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Undoing the neatly wrapped present, my eyes widened at the sight of the item enclosed. A hardback book, about 200 pages in thickness and the title LEAN IN printed in big capitalized letters. I immediately recognized the woman pictured on the front cover as Sheryl Sandberg: the COO of Facebook and a role model of mine. For my thirteenth birthday, my mom gifted me a book that left a deep impression on my mindset. It is an insightful read, full of encouragement for defining the odds and female empowerment in the workplace. I have never read a composition that has changed my perspective of the issue of female inequality as much as LEAN IN has. Growing up in a suburban town on the outskirts of Dallas, I definitely could have been sheltered from the harsh realities of real world hardships. But instead, I took it upon myself to learn about what the future would look like for me as a female who was interested in the male dominated field of business. After reading article after article, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t possible for women to “do it all”. The image ingrained in my mind was what these articles had painted a picture of: women choosing either their career or their family. Society was telling me that the woman who could do it all ceased to exist as a possibility. I never wanted to accept this grim reality, so upon reading LEAN IN, I was overjoyed to find a publication that believed in women doing both. This piece of writing has empowered me in many ways, changing multiple previously instilled knowledge that I had. The first key takeaway upon reading is the topic of proactivity. As a young and determined student back in elementary and middle school, I believed that my education was set in stone with whatever my teacher taught and assigned. If I completed and turned in my homework as I was asked, then I would become a good student. At home, if I finished my chores and listened to my parents, I would become a good daughter. While I would call myself a good student and daughter, that was all I was: good. Nothing more, nothing less. Sandberg, however, advocates for people to be ambitious and to do beyond what is asked. If she had done what was asked of her, she would have long forgo the possibility of a career at Facebook and would have became a stay at home mother of two. Specific anecdotes from New York Times bestselling author Peggy Orenstein is added in to support the fact that even young girls imagine giving up their careers to take care of their family. I believe that by doing beyond what is asked, self-initiation occurs and progress is made. To put this new way of thinking into action, I now seek my own opportunities, dependent on no one. A moment where I implemented this that I remember clearly was when I joined my high school debate team at the beginning of freshman year. I saw it as an opportunity to explore the realm of public speaking and to better my writing and critical thinking skills. This is my way of taking on extra work. After my classmates have long finished homework, I am only beginning the consumption of additional knowledge gained from reading think tank articles and keeping up with current events. This supplementary work is enjoyable because I know that I am pursuing my own interests without the influence of others. My perspective regarding what women have the ability to accomplished is another way my thinking has changed. I’ve always thought that while women have the same capabilities as men, we are put at a severe disadvantage because of unavoidable circumstances. Society has always viewed men as the dominant figure, leaving women to do the behind the scenes work. However, LEAN IN has persuaded me to think differently and to believe that all females have the abilities to be both the leader and the follower. Being passionate about gender equality my whole life, I had always wanted to form an organization to promote this cause. But it was always this fixed mindset I had telling me that I could not accomplish this without being called a feminist with a bad connotation that stopped me from ever doing so. I recognized this mindset of mine when I read about the Heidi/Howard case study mentioned in LEAN IN. We as society “evaluate people based on stereotypes” and if women places focus “on her career” and takes “a calculated approach to amassing power”, they are seen as violating “our stereotypical expectations of women(Sandberg, 41)”. After reading this theory, I was inspired to take action and ignore what others may say. With the help of my best friend, I co-founded the “She’s the First” chapter at my school. “She’s the First” is a nonprofit organization that gives scholarships to fund girls’ education in lower income countries. In the past two years, we have successfully raised a total of $1,700, allowing our club to sponsor the education of four girls. Co-founding this club put my new mindset to the test and resulted in new leadership skills acquired. Without the help of our team of officers, club members, and the community who mobilized together, the fundraiser would not have been possible. But more importantly, the club does so much in regards to promoting and educating gender equality. Sixty members, both girls and boys, come together each club meeting to make posters advocating for the school to bring items for the female hygiene drive, cry tears of joy when Saudi Arabia finally permitted women to drive, and listen intently to what each person has to say when they have the courage to speak their minds. I am constantly amazed at how influential leadership regardless of gender communicates efficacy  and produces a safe space for people to advocate for positive change. The final way my thinking has changed after reading LEAN IN is that excuses and justifications won’t get anything done. Despite all of the challenges in life, especially with the still existing gender biases operating within the workplace, it is up to ourselves to physically lean in and don’t let others push us aside. Sandberg makes the point that to “lean in” is to give something your all. “Don’t leave before you leave” is a phrase she uses to describe people who edge themselves out before they even get started on something. Sandberg discovered that if she “didn’t take control of the situation”, her “new job would prove unsustainable(Sandberg, 133)”. I apply this revelation by taking control of the situations in my life. I trust that I will cross the bridges when I get there and that I will be making the right decisions when the time comes. Until then, I am living my life full force powered by self-motivation.LEAN IN is one book that has changed my way of thinking for the long run. It has genuinely inspired me to to be self motivated and to work hard for my goals despite the odds that might be against my favor. I no longer believe in the fact that your life depends on what society and others tell you, but instead on your own passion and what you make out of it. I know now to lean in by honing in on my skills and taking control of my own future.

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