An Evening with Sheryl Sandberg: What I Learned

Sheryl Sandberg

It seems like everyone’s doing it.

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, we’re now part of a Lean In generation.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit late to the Lean In party. But last night, I made up for it when I attended an executive lecture series at which Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was the featured guest.

Flanked by two gal pals in a standing-room only Howard University auditorium, I sat on the edge of my seat, listening with rapt attention, trying to glean all I could from the 60-minute event.

What did I walk away with?

Copious notes, loads of inspiration, and four lessons, reminders and observations I couldn’t resist sharing.

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Lately, well-intentioned but curious friends, family members and acquaintances have been asking about my plans after grad school. Most of the time, I feel a little embarrassed for not being able to artfully articulate a master strategy for my life. It’s so not me to not have a well-thought-out plan. Do I have a long-term dream? Sure! Is there a short-term plan? Indeed; I refined it just this morning.  And last night was a great reminder that it’s not always about connecting all the dots right here, right now. But sometimes, a solid short-term plan is all we need. There’s a special beauty in the unknown.

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If he/she/it doesn’t help you grow and isn’t growing, it might be time to walk away. It sounds really obvious but sometimes I don’t think we get it. As I embark on a new career search and reflect on my friendships and important life decisions, I’m challenged to make growth the focus of it all. I’m even more inspired to seek out only the people, a place of work and habits that will help me become the best Sueann–even if it calls for a bit of patience. Thanks, Sheryl!

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This one is dedicated to the girl in the emerald green sweatshirt. When the moderator announced, “We’ve got time for just two more questions,” she was third in line. At that moment, the people standing behind her retreated to their seats. This girl? Unflinching and unmoved. What did she get? A special invitation from Sheryl Sandberg to join her on the dais for an after-lecture tête-à-tête. The lesson? As cliché as it sounds, it really does pay to be persistent.

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I’ve always been somewhat independent (read: stubborn). Life is way less complicated when you go at it alone, right? Wrong. Last night, Sheryl summed it up perfectly. “Peers can be so important,” she said. It was a great reminder that even though I grew up believing I would be a lot like this, sometimes it’s the support of the people who surround you that keeps you going and helps you through.

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