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Review: Randi Zuckerberg’s Pick Three makes the case for living a ‘lopsided’ life

Randi Zuckerberg.

  • Title: Pick Three: You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day)
  • Author: Randi Zuckerberg
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books
  • Pages: 288

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The premise of Randi Zuckerberg’s new book is not complicated – but it is, as they would say in the Valley, sticky.

In Pick Three: You Can Have It All (Just Not Every Day) Zuckerberg – sister of Mark, early employee of Facebook, now a radio host, entrepreneur and author – divides life into five buckets consisting of work, sleep, family, friends and fitness. In a perfect world we would all do every one of those things perfectly, day in and day out. But because we are but beta software running on hardware that’s no longer up to the demands of our lightning fast times, aiming for balance feels like trying to ram a floppy disk into a micro USB shaped hole.

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Instead, Zuckerberg advocates, “let’s get lopsided!” (no, really). Prioritize, you guessed it, just three of those buckets each day and as long as you vary that combo (and track it), the end sum is, well, balanced. In essence, it is moderation, time management and just being sensible, gamified. There are even charts in the back to really capture those data points accurately.

None of that is rocket science, or even particularly new. (Hands up if you’ve been in a job interview and answered the one about “life is like a stove with four burners and only three can work at one time; which one do you put out - work, family, friends, sleep?”). But when Zuckerberg introduced her answer to “the entrepreneur’s dilemma” during a panel Q and A, news outlets picked up the quote and it went viral. “Pick three,” she responded when asked how you’re supposed to juggle all the responsibilities of having a life and building a successful business.”

Something about that idea – that maybe the standard we’ve all set for ourselves is unachievable – hit a nerve in a world where there’s an increasing pressure to be everything all the time … regardless of whether you’re raising the next round of financing or your three kids. Or even just your cat.

It’s tempting to try and slant this book as a response to that bestseller by that other prominent Facebook female, but Pick Three is really more of a companion piece to Lean In than it is the rebuttal many an exhausted underachiever may have been desperately hoping for. Zuckerberg’s book is not quite permission to lean out so much as it is saying it’s okay to excuse yourself from that specific meeting for this particular moment in your life.

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She calls this being an “Eliminator,” and the opposite of that – one who is leaning in so hard she’s practically lying on the table – the rather cringey “Passionista.” To Zuckerberg’s credit, she is very aware of the privileged position she occupies as a woman with the resources to make her choices, and again, that’s perhaps a lesson learned from Sandberg’s backlash. In that spirit, there are a further three categories to accommodate for other circumstances a person might find themselves in: The “Renovator,” who needs to overhaul this part of their life because things have gotten dire, the “Superhero,” who’s choosing it as a focus to support someone else’s needs, and the “Monetizer,” who’s in it for the money-making opportunities.

Where Pick Three really has value as a read is not in the tips, tables or obligatory Arianna Huffington interview about sleep. Instead, it’s actually in Zuckerberg’s own confessions and asides. Yes, she will test your tolerance for all caps and hashtag this or that, but there’s something in her friendly (if awkward) writing that is, TBH, #endearing, and well, #authentic. The chapter on friendships – and Zuckerberg’s candid admission that right now, she doesn’t actually have that many close pals – may do more to set people free from feeling like failures than any number of TED talks. Elsewhere she alludes to the downsides of being a famous founder’s little sister and the mockery she faced on the internet when she left her job in Silicon Valley to appear on Broadway. There’s also a “side hustle” with a friend that turned sour when that person expected her to be an ATM connected to the Facebook billions … but at the time, Zuckerberg only had a few thousand to her name. This book resonates when Zuckerberg demonstrates that she’s picked her three, and while she might have it all eventually, she certainly doesn’t have it today.

And that, at last, feels like a fresh idea.

Sarah Laing is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

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