achieved her corporate career goals and then went on to create a successful career as an independent provider in her field. (Yes, I'm keeping this purposefully vague - because it isn't personal.)

I was lucky enough to have read an early release of Ms. Sandberg's book and loved it on many, many levels - even as I took issue with some of the content. (I'll be writing a practical application review of the book very soon.)

In talking with my colleague about how pleased and excited I was for women everywhere having access to the book's and Foundation's learning and guidance, I was taken aback at the near vitriolic attack I experienced - simply because I supported what Ms. Sandberg was saying.

My colleague's arguments were much the same as have been presented - and about which I've previously written. What they came down to was:
  1. Look at the messenger. Why should anyone listen to Sheryl Sandberg - with all her money and success? What does she know about the 'real life' challenges women face? and
  2. It's a corporate manifesto for women. What if the women aren't interested in pursuing a career in a large corporation, anyway? and
  3. She's wrong. The content she's presenting doesn't work in any case - and it won't just because Sheryl Sandberg or her Foundation's educational materials say so.
I listened. I responded. I noted that she was being surprisingly binary in her outlook when it's all a spectrum and that she might expand her thinking...or her listening, for that matter - especially when she admitted that she really didn't know and wasn't interested in what Ms. Sandberg's content actually is.

And then it got worse - because in this woman's world, Ms. Sandberg was wrong - personally and in content - and that made me wrong. So wrong, in fact, that her final argument was that I had "clearly drunk the Sheryl Sandberg Kool-Aid."

Yes, that's correct. She compared Ms. Sandberg's content - and my support of it - to the sort of cult following that led to the mass murder/suicide perpetrated by and against the members of Jim Jones' Peoples Temple. It's the new version of the Jonestown Massacre - or at least this woman evidently sees it that way.

By then, the arguments weren't against Ms. Sandberg. They were against me.

Welcome to the world of aspiration, achievement and success.

While you might not experience the sheer passion of my colleague's diatribe, the fact is, as you change your life to make it what you want it to be, you'll find that different versions of a lack of support for your efforts come from a variety of directions.

And it won't just be men who are trying to hold you back. It will be - as we saw in my example - women, too.

What's the answer? You recognize it as a win.

You take every attack as a completely backhanded but absolute compliment. It means you're doing great - because you're doing something that moves you ahead toward your own dreams, your own goals, your own success.

And they see it.

Leaning In is all about...
  • You deciding what you want, recognizing that you have it in you to move forward toward those dreams and goals, building a support system around you - from your own personal tools and capabilities to the partner you choose...
  • All the while recognizing that systemically you're up against obstacles that, yes, have yet to be addressed and might keep you from all that you want to achieve, but...
  • You believe in you - and you're willing to do your very best to back up that belief with ongoing action on behalf and in support of yourself and your dreams.
I don't know why Ms. Sandberg's message hit such a raw nerve in my colleague. I can speculate - but, really, who cares?

What's important is the reminder she provided - which is invaluable learning:

There may be monsters, but you'll win - whatever you define your win to be. Because you can.