Start a Revolution Like Sheryl Sandberg
Grab a coffee, take a seat, and “lean in” to this awesome article.
Friendly Note: This article was written with a female POV for a female POV, in hopes to inspire the next generation of female leaders. If you are male or someone else, while this POV may feel unfamiliar, I hope you can still leave with some valuable takeaways and share them with the girls in your life : )
It’s the beginning of ninth grade. I wanted to “get involved”. So, I joined lots of extracurriculars: Student Council, Barbell, Deca, Cross-Country, and Robotics, just to name a few.
Looking back, I wish I could’ve told my younger self what I know now. I made a lot of mistakes in ninth grade.
For starters, I thought that in joining all of those extracurriculars and “getting involved,” I would have lots of friends, be super happy, and well-rounded just like the twelfth graders who I looked up to as a “niner”.
This assumption was FALSE.
Secondly, I let people push me around. I didn’t stand up for myself.
Because, I thought it was okay.
For example, When I joined robotics, I was one of the only girls on our team. The executive team was male and they got the biggest say in how roles were divided in the club.
I really wanted a say in what we were doing. So, I tried to share my ideas with the president and got shut down.
I didn’t get a seat at the table. If only I knew, what I know now.
But, I know that I wouldn’t be the the girl I am today without my past decisions.
And I wouldn’t be the girl with a changed mindset, without the help of boss lady Sheryl Sandberg.
Everything changed for me week three of Velocity (a sub-program in TKS → The Knowledge Society: North America’s Top Youth Innovation Program for youth aged 13–17). In comparison to prior weeks and the next seven weeks to follow, our person of the week was a female. And as an advocate for gender equality, I was pretty excited to learn about a female unicorn person, as there wasn’t many.
To give a little background: Every week in Velocity we research the “person of the week.” This person, is a “Unicorn Person”, meaning they’ve influenced a billion+ people.
I had heard of Sheryl Sandberg before. I knew she was the COO of Facebook, but I didn’t know anything deeper than that.
Little did I know before researching Sheryl, that she would change my mental models and the way I live my life as a female in S.T.E.M.
To kick-off my research on Sheryl, I watched her Ted Talk and it completely changed my life.
Yes, something as small as a Ted Talk changed the way I see the world.
The talk was titled: “Why we have too few women leaders.”
This sparked, the question in me:
Well, why do we have too few women leaders?
To summarize, Sheryl’s beautifully delivered speech on how we hold ourselves back as women (although if you haven’t already seen it, you must right after finishing this article):
- Women tend to underestimate themselves → men often oversell themselves (this is the same reason why males raise their hand straight up, and women generally half-way) and females tend to underestimate their abilities.
- We end up doing 2x the housework and 3x the childrearing → we need to find partners that believe in gender equality. Whether that may be in domestic duties or the gender pay wage gap in the workforce.
- We leave before we have to leave → The moment we start thinking about having a child, we stop pushing for better jobs, and working hard on our ambitions/projects.
Why was this talk so impactful to me?
Some of you might be wondering, what was so impactful about a Ted Talk on Gender Equality?
There’s lots of talks about gender equality.
What stood out?
Well for starters, in her talk Sheryl was the spinning image of boss mentality.
You could tell by her open body language that she is a COO, or soon to be an executive at a huge company.
Sheryl exuded confidence in this talk and you could tell she was passionate about the topic, because she radiated enthusiasm. This made what she was saying more believable.
Just like it’s not often that I win Battle Royale on Fortnite, I don’t often see female unicorns deliver a Ted Talk.
Well, because as I wrote earlier on —
We’re low on female unicorns (for the time being).
Females are under-represented in many areas: Science-based fields being a huge one.
According to the World Economic Forum, ONLY “16% of women graduate with STEM degrees”, and hold a low 25% of the world’s STEM jobs (2017).
While these numbers are slowly increasing thanks to a growing interest in STEM for females, and movements like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In.”
THIS is the reason that this Ted Talk on gender equality was so impactful, as it’s not everyday that a female unicorn & COO at one of the world’s biggest STEM companies delivers a talk about why:
Women deserve a seat the table and we have to work hard for this seat.
And several other harsh truths that more women need to internalize and overcome, so we can become the next generation of leaders.
Sheryl’s stories taught me a lot about the world and myself.
She made me want to be the next female leader — in STEM.
She made me want to inspire the next generation of female leaders.
She helped me shift my mindset from one fixed on what I believed to be true to a growth mindset that challenges myself to question what I know and become a better version of myself.
And I’m not the only one she’s impacted… otherwise she wouldn’t be a Unicorn person.
One way Sheryl used her influence positively to share her stories and spark change was by founding the “Lean In” revolution.
“Leaning In” — A Gender Equality Movement
In 2013, Sheryl published her book “Lean In”. And kicked off a gender equality movement.
Sheryl started the “Lean In” revolution.
The purpose of “Lean In” was to encourage more females to “lean in” and live their best life. Not settle for less and leave before we have to.
It’s a collection of personal stories and anecdotes on everything from how to be a good leader to how to have it ALL.
From Facebook to a Girl Power Revolution
Sheryl Sandberg is most often recognized as the COO of Facebook.
For the past couple of headings, I’ve been telling you all about how Sheryl Sandberg changed my life.
But some of you still may not know anything about the Facebook COO other than her job position.
Sheryl wasn’t just handed her COO position.
She had to work hard and leave positive impressions.
She had to earn herself a seat at the table.
And she did.
After being elected to the Facebook board of directors by her male colleagues, Sheryl went on to use her platform and influence for good, starting her Girl Power Revolution. She’s also a wife and mom, proving you can be a boss lady and have a family.
How do I adopt the leadership characteristics & mindset of Sheryl and start my own revolution?
It’s actually really easy. Just keep reading this article to learn about ten of the biggest lessons Sheryl has taught me through interviews and speeches I’ve watched on Youtube to tweets and articles I’ve read. And if you’re running on a tight schedule, feel free to scroll down to the key takeaways section near the end of the page and get back to your hustle.
Now for part two of the question: How do you start you own revolution?
Well, a revolution isn’t built overnight.
So, I don’t have a straight answer.
However, I would recommend:
- Investing in yourself → this means, living your optimal life (which starts with living your optimal day), learning about exponential technologies & the business world, seeking unique opportunities & mentorship, and leveraging your network to gain unique knowledge & insights.
- Using your knowledge to solve the world’s biggest problems → this is where you can build your revolution. Whether it’s a girl power revolution like Sheryl’s or becoming female Elon Musk. Only time will tell.
And for now while you invest in yourself, join Sheryl’s revolution and inspire more females to grow into strong leaders.
Lesson One: Give Yourself A Seat At The Table.
Yep, you heard that right.
Claim that seat. It’s yours.
Don’t let anyone stop you. Make boss moves.
If you want a seat at “the table” take it.
Ok, now I’m not saying barge into the board room at Facebook and sit down at the table.
Although, it wouldn’t hurt to try.
What I mean is you need to learn how to hustle and utilize your network to get a seat at the table.
Learn how to put yourself into serendipitous situations where you can be presented with the opportunity to sit at the table.
And remember that it’s going to take some work to get there.
But as with all worthwhile things, you got to put in the work. In the real world, nothing is just given to you. Don’t expect things to be given to you.
Time is more valuable than money. It’s priceless. Meaning if you want someone’s time you better be able to give them value for spending their time with you.
Just like Queen Bey. Queen Sheryl made her own boss moves.
She worked hard for her seat at the table and once she got it, she kept working hard to keep it. This led to her becoming COO of Facebook in 2008.
Lesson Two: Stop underestimating yourself.
It’s time we pay a visit to one of our earlier topics.
TKS defines a “Unicorn Lady” as a female who has impacted over one billion people. Just like a “Unicorn Company” is a company worth at least $1 billion.
Where are all the unicorn ladies?
- Sitting in a high school class reading Othello
- Taking care of their children & doing lots of housework
- Preparing for children they haven’t had yet
- Attending TKS (The Knowledge Society) sessions & unlocking their full potential → also, part of the #bossladies channel on Slack
- Working their butts off getting a STEM degree, an internship, or tech company → trying to become the next unicorn (we just haven’t heard of them yet)
One of the biggest reasons why we have so few women leaders and unicorn ladies is because women often underestimate themselves.
We don’t think we can “Have it All.”
Which is totally false (see Lesson Nine).
The solution: STOP underestimating ourselves
How might you go about doing this?
- Raise your hand → straight up… no more bent-arm raises. A leader exudes confidence, in everything they do.
- If you have a question, ask it. Don’t be afraid to speak up for what you believe in, and ask GOOD questions. Just like, if you want a seat at the table — take it.
- Overall, work on following the BOSS MENTALITY mindset 24/7 → until you start to subconsciously follow it.
- And finally, if you think you aren’t good enough to do something. Take that as a sign that you HAVE to do it.
Sheryl is a huge advocate for this and look where she is now.
Stop underestimating yourself. It’s powerful.
Be like Sheryl in her Ted Talk. Exude confidence and enthusiasm in everything you do. This makes you look more believable and helps you engage with your audience.
Lesson Three: Follow the “Platinum Rule.”
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the “Golden Rule”
“Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Well say goodbye to that rule. It’s old news.
There’s a new rule in town… meet Sheryl’s “Platinum Rule.”
“Treat others the way THEY WANT to be treated.”
Seems easy enough to follow.
And it makes total sense.
Not everyone wants to be treated the way YOU want to be treated.
We’re all different and that’s okay.
So, how do I figure out how people want to be treated?
Simple. Ask them.
If you want to form and maintain positive lasting relationships, you have to genuinely care about the other person (or people) in the relationship.
So, show people you care and ask them how THEY would like to be treated. And then do your best to treat them that way.
Sheryl changed the way I approached treating others with this eye-opening advice. Up until I read about her “Platinum rule,” I just assumed that people wanted to be treated the way I wanted to be treated.
Jumping to assumptions is not a good idea, trust me.
Just follow the platinum rule instead. There’s no going wrong with it.
Lesson Four: Focus on the positive and learn from the negative.
As a society, we tend to focus on the negative.
And there’s a lot of negative to focus on.
Sheryl believes that we should focus on the good.
While there might not always be much of it, making the conscious decision to make this mental shift can be hugely impactful.
It’s about celebrating the tiny successes and setting up positive feedback loops for ourselves.
It’s scientifically proven that females need more positivity than males do. This is because our brains have less of the neurotransmitters that make us happy than males do.
Which means females neurotransmitters need double the positive feedback to feel the same amount of happy as a male would. Focusing on the positive helps us feel happier and is an easier way to raise our dopamine levels, compared to relying on external sources to shower us with positive feedback (which takes a lot longer).
This is why Sheryl believes we need to focus on the positive in our life.
Yes, the negative won’t go away. We just need to teach ourselves to take our failures as learning opportunities, like Sheryl would do.
Lesson Five: You’ve got to put in the work to get your desired results.
There’s one simple formula to your desired results:
Hard work + Determination = Desired Results
Nothing in life worthwhile will be handed to you. If you really want something, first understand that you will have to work your butt off to get it.
You’ve got to have a lot of resilience and a good work ethic to achieve your desired results. Whether it may be that job promotion you wanted or to kickstart your first ever startup.
Sheryl wasn’t always resilient and she had to start building her world class work ethic somewhere.
“If you want something, work for it.”
Don’t expect anyone to give it to you. That’s not how the world works.
- Figure out what you’re willing to work for.
- Be resilient.
- Build & maintain a world class work ethic.
Good isn’t good enough anymore. If you want to be part of the next generation of leaders, YOU have to be world class.
Lesson Six: Not everyone’s going to like you — and that’s perfectly okay.
From kindergarten, we have the story of:
likability being correlated with success
instilled in us.
This correlation is FALSE.
Likability does not correlate with how successful you are. It’s a myth. Just like unicorns… but not unicorn people.
However, it can definitely help. The more people who like you and support your cause = the more influence you have. Right?
It’s not that simple.
While, likability can give you more influence and influence gives you power, which is one of society’s two main measures of “Success” (the other being wealth).
Success really isn’t all about POWER and WEALTH. That’s just what society tells us.
In reality, everyone has their own personal measures of success.
And the fact is your neighbour probably isn’t going to have the same measures of success as you are.
Which means only YOU can define what success means to YOU.
I wish I had learned this sooner. For the longest time my mental models have been:
- To become “successful” in life you MUST gain Power & Wealth and
- You need to be “successful” in life, so you don’t fail
But why are we so scared of failing? We can gain a lot of value if we take our failures as opportunities for growth.
The only person we need to compete against is the person we were yesterday.
From reading and hearing Sheryl’s stories my mental models were completely crushed and I learned not to care too much about likability.
My new mental models:
- Not everyone needs to like me because I don’t need social validation to be happy with myself
- Likability and success are not correlated
- I don’t need anyone else’s support of my accomplishments → I define what success means for myself
- Failure is good, if you take it as a learning opportunity. In fact, I challenge you to fail and fail again — until you learn that failure is 100% normal and necessary.
Lesson Seven: Don’t leave before you have to.
If you’re not already in your third trimester of pregnancy and especially if you’re sixteen (like myself) — please don’t “leave” before you have to.
What I mean by “leave” is subconsciously deciding to leave your goals, career, and ambition in the backburner, because YOU think that you need to make time for a baby or family way before you have to.
The sad part is most women do this, because we have this predetermined belief that we have to have children and a family. And that if we do that we can’t balance them with our goals and will have to become the primary caregiver for our future child.
Emphasis on FUTURE.
Lots of women start thinking about this before they even have a partner to get pregnant with.
And it’s a cycle that needs to end NOW.
Side effects of “leaving, before you have to” may include:
- No longer working for that job promotion you wanted.
- Spending valuable time thinking about how you’re going to make room for a baby.
- A decrease in pursual of your ambitions/dream career.
Learn to know when you’re leaving and then do something about it.
Sheryl often talks about the importance of being AWARE. Be aware that you are “leaving.” Then figure out how you reverse it and chase after your ambitions.
Lesson Eight: Talk about IT.
Be an activator and start meaningful conversations.
Talk about those “taboo” subjects that need to be addressed.
From starting “Lean In” to being in the media as COO of Facebook, Sheryl knows how important it is to address hard to talk about subjects.
- Sexual assault
- Harassment in the workforce
- Child slavery
Among others, these are hard to talk about subjects.
Sheryl believes we need to become activators and use the voice we have in our communities and through our networks online to address these important issues.
We cannot solve a problem without first becoming aware of it.
Lesson Nine: You CAN have it ALL.
Yep, you heard that right.
YOU can have it ALL.
If you want to have a family, be the CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, a runner, activist, and social media influencer.
Then go for it.
If you want to live independently and travel around the world taking photos, while running a Youtube channel and blog.
Then go for that.
The point is you can live your dream life and you can truly have whatever “all” means to you.
Sheryl Sandberg is a COO, founder of “Lean In”, author, activist, mom of two, traveller, social media figure, and so much more.
She can balance it all because she knows that she does not need to sacrifice one for the other.
She knows herself, what she wants in life, and spends her time pursuing her passions.
What’s her secret?
She’s learned how to live optimally. And you can too.
Lesson Ten: Self-care & self-compassion are super important.
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but just in case you haven’t remember:
“Take care of yourself, B (Babe).”
YOUR mental health is extremely important and directly correlates with your success & happiness (unlike likability — see Lesson Six).
The most successful people prioritize their mental health and find a healthy balance between the hustle & breaks.
I can guarantee you that every successful women leader makes time for self-care and intentionally strives to become more self-compassionate.
Self-care ISN’T selfish.
Just ask the Queen herself:
One of Beyonce’s self-care rituals is spending 20 minutes everyday introspecting.
In a similar way, Queen Sheryl has her own healthy habits. Including:
- Waking up early → Sheryl often gets to work before 7:00 a.m. and she’s one of the first in the office.
- Getting quality sleep → She advocates for the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, so you can wake up refreshed and ready to crush the day ahead.
- Being self-aware → Sheryl once said, “We cannot change what we are NOT aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” What this means is we cannot change ourselves unless we are aware of where we can improve.
- Always taking notes → Since her first day at Facebook, Sheryl has made sure to write down all the details of her meetings. Taking notes helps you declutter your mind and not forget the important stuff.
In terms of self-compassion, Sheryl believes we should all “Believe we can do anything” and we cannot do this without learning to love ourselves.
There was a lot of knowledge bombs in this article, here’s what you should leave with:
- If you want a seat at the table, take it. But know it’s not going to be easy, and if it is… move on to a new table.
- Do NOT underestimate yourself. You are a boss and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Focus on the positive and learn from the negative.
- Failure is necessary for growth.
- Not everyone is going to like you.
- You have to put in the work for desired results.
- Do not “leave” before you have to.
- Treat people the way they want to be treated.
- You actually CAN do it ALL! You just have to master the art of living optimally.
- Be an activator — start meaningful conversations on topics that MATTER & need to be addressed.
- Self-care isn’t selfish — the world’s most successful people prioritize their mental health and schedule time for self-care. EVERY DAY.
- You can do ANYTHING → but first, learn to love yourself.
What’s really amazing about living in this digital age is that we have so much information at our fingertips. We can create our optimal environment and surround ourselves with the world’s best thought leaders. From Naval Ravikant, to Marcus Aurelius, Chamath Palihapitiya, to Sheryl Sandberg.
Sheryl taught me a lot about myself and about the world.
I’m a better version of myself today because of the lessons she’s shared with the world and my third week of Velocity.
I know that I should only do what I love doing, and that joining all the extracurriculars in school is not how I enjoyed spending my time.
I know that if I want a seat at the table…
In my case, robotics. I have to work hard and earn it and if that doesn’t work I know that I can pursue robotics outside of a school team.
Learning the stories of one of the only female unicorns was largely impactful on my life and I hope that some of these lessons were impactful on yours too.
If you enjoyed this article:
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Thanks for reading! Now go change the world!