Get On, Lean In, and Look Through: Why “Lean In” Author Sheryl Sandberg Should Consider Getting a Motorcycle

This blog entry was originally published in December, 2014

I have a motorcycle pal named Sarah Lahalih. That’s her on the red & white Triumph.

I rarely see her. In fact, I’m not sure anyone ever sees her, because she’s the consummate globetrotting thrillseeker. IMotorcycle Sarah doubt that she’s ever anywhere longer than it takes to say “hi!” before she’s teleported to another continent on yet another National Geographic-like adventure. She has a cool blog that you should check out called Motorcycle Sarah:

Sarah and I met in Pennsylvania in 2003 when we were becoming Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoach Trainers (yes, RiderCoach is one word). We catch up via e-mail, and at the occasional track day or a motorcycle safety summit of some kind. But she recently posted the above pic with a caption that cleverly likened her leaning into that turn as being a new way of practicing Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”.

For those of you not familiar with Ms. Sandberg, she’s the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and last year  wrote an engaging book entitled Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I read it, and recommend you do the same. The chapter clarifying that the Corporate Ladder needs to be thought of as more of a jungle gym is alone worth the
purchase price. And yes, I’m living proof that men can read Lean In and not start singing soprano or scheduling a
manicure / pedicure by the book’s end. But because of Sarah and Sheryl, I had an epiphany.  And now it can be revealed:

  • Sheryl Sandberg should learn to ride a motorcycle.0318_sandberg1-800x480
  • Sheryl Sandberg should then write the sequel to Lean In, which should be entitled Get On, Lean In, and Look Through.

Ms. Sandberg should do all of the above because she’s an incipient thrillseeker. I just don’t think she knows it yet. But Lean In shows she’s learned at least a bit of risk-taking along the way. One of my favorite excerpts in Lean In is where she’s offered a pre-Facebook position in 2001 with a then-relatively unknown company by the name of Google. Sandberg walked into a meeting with Google’s CEO in all of her Harvard Business School MBA glory, armed with spreadsheets documenting the pros and cons of all of her job offers. The CEO responded by simply suggesting to her that “if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on”. I love that.

But what is this about Sandberg learning to ride a motorcycle?

First, a quick primer on motorcycling for those of my dear blog-reading pals who might not partake. Not to oversimplify motorcycling, but Motorcycle Sarah and I would generally spend a fair amount of early motorcycle course time coaching riders to keep their eyes looking far ahead, looking where they want to go. This applies to both riding in a straight line, as well as when we later coach students to look through their turns. You’d be surprised how hard this is for some people. Unless coached otherwise, people seem to be hardwired to be looking down – about 2 feet ahead of their motorcycle’s front tire. But when they get the “look where you want to go” thing happening, it all starts to smooth out. Success! And as the students progress, we introduce and add the dynamic of the bike leaning to make a smooth turn.

I’ll bet you’d be absolutely floored to know that I believe motorcycling is a metaphor for life. There are risks in each, but there are also exhilarations! And if you look through your life path and plan your route, readying yourself for the possibilities of the occasional puddle, pothole or moose, you can better moderate the risks. Then Lean In to that curve with your eyes ahead, and just try not to scream “woo hoo!” too loudly inside your helmet.

Sandberg’s Lean In is generally about women taking risks. It questions many ingrained beliefs, such as the tendency of some women to turn down a new opportunity because there is a generations-old voice inside making them believe that they “just aren’t ready for it”. Lean In challenges women to seize new opportunities by telling themselves “I’ll learn as I work in that new role”.

So whether you’re thinking about learning to pilot a motorcycle, a novel marketing plan, or a rocket ship, tell that “I’m just not ready for it” voice to shut up. Then get on. Lean in. Look through. The new voice you’ll hear will be the one yelling “woo hoo!”.

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