leaning in

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This evening I attended a Lean In get-together at work. They fed us delicious scoobie snacks, plied us with lovely wine and gifted us with swag (the book by Sheryl Sandberg and a tee shirt).

It was interesting. It made me realize all the more that while I immensely value the firm and all its fixings (kind of like a big Thanksgiving dinner), it is time for me to move on to something that will enable me to be that much closer to my own delight. To dream (and thus forcing me to also focus on clarifying what that is, exactly) a bigger dream.

I think with any kind of mentorship (from either perspective) there must be some sort of mutual sharing; we learn from our teachers who in turn learn from their teaching, from their pupils as much as of themselves by virtue of self-observation, in a sort of symbiotic exchange. At least that is what the highest striving would be, for me personally.

What struck me the most this evening was something one of our litigators said during a segment when people were sharing their own experiences on how they “leaned in” during their careers. She said that we (women, because we were largely a female gathering, but I think it applies universally) must learn to become our own advocates. That is something I’ve had many challenges with, partly out of not having enough confidence in my own sense of expertise and skill, or if I felt it was there, uncomfortable with (what essentially feels like) flaunting it to my advantage.

Another said that we must learn to be vocal about and point out our accomplishments, and not to expect others to notice them on their own.

That whole horn tooting thing is something that is difficult to embrace when we (read: I) have a natural tendency toward self deprecation. I’ve been taught to be humble and not to boast. That pride in one’s work is acceptable but not so that it is off-putting or belittles others in the process. And that, despite my accomplishments, there is always room for improvement, and that one ought not to sit on one’s laurels lest we become complacent and lazy.

I think many times I’ve stood down from exploring an opportunity simply based on the fact that I think the person hiring would look at me (and my resume) and question why I was applying for something that was clearly out of my league.

The truth of the matter is, though, as many men realized long before women ever did, that the thrill is had when one is on that fine edge between knowing and stretching, where finesse and expertise are just there, within view but only just out of reach, a prize to strive toward on the journey to the next one.

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