What Sheryl Sandberg Would Have Told Her Younger Self

What Sheryl Sandberg Would Have Told Her Younger Self
Image credit: Brian Snyder | Reuters
Facebook's COO Sandberg delivers the Class Day address at Harvard University in Cambridge

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Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC
3 min read

“Ask yourself, ‘What would I do if I weren’t afraid?’”

That’s Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to her younger self.

Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and founder of the LeanIn movement, engaged in a written question-and-answer session yesterday on the knowledge-sharing site Quora. In it, she gave readers a peek into the philosophies that have helped her become not only one of the world’s youngest billionaires, but a champion for women aiming to achieve both a successful career and family life.

As part of the advice she’d give to her younger self, Sandberg advised readers not to believe people if they tell you that something isn’t possible. “When you hear someone say you can't do something, know that you can and start figuring out how,” she wrote.

Related: Read Sheryl Sandberg's Poignant Facebook Post on Losing Her Husband

She also said she would have told her younger self to be open to creative, nonlinear career routes. The compulsion to know exactly where you are going can often result in missed chances for growth.

“There is no straight path to where you are going,” she wrote. “If you try to draw that line you will not just get it wrong, but you will miss big opportunities.” She encourages people to have both a long-term vision for what they want to do, even if it feels wildly ambitious, and a more reasonable, practical, actionable 18-month plan.   

Related: Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: Eliminate Bias That Women 'Aren't Meant to Lead'

In addition to pushing women, in particular, to actively disregard stereotypes, Sandberg opened up about what Facebook looks for when it hires. MBA’s are nice, she said, but by no means necessary. Skills trump degrees and Facebook looks to hire “builders.”

Sandberg’s own role models have nothing to do with either business school or the tech industry. She learned empathy from her mother, the power of hard work from Serena Williams, and the importance of helping those in need from a world bank doctor, Salim Habayeb.

To hear more from Sandberg, including a humorous anecdote about being a mother of two and her first experiences with late-night hacker-culture, check out Sandberg’s full set of responses on Quora.  

Related: Market to Empowered Women: It's Ethical -- And It's Good for Business

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