My Beloved World & Lean In


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.

1 What do Sonia Sotomayor and Sheryl Sandberg have in common and what do they not?

2 Sandberg says that we learn by need and that we must ask for it. Sotomayor says she made a teacher of any willing party who knows what he or she is doing. Neither was afraid to ask for guidance all along the way. In looking at your own life, did you “ask” in order to achieve your successes and how did they help?

3 Sandberg asks, “What would you do if you were not afraid?”

4 On fear, Sotomayor advises, "Don't give up. The greatest obstacle to your own success is your own fear. Failure is never fun. But each time you fail, you learn something. It's often said that one should fight to the last person standing. Hey, they're still standing. And as a woman, I hope it's us." Sotomayor quote, Huffington Post, Feb. 2013. Both women recognize that fear stands in the way of success. How has fear altered your success?

5 Sotomayor also writes in her book, “a surplus of effort could overcome a deficit of confidence.” How does this relate or translate with/for you?

6 Sandberg was often called “ambitious” while Sotomayor was at times labeled “aggressive”. Both descriptions are often considered derogatory when used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a man. Discuss why.

7 Both women touch on feeling like a fraud when success comes before being emotionally prepared for it. Can you identify with this? And, as Sandberg suggests, why does this seem to happen more for women than men? Or does it…?

8 Both women “think personally but act communally”. If you do not already, how can you do the same?

9 After reading these two books, discuss how women have evolved over time both at home and in the work place. Also, consider what is in store if we stay on pace or what it would take to make changes you feel are necessary.


There are no publisher’s discussion questions available so here are a few from the West Maui Book Club.

1 Sotomayor exudes a studied approach, could you see how her experience with the Forensics Club helped shape her life, her future and even her book?

2 Sotomayor emphasizes throughout “My Beloved World” her sense of “essential optimism”. How did the overall optimistic tone of her book resonate with you while you were reading it? Was she too self congratulatory or did she hit just the right note with you?

3 Did you find it curious that as bright and accomplished as Sotomayor was and is that after four years of college, she knew neither the term nor the meaning of being chosen “summa cum laude”?

4 Sotomayor says she owes much to having a happy childhood. She also says there are uses for adversity which she had plenty of as well. According to her novel, how did one verses the other help in shaping her future?

5 Given her Type 1 Diabetes, does this fully explain her sense of having a shorter life than expected? How did this propel her? And in what ways, how did it stop her?

6 Sotomayor said her goal in writing was twofold. First, she wants readers to come away from it saying, "She's just like me. And if she can do it, so can I." The second reason was to create a self-regulating mechanism. "At the end of my first term on the Supreme Court, I realized that my life had changed. I feared that I could lose a piece of who Sonia is. It's also why I made [the book] so big. I figured if I get too heavy, my family and friends could use it to hit me over the head." (Sotomayor, Dr. Sasha Galbrith, 02/12/2013, Huffington Post.)

7 With her first goal in #4, can you identify with what she is saying?

8 With her second goal in #4, can you also identify with what she is saying and can you also see the humorous levity she applies? Where you able to laugh along with her while reading her book?

9 What is Michigan’s Proposition 2 regarding Affirmative Action? THE PROPOSAL WOULD AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION BY ADDING A SECTION 25 TO ARTICLE I.

A proposal to amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:
• Ban public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education, or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts.
• Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin).

10 Today, affirmative action is banned in many states (California, Washington, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Arizona. Colorado to follow). It is currently before the Supreme Court over Michigan’s voter-approved initiative Prop. 2 that will outlaw the practice there. What do you think of affirmative action and how does it compare to how you felt when it was first introduced?

11 How do you think Sotomayor will address Michigan’s Prop 2?


Page numbers refer to printed copy

1. What does “lean in” mean? Why do you think women need to be urged to lean in?

2. The first three words in the book are “I got pregnant.” What does this signal about the kind of business book Lean In will be?

3. When Sandberg says, “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality” (p. 7), what does she mean? Have you found this statement to be accurate?

4. Why is “ambitious” often considered a derogatory word when used to describe a woman but complimentary when used to describe a man?

5. In chapter 2, Sandberg discusses the impostor syndrome: feeling like a fraud, fearing discovery with each success. Why do women feel this way more often than men do? What causes the gender gap?

6. Sandberg believes that there are times when you can reach for opportunities even if you are not sure you are quite ready to take them on—and then learn by doing. Have you ever tried this? What have you tried? What was the result?

7. What did you learn from the anecdote on page 36, about keeping your hand up?

8. Why did Sandberg respond so negatively to being named the fifth most powerful woman in the world?

9. When negotiating, Sandberg tells women to use the word “we” rather than “I.” Why does the choice of pronoun make such a difference?

10. On page 48, Sandberg says, “I understand the paradox of advising women to change the world by adhering to biased rules and expectations.” How do you feel about her advice?

11. What’s your take on Sandberg’s suggestion that we think of the path to a satisfying career as a jungle gym rather than a ladder?

12. Sandberg argues that taking risks can be important in building a career. How have you approached risk-taking in your life?

13. Sandberg argues that mentorship relationships rarely happen from asking strangers to mentor you, but rather from an opportunity to engage with someone in a more substantive way. How has mentorship worked in your own experience?

14. People who believe that they speak “the truth” and not “their truth” can be very silencing of others, Sandberg says on page 79. What does she mean by this?

15. When considering employment after motherhood, Sandberg suggests that women shift the calculations and measure the current cost of childcare against their salary ten years from now. Why is this a more effective perspective than just considering current costs? If you’re a parent, would this change your attitude toward employment and money?

16. In chapter 9, Sandberg blasts the myth of “having it all,” or even “doing it all,” and points to a poster on the wall at Facebook as a good motto: “Done is better than perfect.” (p. 125) What perfectionist attitudes have you dropped in order to find contentment?

17. Sandberg and her husband have different viewpoints about parenting: She worries about taking too much time away from their kids, while he’s proud of the time he does spend with them. Would it help women to adopt an attitude more like his?

18. In chapter 10, Sandberg discusses how the term “feminist” has taken on negative connotations. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why?

19. Discuss this assertion: “Staying quiet and fitting in may have been all the first generations of women who entered corporate America could do; in some cases, it might still be the safest path. But this strategy is not paying off for women as a group. Instead, we need to speak out, identify the barriers that are holding women back, and find solutions” (pp. 146–47).

20. In the book’s final chapter, Sandberg talks about the need to work together to create equality—to allow women to thrive in the workplace, and to allow men to participate proudly in the home and child rearing. What steps can you take right now to begin to make this happen?