Book DNA: Lean In–Be a Man, Not a Boy

The book, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, has sparked A LOT of conversation. Not all the conversations are being generated by women. My husband, Leonardo Souza, and I read the book at the same time. Of course, we have reacted differently to some elements of the book. As the husband of an ambitious wife and father to two spirited girls, I invited him to share his thoughts on this blog. I had planned on a joint post, but as you can see, Leo has much to say. I will follow up next week with my view of the book. Enjoy!

I had started, scratched and re-started this post a dozen times, and I simply couldn’t find a way to convey just how important I think Sheryl’s book is, and why I believe everyone (women AND men) should read it. Until I stumbled upon @adriarichards story (http://butyoureagirl.com/14015/forking-and-dongle-jokes-dont-belong-at-tech-conferences/), which got me fired up.

You see, I was raised by a very strong woman (my mom), who worked hard all her life, both outside of the house and especially inside of it, making sure that my brother and I would grow up to be decent people.

I remember as if it were today, when my mom overheard my best friend loudly sharing with a group of (male) friends all the things that had happened between him and the girl he went out the night before (not much, to tell you the truth, since we were all 13-14 years old). She stopped him short, pulled him aside and gave him a lecture, explaining that it was not a proper way to behave. As she put it, that was the attitude of a boy, not the attitude of a man, and she was disappointed with him. Yep, that’s my mom.

Having such a high bar raised for myself in regards to how to treat women, when I joined the workforce, all of those lessons had been ingrained in my mind. So one of the things I did when, at 20-years-old, I started managing a development team, was to make clear for them that having wallpapers/screensavers of scantily clad women was not accepted behavior. The team was new and most of the guys were even younger than me, which made this restriction much easier to implement. Following that we hired a girl that was an extremely talented developer, a woman that was an experienced DBA, another girl that was by far the best applicant we could have asked for a position in IT Operations, and lastly an intern that started at the company as a designer, but who had a desire and the drive to become a developer, so we promptly gave her a chance. Soon we had almost as many women working in our technology department as we had men. That made us even better, providing fresh perspectives in many projects and also ensured we had a welcoming work environment for employees of all genders.

I’ve had female role models all my professional (and personal) life, from co-workers to mentors, and I’ve worked with some truly fantastic female engineers. So when my oldest daughter started to show an inclination to logic (such as being really good at solving Tower of Hanoi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Hanoi), my wife and I decided to encourage her to explore this further, first by enrolling her in a summer camp where she learned how to work with Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/) and then, more recently, by buying a Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/about) and spending a whole weekend explaining to her how a computer actually works. My wife also bought for her this terrific book (http://www.amazon.com/Super-Scratch-Programming-Adventure-Program/dp/1593274092/) that teaches how to create games using Scratch, and which it’s written like a comic-book. It was extremely rewarding for me to share these moments with my daughter, explaining to her about x/y coordinates, conditional logic and loops.

My oldest is still very young (9yo) and has diverse interests (horseback riding, theater, singing, Scratch, etc.), but the main message I want to pass on to her is that no matter what path she chooses to follow, she can be successful if she dedicate herself to it.

Getting to 50/50

The second message I hope to teach both of my girls is this wonderful advice from Sheryl’s book, which I so hope will be embraced by more women:

“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is ‘date all of them’: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment phobic boys, the crazy boys… but do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy, do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner, someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious… someone who values fairness and expects, or even better wants, to do his share in the home. These men exist, and trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.”

When our youngest was just 10-months-old, my wife and I were both assigned to travel for work on the exact same week, and since we do not have any family members living close to us, we had a big logistical problem to solve. The solution for the oldest was easier, since she had already being flying by herself for over a year, so we arranged to fly her over to her biological father for that week. Now what about our baby girl? Since my business trip was to São Paulo, where my parents live, we decided it would be best if she came with me. You would not believe the amount of stares I got both during the 16-hour trip on the way there, as well as on the equally long trip coming back. Even today, when I tell people that our youngest’s first international trip was at 10-months-old and traveling only with me, people (especially women) seem to have a hard time processing that information.

This happens quite often with me and my daughters. A few weeks back I was with my youngest at the doctor’s office during a return appointment (she had been very sick the week before), the nurse started to explain all the meds our daughter would have to take, how we should give it to her, etc…. then she stopped mid-sentence and said “I will write all of this down so you can give to your wife”. Part of me immediately thought “did I just hear that?”, but the exam proceeded and I didn’t make much of it. Until we got towards the end of the appointment and the nurse *again* said the same thing, making a reference that she would be sure to write everything down so my wife could understand it. At that point I had to say something, and something along these lines came out of my mouth: “Actually, I am the one that will give my daughter the meds and I’m also the one who typically brings both of our daughters for doctor appointments. My wife just brought her last week because I was at a meeting with a client.”

The questions nagging me in both of these cases are the same: Why the surprise? Because men *typically* do not perform these types of tasks? Because many men would be lost if they had to stay alone with their children for even a few hours?

All of this *may* be true, but if we want to get to the proverbial 50/50, not only do men need to step up to the plate, but also women must be able to believe that men can do so.

The Myth of Doing It All

Another section of the book that I absolutely loved is the one where Sheryl talks about “the myth of doing it all”, mostly because I have been a believer of this myth for longer than I should. As an example, here is a sample of my regular daily activities (besides all the work-related activities):

  • waking up both girls early in the morning
  • helping both of them to get ready
  • setting up the table with breakfast for the three of us
  • packing snacks for the oldest and lunch for the youngest
  • double-checking if both of their bags have all they need for the day
  • driving them to school/daycare
  • picking them up at the end of the day
  • preparing dinner (while my wife gives them a bath)
  • getting both of them ready for bed
  • cleaning up after dinner

This list doesn’t even include the daily tasks related to our two cats and one dog… or dishwashing, or washing/folding clothes, or taking trash out, etc.!

I am the eternal perfectionist who spends many hours every day taking care of my girls, but I still feel, more often than I wished, that I’m not doing enough, that I should be spending more time with my daughters, that I need to play more with them, that I need to plan more fun activities with them… It’s an endless litany of things I should be doing better. Yes, it easily gets to be overwhelming…

Suffice to say, I completely devoured Sheryl’s section in the book about this myth, and I hope I will be able to push away some of those not-doing-enough thoughts and replace them with doing-well-enough ones.

Conclusion

Sheryl’s book is terrific, not only for all the research it uncovers (the Heidi/Howard case being one of the most intriguing), but especially for her heartfelt stories, inspirational message and practical tips. As I said at the beginning of this post, I believe both men and women must read this book, reflect about these issues and then work together to eradicate them.

And I will make sure both of my girls read it as soon as they grow up a little bit more :)

Reading the Signs

There are several SxSW 2013 wrap-up posts being published this week and I am not about to repeat any of the supposed take-aways. Instead, I want to share three things I observed this week that have me rethinking my glass half-empty approach to life.

First Sign: Silver Linings Playbook

The week started off like any other. Busy. Conference call. Busy. Pack for SxSW (using a spreadsheet outlining what specs / Threadless tees I would wear each day). By Thursday, Boston was being walloped by a snow storm packing a bigger punch than predicted. Our plane was delayed on the tarmac, but eventually we were the last flight out before flights were cancelled at Logan. I had closed my eyes before take-off and must have dozed off because when I woke up, I noticed that Silver Linings Playbook was playing on the monitors throughout the cabin. Having not watched the film yet, I was bummed the movie had started, but decided to plug in my headset and watch what remained.

Pat: “I hate my illness and I want to control it. This is what I believe to be true: You have to do everything you can and if you stay positive you have a shot at a silver lining.”

The story is about two people trying to regain control of their lives and be positive as actions out of their control try to knock them down. The script is smart and tight, despite layers of social and philosophical complexity.  Each character is trying to read and interpret the signs of life events to determine their next step. Is our fate decided by superstitions or our how we choose to react to life’s challenges? The movie ended with me thinking how cynical I have become about everything…personal life and work. Am I waiting for my silver lining to drop into my lap? What am I doing to encourage positive life events?

Second Sign: Say Yes to the Mess

On Saturday, my friend and I went to feed our inner nerds with a session by Frank Barrett discussing his book, Yes to Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz. I am far from a mellow person. Jazz? Not in any of my playlists. (At least, not on Saturday. But as I write the post today, Kind of Blue is providing my morning soundtrack.) From the moment I walked into the session room, I felt at ease. The smooth sounds of jazz unwound my anxiety-ridden muscles.

For the next thirty minutes, everything made sense. Everything connected. Barrett, jazz pianist and Professor of Management and Global Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School, explained the eight principles to say yes to the mess of business and still maintain structure. This man understood me – Understood my problems and fruitless battle to maintain or create control. Needless to say, I walked straight out of the session and immediately bought the book. Less than a week later, I have devoured the text and cannot wait to put what I have read into positive action. The dog-eared pages and extreme highlighting are frightful, but the sign of one of the best business books I have read and highly recommend.

Third Sign: Fan Girl Moment

SxSW would not be complete without a fan girl moment. And yes, it was me being the fan girl. Complete with hysterical giggling for three hours and unable to spell my own name. I met Hugh Howey, author of Wool.

As I was at the SxSW bookstand in the Convention Center buying Yes to the Mess, I spotted Wool on the shelf amidst social media / business books. I was a bit excited to see the book I had read the week before (all in one sleepless night) –and raving about-in print. Now, Lauren, why would you be so excited to see this book in print? Well, technically, this book was not even supposed to be on the shelf until the 12th. Wool began life as an e-book and author, Hugh Howey, made history by signing a print deal with S&S, while he continued to maintain digital rights.

As I stood gushing over the book to my friend, a man leaned over and softly said, “I wrote that book.”

I may have snorted and continued talking. “No, really, I wrote that book.” Not arrogant. No attitude at all, the man holds up his nametag and I dissolve into giggles. It is Hugh Howey. He chatted with us, invited us to attend his panel the next day, and I got a picture with him. All the while I am laughing like a prize idiot. And did I mention, he posted about our meeting on his blog? Yes, I am still giggling.

I did attend the panel the next day. This man is smart and insightful. He sought his silver lining and found it. Also, I bought an additional four books for friends and a post card for my pal Matt Ridings (who recommended the book) – Hugh autographed them all.

I am reading the signs and I think the Universe is trying to tell me to stop and smell the roses. Exactly what is my cynical behavior and commentary serving me? Nothing. So perhaps, it is time to drink from the glass that is half-full. Every challenge is an opportunity.

Book DNA: February Gift of Love to Self

Work, family and everything in between is consuming me. Life happens…to each and every one of us. The one constant in my life (even though I have been a slacker about posting) is reading. When I crack open a book or my Nook flickers to life, the drama is no longer about me, but about the characters in the story. Those of you who know me, understand I am not good at relaxing. Escaping into the pages of a book is as close to Zen as I have achieved.

Book DNA was created to identify what books have influenced my character and discuss why some books I will never read again (for good or bad) or those books I will return to multiple times. Books are a gift to my soul. What better time of year to give a gift of love and appreciation to yourself than the month celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Until recently, I have despised the so-called holiday. It is too close to Christmas. I am broke. And for the majority of my life, the only person sending me a card and candy was my mother. (Very sweet, but still, far from the Hallmark romance advertised.) In 2007, after a particularly bad start to the year, I picked up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Whoa. Hold up. Don’t switch the channel. I can see your eyes rolling. Most folks have a visceral reaction to this book and either love or hate this book. Withhold further judgment and let me share with you why this story is the gift that keeps giving Valentine’s Day after Valentine’s Day.

(Oh, and please don’t break my heart and compare this book or base your judgment of the story on the merits of the movie. Please. I beg of you, do not.)

Everyone was buzzing about this book. I am not sure what enticed me to read the first chapter other than the surrounding hype. Memoirs are not numerous on my bookshelf. I read the first chapter in the Barnes and Noble café and I am not sure I even looked up at the person behind the counter when I purchased the book. I was captivated. My drama was someone else’s drama. I was contemplating a divorce and other difficult decisions. I did not have anyone I could really talk to and not feel as if I was letting them down or being judged. I felt very alone, but while reading this book, I felt Elizabeth was right there next to me. Together, we were sharing our ‘insider voice’ and I felt liberated.

I did get that divorce. And the following February, I opened the book again to refresh my spirit. It was at this time that I met my husband online (Twitter) – ironic that I found my own Brazilian man. We discussed all manner of books and I told him that if he read this book (Eat, Pray, Love) he would better understand me. He did. Maybe it was a bit too much crazy for him to digest, but he has managed the insanity for four years.

I did not need to jump on a plane and recreate the physical journey Gilbert endured. Instead, I accompanied her on a mental adventure. Like clockwork, on 1 February, I open my signed edition of Eat, Pray, Love and give a gift of love to myself with each chapter I read. I relive my sadness, learn a bit more about how and why I made the decisions I did, and accept. I have learned to love myself.

This may not be the book for you. This is OK. But don’t judge a book by the cover or hype. If you are interested in this book, I highly recommend complimenting the text with the audiobook read by the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. Her wit and charm are irresistible.

What book or books do you read seasonally? What place do they hold in your heart?

Book DNA: Year in Review

Rather than make resolutions I know I will not keep, I resolve to read new books that will push me beyond my comfort zone. Unlike other lists that determine the best books published during the year, this top five list is of books discovered. These books have changed me. The words haunt me. The text sticks to me and makes me stop to reflect. Some of these books appeared on my Holiday Gift List and others have been the source for conversation and past/future posts.

These are the books and authors of 2012:

  • The Art of Racing In The Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein – I did not want to read this book. My mother sent it to me and pestered me for months to read it. When I finally cracked the book, I could not close the book until I finished reading. It is impossible to determine if this is my favorite book of the year or the book on this list by Muriel Barbery . Do not read in public. You will cry. And if you are like me, keep a highlighter handy. This book will be the source of many 2013 posts and conversation starters.
  • Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease by Rafe Sagarin – If you saw me speak about community management this year, you will know this book was my guide and has me practicing my craft using the lessons from nature. Adaptation is essential for the survival of any species. Businesses should stop looking to case studies glorifying only the positive and avoiding the sticky subjects or tougher times. Instead, organizations should look to a tide pool for inspiration of how to succeed and collaborate with others. Or perhaps look to the decentralized strengths of an octopus? The lessons are numerous.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – I could not sleep. It was the middle of the night and this book had been sitting on my shelf for months. I swear to you, the book was screaming for me to pick it up and read the first page. It could not be ignored. And so there I sat for the next four hours and read cover to cover. I cannot say enough good things about this book. You will either love it or hate it, but either way, I encourage you to dig past the surface level story and read between the lines. This book is polarizing, but forces you to think about perspective and apply in your daily life.
  • The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis – I read this book in January and have yet to able to shake the underlying question of how our culture is evolving and squeezing out what is not mainstream.
  • Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World edited by Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski – This book was on the syllabus for my second graduate class in museum studies. The essays, case studies, and interviews shed light on how museums are finding new ways to communicate with the public, invite the community into a conversation, and struggling with the digitization of history. Let these examples be a lesson to any size organization with any mission, that community engagement can be achieved no matter what the size of your team or budget.

These were not the only books to be added to my Book DNA this year. This was the year I conquered Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It has taken me twenty years to complete this book, but I am so happy the book chose for me to read it at this particular age. I think I am old enough to understand the trials of love and yet young and naïve enough to believe such love exists. This year, I read text books galore and a plethora of non-fiction (actually read cover to cover because going to school as an adult is so different and serious) and became overcome with the power of the short story. Not every book required me to stop and think. Some books I read purely for the pleasure of escape.

There will be books published in 2013 that I will need to rush to purchase and consume, but I resolve this year I will read the following:

Each story is told in its own time. Listen for the call of a book. Forget the best seller list. Walk into a book store and wander around. Open your ears and eyes to the wonders and worlds surrounding you. Happy reading in 2013.

Book DNA: Holiday Wish List

It is no secret that I read a lot of books. Also, I give a lot of books to friends and family. It is the way I show how much I care. The connection with a book is a deep and spiritual experience for me that I try to share with others. I am quite particular about the books I give people because I want them to understand that I listen to them and connect to their essence. Sounds a bit hokey? Perhaps, but I am teaching my daughter it is important to read and give books that are meaningful. It is a rule in our house to always bring a book as a present to a birthday party!

So, it should come as no surprise that books will occupy a great deal of physical and virtual space under the tree. Over the past month, I have sifted through my Book DNA map, must-read lists and other resources to select the following books to give and to get. Please enjoy:

Honorable Mentions

Children’s Books

For additional recommendations, some of our favorite books are on the Brain Pickings: The Best of Children’s Books of 2010.

Stocking Stuffers

Dear Santa, if you are reading this please consider the following books to stuff my stocking:

This year, we are breaking down and getting the kidlette a Nook. The following e-books will be loaded for her pleasure on Christmas morning:

Next week, the vlog is back with another five selections from the updated Book DNA map (link to map). I am never without a book and have a must-read list a mile long. For additional recommendations, visit the Brain Pickings Bookshelf, check out the Books on the Nightstand Holiday Give/Receive List (yes, there is overlap with this list)  and listen to the Books on the Nightstand podcast. Your brain will never go hungry.

Book DNA: Literal Humor

For this edition of Book DNA, I thought I would go back to my childhood. One book, or set of books about the same protagonist, cannot be grouped with any other books. This character is independent. Amelia Bedelia. You know, the maid, who is constantly taking figures of speech literally and causing mayhem? Amelia is told to dress the chicken, so she puts clothes on the chicken. Or she is asked to dust the furniture, so Amelia throws dust on all of the furniture. I laugh and laugh. It is Friday, after all, you know you need a laugh or two going into the holiday vacation.

I often joke about how I am a book-smart person and I was not born with common sense. Perhaps this is why I find Amelia Bedelia so amusing. As an adult, I find the books a helpful reminder of how people understand phrases of speech differently and it is dangerous to assume people comprehend your meaning or perspective.

So, next time you see me in a Threadless shirt and I tell you it is an artistic interpretation of world record, or plaid-ypus, and I laugh hysterically, just laugh with me and not at me, OK?

No volg today-winter cold! Each week we will explore the next five all time favorite and impactful books that have shaped my book DNA. For additional reading recommendations, please review the Book DNA category.