Lean In

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I haven't yet read Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, so it's a little funny that I'd be writing a post about it. In my defense, I'm really writing about Real Simple managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop's response to Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, and Sandberg's hugely successful and widely discussed new book.

Once, long ago, I read something van Ogtrop wrote in an anthology on motherhood. It was before I had children, but her essay struck me as the most honest and daring of the collection. Ever since then, I've looked forward to reading her monthly "editor's note" in Real Simple. She's funny and smart and, just as she was in that first essay, always honest.

In her most recent "editor's note" (an expanded version was published in The Huffington Post), van Ogtrop says, "Here's the thing: I don't want to be striving for bigger/better/higher/more every minute of every day. I don't always want to have a larger goal. That just sounds exhausting and, worst of all, completely joyless."

Obviously, as editor of a successful lifestyle magazine, van Ogtrop has achieved the kind of success I think Sandberg's talking about (but remember, I haven't read the book!). And she makes a point of saying how much she loves her job. But to me, that makes her argument more compelling, not less. This is the part that moved me most: "... I can tell you with certainty that, when I'm lying on my deathbed, I'm not going to be thinking about career wins. I'm going to be thinking about my parents and two sisters who greeted every new life situation like it was another chapter in a long, hilarious narrative; my steadfast husband, who gave me love and a true north; and finally, the three children who made me take life both more and less seriously, and whose faces are the only thing I see when I close my eyes."

The second best part of van Ogtrop's essay is the last few sentences. I've given away too much already, so I'll let you read it for yourself. I'd love to hear what you think.

(The photo above - of the mantle in my living room - was taken by my good friend and fabulous photographer Jennifer Green.)


  1. I too was struck by van Ogtrop's Editor's Note in Real Simple (I think I look forward to her commentary more than anything in the magazine). So much so that I downloaded Lean In and will start it today. I'm going into the read rather skeptical - so much hype and a fair amount of dissent. However, if it causes us all to take pause and think about what we each want to see when we close our eyes, well... maybe the never-ending carpools, dog-eaten shoes, and bare refrigerator is something to celebrate rather than begrudge.

  2. Can't wait to hear what you think of "Lean In," Kathy. It's on my list to read next. Totally agree about carpools, shoes, and refrigerator :).


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