Sheryl Sandberg thought she was making a mistake. The year was 2001 and she had applied for a general manager of business units position. Sheryl began to doubt if there was even a job there at all. The small technology start-up didn’t even have “business” units so what was there to manage? Furthermore the position appeared to be several levels lower than jobs she was being offered at other companies. 😕
So when she finally met with the company’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, she kindly explained that the position meets none of her career criteria. 😐 Then the CEO of Google looked at her and replied, “Don’t be an idiot.” 😕 Which is some pretty solid advice. “Get on a rocket ship,” he continued. “When companies are growing quickly, careers take care of themselves. But when companies aren’t growing… that’s when stagnation and politics come in. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.“
And that’s exactly what Sheryl did. 😀
Eric was right. When companies are small their workers can grow into new positions. Managers are created instead of replaced. People have more autonomy, feel more involved, and everyone can learn new skills and take on new responsibilities without stepping on each other’s toes. It’s more than a zero sum game. You don’t need to knock someone else off the ladder to get ahead because there’s plenty of room for everyone to climb. 🙂
Opportunity is everywhere, but not everyone is willing to seize it. People often want reassurance before taking a leap of faith. It’s easier to try something new if we have a plan. But often times the best choices we make in life are made with a generous dose of uncertainty. Sheryl didn’t know what her life would turn into if she accepted the job at Google; the position was uncharted territory. With an MBA designation she could have played it safe and accepted another job elsewhere to earn a high and steady income. But she chose to work for a private search engine company that was small, but growing fast. Other MBA candidates could have assumed this quirky job title at Google instead but they didn’t apply for the position. It’s often in the areas where few people look that we find the best hidden opportunities. 🙂
“Your life’s course will not be determined by doing the things that you are certain you can do. Those are the easy things. It will be determined by whether you try the things that are hard.” ~ Sheryl
I think that’s the kind of attitude we should adopt. It means getting our feet wet even if we don’t know the temperature of the water. The details will take care of themselves. It may not always work out for us. But it’s worth a try. After all, if we aren’t failing then we aren’t learning. Good judgement is often the result of poor judgement. If an opportunity presents itself we should get on that rocket ship even if we’re not sure where it will take us. The mere act of being proactive will already send positive karma our way and give us an advantage over those who don’t seize the moment.
“Ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.” ~ Sheryl
Today Sheryl is the COO of Facebook and the author of the best selling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Eric is currently the executive chairman of Google and has an estimated net worth of $9.4 billion.
Random Useless Fact:
Students cheat on exams because the school system values grades more than the students value learning.