What “Lean In” Got Right: It’s a Jungle (Gym) Out There

You see, I worry that often in our ever-increasingly complex world, we become too narrow in our focus.  It takes so many years to become adept at certain areas – whether medicine, computer programming, law or science – and if you want to make it to the top of that profession, specialization is de rigueur.

So, it can be hard to think about, and pursue, outside-the-box opportunities that may be your best bet toward career – and personal – fulfillment. One of my favorite authors and philosophers, Bertrand Russell, wrote an essay entitled “Useless Knowledge,” in which he makes a powerful case for why the circuitous route, i.e. the jungle-gym approach to life, if you will, results in the most fully human experience.

He writes: “What is needed is not this or that specific piece of information, but such knowledge as inspires a conception of the ends of human life as a whole: art and history, acquaintance with the lives of heroic individuals, and some understanding of the strangely accidental and ephemeral position of man in the cosmos, all this touched with an emotion of pride in what is distinctively human, the power to see and to know, to feel magnanimously and to think with understanding. It is from large perceptions combined with impersonal emotion that wisdom most readily springs.”

In other words, the true power of climbing the jungle gym is gaining the varied knowledge and experiences that can bring us real wisdom and satisfaction. The jungle-gym advice in “Lean In,” I believe, is a call for us all to be open to new experiences and opportunities, both professionally and personally.  I’d like to think that Sandberg means that in climbing the jungle gym, each of us in our own way, can find “fulfillment” in the broadest sense of the word.

Sources: Linked to throughout post

 Sue Thompson, CIMA, Managing Director, is Head of the Registered Investment Advisor Group, overseeing the firm’s iShares and 529 sales efforts with registered investment advisors, family offices and asset managers. Sue is a regular contributor to The Blog. You can find more of her posts here.