Riya Karumanchi
Feb 1 · 7 min read

Success means something different to everybody.

It took me a while to realize this, but then, one woman completely changed my outlook on life — Sheryl Sandberg. I swear, she is the ultimate boss lady. Read my top 10 favourite pieces of advice from her, and how they completely rewired my brain.

There are moments in the day when I look back at my life, and I have NO idea what I was doing back then. 10-year-old Riya was so different from 15-year-old Riya.

I grew up thinking that success was based on how much money you made, your status, and the kind of job you had. I thought this was the same for everybody! I wasn’t being prepared for how the world was going to be like in the future. I also was never being taught to be my most optimal self. I wasn’t being taught about achieving true success.

The thing is, none of the above even matters that much! My mindset and outlook on life were so wrong.

There were so many things I was missing, and now, I know how horribly false that statement is. It is not about that. At. All.




Why aren’t we taught about this? Why aren’t we being educated to tackle the world’s biggest problems? Why are all kids being built the same way?!

This is what we’re doing in school:

In grade 1, I built boats out of tinfoil. We even put pennies in it to see if they’d float. SO mentally stimulating.

In my grade 5 class, we were learning about… I don’t even know!!! I literally forget everything. All I remember is memorizing multiplication tables and singing French songs about pizza. I’m not even joking.

In grade 8, we did a survey that told us what job we should have in the future. Some of the smartest, most creative people I know, got recommendations like being an Accountant. The first thing people looked at when they clicked their career recommendation was the salary! Most people didn’t think twice about whether they even liked doing it in the first place.

Fast forward to grade 10: okay, it got a little more complex. We do BEDMAS and solve equations and word problems. I don’t remember any situation in my life where “John” bought 37 candy bars and 68 bottles of Sprite.

So, what am I trying to say? In schools, we are being prepared for mediocrity - or actually, even less than that. We’re being taught that life is just a straight line and right now, everyone is trying to get to the same point.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago: I was thinking about where I wanted to be in life. What were my goals? What did I love doing? I began to think about the people that really inspired me. Who could I emulate to become my best self?

Here’s the thing: I love tech., and I love leveraging it to make an impact on the world.

It really sucks, but there are unfortunately very few women in this space. One person that I’ve always admired was Sheryl Sandberg. I took a couple hours out of my day to start researching more about her. I listened to her videos, watched her interviews, and read articles about her.

Best. Decision. I. Ever. Made.

I know my outlook on life and definition of success and how to get there completely changed by listening to her.

Success to me now:

  • Achieve my ambition (these two go hand in hand, and I’m still working out the kinks on what mine truly is)
  • Become a unicorn (I already know what you’re thinking, no, not the mystical animal). Impact over a billion people and solve a huge, meaningful problem in the world.
  • Be happy
  • Be my most optimal self

This took me a while to figure out. Thank you, Sheryl! It really couldn’t have been done without you (and my awesome mentors).

Here are my favorite lessons from Sheryl. She’s the COO of Facebook, but she is so much more than that. She’s a visionary, a thought-leader and a unicorn.

There is no straight path to where you are going

If you try to draw that line you will not just get it wrong, but you will miss big opportunities. Your career and your life will have ups and downs, and zigs and zags.

What you wanted when you were 15 or 23 might be different than what you are doing today. Keep in mind that this will change, and that is okay.

Also, it’s super important to remember that failure is super valuable. Any learning process is almost impossible without it.

Sheryl Sandberg even says that Facebook encourages their employees to take risks so they can both learn from failures, as well as success.

You may get a “no” more than you hear a “yes”. Something might have not gone as planned. You might take 3 steps forward and then fall a step backwars — and that’s okay! Failure is inevitable. Instead, how you react to it and learn from it is what matters.

Figure out where you want to go

If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.

This is what happens.

A great way to find this is to determine what you love doing, and this is why passion is so important. Find something you really believe in and put your 100% into this.

“The ultimate luxury is to combine passion and contribution. It is also a very clear path to happiness.”

Thanks Sheryl! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Find what you love doing, and utilize your knowledge to do what you can to contribute to the world. Don’t limit yourself!

If I were to ask you right now, yes right now, “What is your purpose?” What would you say? You’ve probably never been asked this. Find your meaning in life, and go from there. These two go hand-in-hand to achieving happiness.

This definitely won’t just come to you. It’s important to be intentional and take time out of your days to really think about this.

We suffer from the tyranny of low expectations

What if you were guaranteed to succeed in anything you did? What would you do then?

Do what you would do if you weren’t afraid of it.

Don’t limit yourself! The sky isn’t the limit. Think Musk. What about Mars? Beyond that? Don’t be afraid to take a risk! Just go for it and know your capabilities. You can do it!

Lean In & Don’t be Afraid to Lean On

Sheryl has been a huge advocate for this kind of mindset. Okay, let me break this down for you.

Leaning In means leading people, taking risks, and being on the ball. Think big!

Lean into twists and turns. Don’t be afraid!

Leaning Out means accepting support from people when you need it. Don’t be afraid to do this!

Before this, I used to work on things myself and didn’t take much help from others, especially when I didn’t know something. It’s okay to ask questions! There is no really bad worst case scenario! Go for it.

Put in the Work

You have to put in the time and effort if you want to get results. Success doesn’t come easy! Keep going. There might be times when you pull an all-nighter, feel absolutely exhausted, and have been working for 15 hours straight. Trust me, it’s worth it. You may not see results straight away, but they will come.

Strive for exponential growth

Don’t just focus on the upward trajectory — think about progress and personal development.

What are your weaknesses right now? I know I have a lot that I’m guilty of. Fix it!! Think about how you can grow even more.

Put yourself in uncomfortable situations and environments that challenge you to be your best self. Get to the point that when you’re given a problem, you’re like: I’m going to crush this.

This was a TON of info thrown at you. I know I probably couldn’t remember it all — so here you go!

  1. Success isn’t a straight line
  2. Have a role model
  3. Be different than the people around you
  4. Failure is A-OK
  5. Find your ambition
  6. Lean in & lean on
  7. Effort = results
  8. Strive for exponential growth

Clap this article and connect with me on LinkedIn!

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