Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
2017 Alfred A. Knopf
Finished on April 1, 2020
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)
From Facebook's COO and Wharton's top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life's inevitable setbacks.
After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. "I was in 'the void, '" she writes, "a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe." Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.
Option B combines Sheryl's personal insights with Adam's eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart--and her journal--to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl's loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.
Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. "I want Dave," she cried. Her friend replied, "Option A is not available," and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.
We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.
I've had this book on my shelf for three years and every time I would begin to read it, some other book would distract me and I'd return it to my nightstand for another time. As most of us are feeling during the COVID pandemic, reading is not coming easily and we are too quickly distracted by the news, Facebook memes, Instagram updates, Zoom and binging on Netflix shows. From what I've read, most of my blogging friends are in the same reading slump that I'm experiencing. It wasn't until I started reading Option B that I felt I was able to concentrate on anything. This book pulled me in from the very beginning and my copy is littered with dozens of Post-It notes. I found Sandberg's voice comforting and very relatable.
Option B is not a dry "self-help" book, but one that is full of anecdotes and quotes, many of which are both wise and humorous. While the main focus is on grief, many of the inspirational stories relate to challenges we all face. Here are just a few of my favorite passages:
Grief is a demanding companion. In those early days and weeks and months, it was always there, not just below the surface but on the surface. Simmering, lingering, festering. Then, like a wave, it would rise up and pulse through me, as if it were going to tear my heart right out of my body. In those moments, I felt like I couldn't bear the pain for one more minute, much less one more hour.and
I don't know anyone who has been handed only roses. We all encounter hardships. Some we see coming; others take us by surprise. It can be as tragic as the sudden death of a child, as heartbreaking as a relationship that unravels, or as disappointing as a dream that goes unfulfilled. The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next?and
We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P's can stunt recovery: (1) personalization -- the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness -- the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence -- the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. The three P's play like the flip side of the pop song "Everything Is Awesome" -- "everything is awful." The loop in your head repeats, "It's my fault this is awful. My whole life is awful. And it's always going to be awful."and
Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what's good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck. It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more.As I read Option B, I not only thought of my own losses, but also of where we are today, facing uncertainty, isolated from friends and family. I found comfort in Sandberg's words and while I wish I had been able to read this book 15 years ago (when we faced the tragic loss of our oldest daughter), I am grateful for the insightful, conversation tone of the author's honest account of her own challenges. Whether facing your own grief or wondering how to help someone who is struggling with their own difficult situation, I can't recommend Option B highly enough.