Sheryl Sandberg’s Timeline: Past, Present–and Future

December 13, 2012

She’s a blazing star in every sense of the word. At 43, Sheryl Sandberg’s life story reads like a bestselling novel. Now that Sheryl joined the billionaires’ club when Facebook went public earlier this year, what will her future bring?

Timeline, Facebook’s life story feature, received a lot of attention when it debuted in 2012, but it only covers the past and present. Does Sheryl’s own timeline include a future element? If so, how does she plan to invest her time, energy, and passion among the big buckets of work, family, friends, education, and service?

If Sheryl had mapped out her life when she graduated from college in 1991, this is how this writer imagines it might look:

Sheryl Sandberg Timeline


First Twenty Years – Ages 1-20 (1969-1988) – Laying the Groundwork

Grew up in Florida, always at the top of class. Attended HarvardCollege, majoring in Economics. Met professor Larry Summers, who became mentor and thesis advisor. Graduated from Harvard in 1991 and awarded Phi Beta Kappa.

Second Twenty Years – Ages 21-40 (1989-2008) – Building Public and Private Sector Foundation

Public Sector – Work at World Bank from 1991 to 1993, concentrating on health projects in emerging countries. Work as Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers in Clinton Administration in WashingtonD.C. from 1996 to 2001.

Private Sector – Graduate from Harvard Business School in 1995 at age 27 as a Baker Scholar, the highest distinction. Work at McKinsey for one year as a management consultant. Leave private sector to work in White House for several years. Return to private sector in 2001 to join Google in Silicon Valley as Vice President of Online Sales and help start Google’s philanthropic arm,  Hired by Mark Zuckerberg to become chief operating officer at social media giant Facebook in 2008. Mentored Mark. Became national spokesperson for women in business.

Third Twenty Years – Ages 41-60 (2009-2028) – Putting It All Together

Help take Facebook public in 2012. Become a billionaire on paper at age 42. Facebook stock tumbles after the IPO. (and now for the future imagined from this writer…) Orchestrate a successful online advertising strategy that leads to strong revenue growth and a stock recovery.  Write a bestselling book about women in business that encourages them to lean in to workplace opportunities and challenges. Leave Facebook in 2014 to create Women in Politics think tank. Write a memoir/activist book about women in business at age 46.  Run for U.S. Senate in seat for California vacated by Barbara Boxer in 2016 at age 48.

As U.S. Senator, champion landmark bill to integrate solar panels into rooftops for all new housing construction. Run for President in 2024 at age 56.  Become the first woman President of the United States. Pass Equal Pay Act to remove final institutional barriers to equal pay for equal work. Put Elizabeth Warren on the Supreme Court.

Fourth Twenty Years – Ages 61-80 (2029-2048) – Redefining the Post-Presidency

Second term as President of United States from 2029-2033. Pass Education Act to revamp K-12 public education to global leadership standards. After the presidency, start a foundation for encouraging women to campaign for peace in the Middle East. Travel the world to encourage and support women running for political office.

Fifth Twenty Years – Ages 81-100 (2049-2068) – Life Re-Imagined

Become AARP advocate for aging well through lifelong learning.  Focus on use of virtual classroom training to foster global learning communities.

For some people, it’s easy to predict what their future will bring based on looking at their past and present. For others, it’s not so clear. One thing’s for sure; people who are able to imagine and articulate a positive future for themselves are far more likely to make it happen. What’s on Sheryl’s private life map? She hasn’t told us, but we bet that if she does put the U.S. Presidency on her life map, she just might get there.

David Marshall

Co-author (with wife Kate) of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, Gotham Books, November 2012

What If We Taught Life Planning in High School and College?

November 13, 2012

My wife Kate and I are happy to report that our newest book, My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future (published by Gotham Books, a Penguin imprint – soon to be Penguin Random House) hit the stores nationwide this week. It’s on the shelves at Barnes and Noble and also available on Amazon. Hopefully the Indies will pick it up soon as well.

The BIG IDEA of the book is that you can increase your happiness by proactively shaping your future in all the major areas of life such family, friends, work, play, and lifelong learning. The simple exercises and maps in MY LIFE MAP can help you do that. The book follows the tried-and-true formula of our other prompted journals by asking questions about your past, present, and future. Based on the answers to these questions, you then create ten-year maps for the major categories (Family, Friends, Work, Learning, Service, Play), a consolidated ten-year map, and then a whole life map. For the whole life map, you name the major chapters of your life and then name the whole life. The idea is that looking at your whole life on one page, from birth date to death date, it allows you to visualize and shape your future with clarity and intention to achieve your dreams. We even created an electronic element this time so people could download additional life maps in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF to fill out on the computer or in larger formats. We updated our website to allow readers to use a special code in the book to access the electronic maps.

Here are several examples of how people in different phases of their lives might use My Life Map:

Young Adulthood

Why are so many 20-somethings ending up back home with their parents, unsure how to start their own lives?  Doesn’t it seem like they’re taking longer and longer to find their calling?

Imagine colleges required a life planning class in Senior year that would help students map out their futures? Don’t you think it would reduce the false starts and early job hopping dramatically and increase national productivity?

My Life Map allows students to take this course on their own time – tuition is only $16, the cost of the book. They end up with a whole life plan that incorporates their own goals and gives them a road map to follow.

Major Milestones

Do you know why college reunions and milestone birthdays like 30 and 40 are hard for so many people? It’s because they force us to take stock of our lives so far and we often realize that we’re unhappy with the track we’re on and aren’t sure what to do about it.

Imagine a thought-provoking seminar at every 10th or 20th college reunion to plan the rest of our lives? What might that weekend of reflection teach us? How many people might suddenly see what’s missing in their lives and then go home ready to make bold decisions to get it?

My Life Map allows adults whose life is moving too fast (or too slow) to give themselves a little life check up – what’s healthy in their lives, what’s not, and what program they are going to start to get and keep their life in tiptop shape. My Life Map is a DIY, budget life coach.

Baby Boomers

Did you know that many couples in their fifties are struggling with “What’s Next?” now that their kids have left for college and they are empty nesters?  With so much of the previous two decades devoted to raising children, many people are searching of a new purpose in life..

Imagine if community centers offered life planning classes to help people take stock of their life so far and decide how to spend the second half of their lives? Imagine if it were as natural to take life planning lessons as it is to take yoga classes or piano lessons.

My Life Map provides a simple curriculum for teachers, life coaches, career counselors, ministers, and support groups to help adults plan all the aspects of their lives in a balanced way that brings them the most happiness and purpose.  It’s never too late to shape the future.

I hope you like these examples. I have written three articles with sample life maps for well-known celebrities (sports figures, musicians, and business leaders) that I hope to share soon.

David Marshall, November 12, 2012

Why Facebook Should Buy Pinterest

February 27, 2012

Facebook is left brain.  Pinterest is right brain. Together, they are whole brain.

A few weeks ago, when I was checking Google Analytics about our daily traffic on the Berrett-Koehler Publishers’ website, I noticed that one of the top five sites sending us traffic was Pinterest.  A Pinterest woman had “pinned” one of our book pages on her “board.” What the heck?  I had not even heard about it until then. I requested and received an invitation within 24 hours.

Pinterest is a scrapping site that allows you to grab any photo, image, or video you see while browing the web and add it to your virtual board. You can make as many boards as you want. For example, I have several book-related boards, as well as boards for travel locations, dogs, and cool products. Here is my Pinterest page. Pinterest has a ‘Pin It’ button that you put on your browser that allows you to quickly pin any image you see on the web. You can also upload, but it seems that most people pin images on their boards they have already seen elsewhere, or ‘Re-Pin’ an image from someone else’s Pinterest post. The home page of Pinterest is a movable feast of color images from all genres.

David Marshall's Boards on Pinterest

But what does this have to do with Facebook? Facebook has spent a lot of time getting people to post their photos on its innovative new Timeline function and convincing people to tell their life stories on their Facebook pages, and many are doing so, but Facebook mostly links one photo and text message together as a common thought, but doesn’t allow its members to group thoughts and images together in personal ity boards. Yes, you can create albums, but they are secondary on Facebook. Also, Facebook does not have an easy ‘Pin-It’ button to allow people to grab images from everywhere on the web like Pinterest does, so the photos section of Facebook is pretty much limited to photos uploaded by the members.

The New York Times reported recently that Pinterest claims it has reached ten million monthly viewers faster than any other social media side. Here’s the article: A Scrapbook on the Web Catches Fire.

I think Pinterest is really on to something big. It allows members to describe their personalities in ways that Facebook does not, by showing their various interests through a visual collage or montage. Facebook is left brain. interest is right brain. Together, they tell a richer life story.  It is fun and habit forming to create new Pinterest boards. It makes you think about what is important to you in the present and to share that with others. If the Pinterest functionality became part of Facebook, Facebook would be a much more interested place to hang out for hours on end.

Mark Zuckerberg, your move.

My Top-10 Personal Investing Tips

March 27, 2011

I have been investing since the early 1980 and have developed some pretty strong notions about what works and what doesn’t.  Here are my Top-10 tips:

1. Start in twenties. Time value of money is amazing.

2. Have the stomach for risk.  If no risk, then put in 1-2% savings accounts.

3. Don’t try to beat the market.  Set goal to match it.  4-5% for conservative portfolios or 8-10% for aggressive portfolios.

4. Diversify through comprehensive asset allocation based on age and risk profile. “Be the world.”  Re-set allocations to target levels once per year. Learn and apply the various asset classes: stocks (value, growth, balanced), bonds (muni, treasury, TIPs corporate, junk), inflation and downturn hedges (commodities, precious metals, real estate), international (developed and emerging).

5. Don’t chase the market ups and downs.  Use “dollar cost averaging” to be in the market in good times and bad.

6. Don’t become dependent on financial professionals – “The stockbroker services his clients in the same way that Bonnie and Clyde serviced banks.”

7. Use discount brokers, trade yourself online, and buy indexes through electronically traded funds (ETFs) or mutual funds with low-cost fees. Don’t invest in individual stocks unless you have $100,000 to invest because you need 20 stocks to diversify, or about $5,000 per individual stock.

8. Invest in tax-deferred and capital-gains-advantaged retirement plans such as company 401K, Roth IRA, Individual 401K, Individual IRA, 529b college savings accounts

9. Don’t chase gimmicks or latest stock tips from friends, family, or TV commentators.

10.  If you get the gambling bug for individual stocks, limit them to 5-10% of your portfolio.

I’ve read scores of business books and recommend this one above all others: The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio, by William Bernstein.  See my book review of The Four Pillars of Investing.

Marshall on Management

February 20, 2011

I work for Berrett-Koehler Publishers in San Francisco.  Our bi-weekly e-newsletter, the BK Communique, ran this Marshall on Managment contribution in the BK News section of the February 17, 2011 issue.

Our VP for Editorial and Digital Initiatives, David Marshall, is also a bestselling author and has held numerous executive-level positions with global companies. Here David obliges us with five lessons on management — three for self-management and two for managing others:

Managing Yourself…

#1 Plan your career, or it will plan you (lifelong tip): In a previous entrepreneurial life, I spent many hours with Richard Bolles, the acclaimed author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Dick says that the vast majority of people fall into jobs that have nothing to do with their values; it’s no wonder so many are unhappy with their careers. Confucius said “find a job you love, and you’ll never work day in your life.” There is much wisdom in those words. In college, I created a 50-year career life chart that I have updated every five years as new life experiences re-shaped the original plan. It is vital to have a vision of where you want to be professionally in 5, 10, and 20 years. If you don’t, you will let external factors drive your career instead of you steering it.

#2 Grow or die (annual tip): Many managers and leaders, usually at the 50-yard line or beyond, conclude that they have learned all there is to learn, figured out what management style works best for them, so just settle in and execute. This is a tragedy. Don’t go stale. No matter how advanced your career, no matter how much success you’ve had, take a blank piece of paper at the beginning of each year (it’s not too late for 2011), and write down five things you want to learn or improve upon as a manager and leader. Choose things that you can realistically accomplish with intention and attention. Pick the most important one and create quarterly milestones for yourself so you can measure your progress. Grade yourself at year end.

#3 Fortify your life blood: your daily time (daily tip): Choose the number of hours you work each week; don’t let it choose you. For some, it’s 40; for others, it’s 70. Embrace that number and then prioritize projects within it. Steven Covey advises us to do first what we prioritize as the most important rather than let others choose which things we do first based on their priorities. Avoid letting new requests from others re-prioritize your day, week, and month. Learn to respectfully say no or “yes, but later” when necessary. Every committed project advances or slips based on what’s in front or behind it. If I lose control of my time, I feel stressed, guilty, and de-motivated—and don’t even want to go to work. It’s deadly.

Managing Others…

Managing myself and managing others are connected at the hip. 1) If I am not happy at work because I am in the wrong career, 2) if I have lost my desire to keep learning throughout life, or 3) if I have lost control of my time, woe be to those I manage; they will suffer because I did not nurture my own management soul first.

#4 Practice permission-based leadership: Employee and company stakeholder empowerment is not just a buzzword. As Harvard Business School professor and new BK author Bill George said to Steve Piersanti and me recently (I’m paraphrasing), “the era of top-down ‘command and control’ leadership is over.” My experience is that people work harder, longer, and with higher quality if they are inspired and motivated by their manager, not brow beaten. As head of the BK editorial department, it’s not my right to lead the team. I receive permission every day from Bonnie, Jeevan, Neal, and Steve to lead it. They hold the power, not I. If I serve them well, miracles happen. This is equally true of cross-departmental and cross-divisional leadership.

#5 Be hard on the issues, soft on the people: Many assume that you are either soft on the issues and soft on the people (good cop), or hard on the issues and hard on the people (bad cop). However, it is indeed possible to be a strong-willed manager who asks employees to stretch themselves every day without being a tyrant. A common dysfunction resulting from the “hard on the issues, hard on the people” management style is passive-aggressive behavior whereby co-workers, who are under harsh personal treatment from managers, outwardly agree to support the bad cop’s directives but don’t follow through. Managers who learn to be hard on the issues but soft on the people—both good cop and bad cop in the same person—are more effective and successful in the long run.

A final note on humility and resilience: Either lose your ego or don’t seek or accept a management position. I aspire to the five tips above but am not always successful. I regularly fall, but pick myself up and try again. Fail fast and often, learn from the slips, and bounce back; that’s the overriding lifelong learning tip I can share.

You can see what others said about my post here.

Which Relationship Journal is Right for Me?

February 24, 2010

Which of Your Sweetheart Journals Should I Buy, What I Love About You or The Book of Us?

People who know our family journal books often ask which book they should buy as a gift for their special someone, The Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in 150 Questions or What I Love About You.  They are both wonderful fill-in books that foster intimacy and communication, and I think both will he cherished by both you and and partner, but here’s how I see the differences.

What I Love About You is like an extended keepsake greeting card where you can tell your romantic partner who much you appreciate him or her, not just in one or two ways as you can with a card, but in a hundred ways.  It’s a fun short book that can be filled out completely before the unwrapping, or partially filled out and then completed with the partner after the gift is given.  This book is a Valentine’s Day and wedding shower favorite.  It even works for couples who have been dating a short time.


The Book of Us has a bit of a different approach.  In 150 questions, it follows the couple from the first date to the golden retirement years.  So if you get it as a wedding present, the husband and wife can fill out the dating years but will fill in the rest as they progress through their matrimony.  If you receive it as an anniversary present later in the marriage, you will be able to fill out half with tender memories,  and then complete the second half as you go through life together.


Many couples buy both books because they each express the love in different ways.  They also make great birthday and Christmas gifts.  I hope this helps.

Story Time – Valuing the Past

November 17, 2009

This is a great article from the Wall Street Journal called “Story Time: The Heck with looking foward. There’s value in looking back.”  It is about the wisdom of telling stories from the past to younger family members as “a deft way to transmit lessons about life while strengthening generational bonds.”  It also includes this provocative quote from Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survior Viktor Frankl (author of the classic Man’s Search for Meaning) on the value of reflecting on past accomplishments as one grows older: “Why should the old envy the young,” he asked, “for the possibiliteis that a young person has?”  Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of suffering bravely suffered.”  Here’s the full article.

The Book of Myself – Early Years – This significant illness or injury scared me:

August 28, 2009

On a spring day in third grade my arm burst open.  I lived in a tough neighborhood but it wasn’t a switchblade that did the damage.  I was collating documents after school with some friends and one of them starting throwing sharp pencils at me.  Some of the points broke the skin.  I put up with it for a while but finally got so mad I starting chasing my tormenter around the tables, with him laughing all the way.  He rushed out a courtyard door—the kind with wood around the edges and mini window panes in the middle—and slammed it behind him.  I pushed the door open with my left hand, aiming for the wood but hitting one of the window panes instead.  My short-sleeved arm went through the broken glass up to my elbow.  I didn’t even realize what had happened.  I yanked it out and ran into the sunlight.  I was kind of dazed by the brightness, and wondered why my friend had stopped running.  He had one hand on his mouth, pointing with the other to my red arm.  Blood was spurting up four inches into the air like an upside down faucet.  I was scared to death and couldn’t move, but I let out a howl from way deep inside.  It went on and on and on.  One of our neighbors heard me screaming, rushed up and scooped me up into his arms and ran to the hospital across the street.  I passed out somewhere along the way.  When I woke up my mom was by my bedside in the emergency room, stroking my hair.  Her eyes were swollen.  I squeezed her hand as tightly as I could. 

A week later Mom took me to our regular doctor to get the stitches out.  He was shocked.  He told her that for a serious injury like mine, the doctors at our community hospital should have put in about seventy stitches instead of twelve.  Mom told him the nurse did it.  He just shook his head, pulling the nylon threads out one at a time while I winced.  “There’s going to be a big scar,” he said.  Mom frowned but I just smiled.  In my neighborhood, scars were badges of courage.  The bigger, the better—and the badder.           

The wound healed into the shape of a carrot, with the green stalk on top at the wrist, and a juicy fat carrot underneath, ending in a point toward my elbow.  When I walked the halls at school, kids yelled out, “Lemme see yo carrot.”  I was so proud.

Picture of Me: Who I Am in 221 Questions

March 13, 2009

Next week Broadway Books is releasing a new book co-authored by my wife Kate and me: PICTURE OF ME: Who I Am in 221 Questions.  Here’s a fun little video showing how to make it come to life:

Celebrate this moment – who you are, where you are in life, and where you want to be – by capturing in this guided journal all the things that make your life unique.

Picture of Me: Who I Am in 201 Questions, by Kate and David Marshall, Broadway Books, March 17, 2009, $13.95.  For details on this book and our other family fill-in-the-blank journals, visit our Marshall Books website:

Thanks for watching our video, David Marshall

February 10, 2009

The Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, California published an article today that combines concepts from three of our books The Book of Myself, What I Love About You, and our new book, Picture of Me, just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Readers Pen Six-Word Memoirs About Love...

Of course the most famous six-word memoir is from Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I like this line from the article by Jackie Burrell:  “The very notion of a six-word memor is a perfect fit today, Fershleiser remembers thinking, “when everything is voyeuristic and confessional, and everyone blogs.”

The article is full of six-word expressions of love for cupids pondering what to say, do, or write for February 14, 2009.

But back to the six-word life memors,  I know I will want to modify this soon, but here’s mine as of today:

“Cult boy discovers freedom, makes difference.”

What’s your whole-life or the “Tales of Love” version?

David Marshall