Option B by Sharyl Sandberg Book Review
Following her best seller Lean In and her husband’s tragic and untimely death, Sharyl Sandberg has penned a poignant and deeply motivational book on how to deal with adversity in Option B. Sandberg’s support for women empowerment and pay in equality was crisply brought out in her first award winning book, where she missed the perspective on single women’s struggle with recommendations like make your partner the real partner.
Sharyl’s husband Dave Goldberg, CEO of Survey Monkey accidently died while on a family vacation at Mexico. He fell off a treadmill and suffered a head injury. However, later the autopsy revealed that he suffered a cardiac arrthymia which contributed to the fall and ultimately an untimely death. Being a widow at such young age and with two young children can be devastating for any one. Sharyl, in her grief displayed exceptional courage, vulnerability and ability to rise beyond her grief and empower others. The book born out of her grief as a widow, gives us invaluable lessons in facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy again in life.
Co-authored by Adam Grant, psychologist and professor at Wharton, the book chronicles the journey of extreme adversity followed by period of grief and trauma and then the stages of being resilient and ultimately finding happiness again in life. This is not just Sharyl’s tale, she has taken perspective from victims of accidents, cancer survivors, and others who have faced extreme adversity.
When faced with unfortunate circumstances, the knee jerk reactions are the three P’s. Personalization (the belief that it is our fault), Pervasiveness (the belief that it will affect all aspects of our lives) and Permanence (the belief that the repercussions will last forever). It is interesting to know from a psychologist that- like our body has defense mechanism, our mind too has the same. It is matter of training our mind to fight a situation and find solution.
Sharyl has advice for the people around the victim, of being compassionate, understanding and kicking the elephant out of the room, of asking relevant questions on the grief and not avoiding the discussion with the hope that it will bring more unhappiness. Building a circle of close friends and family who support during tough times is equally important. No challenge in life can be won without close aids’ help thus it is imperative to acknowledge the platinum rule of friendship which is consoling the people who are the inner circle and reaching out for support from the ones farther removed.
It is important for anyone battling grief not to give up on self-compassion and self-confidence. When both these traits get difficult to follow, journaling is known to reduce anxiety, depression and even improve antibody responses of the body. For those who do not enjoy writing, recording their feelings over tape can also help. Sharyl quotes Nietzsche – “What does not kill me makes me stronger” -in describing personal strength. She describes how post traumatic growth can lead to growth in five different kinds: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life and seeing new possibilities. Thus, taking back joy in life is advocating self-compassion and confidence. As U2 singer Bono had said, “Joy is the ultimate act of defiance”.
When a family faces adversity, the most affected are the children of the house. To raise resilient kids, who can overcome obstacles small or big, Sheryl advises that we do not consider it as a personality trait. Rather turn it into a lifelong project. Her advice is to begin with developing four core beliefs: (1) They have some control over their lives (2) They can learn from failures, (3) they matter as human beings; (4) they have real strength to rely and share. Helping kids develop these aspect in their personality will help them make their life more meaningful and create a better future for themselves.
Similarly, for adults too resilience is not just built in individuals it is built among communities. Collective resilience requires more than just shared hope and helps us accept our new and often unwelcome identity. Even at workplace, ability to take feedback is a sign of resilience. As per Sheryl, teams that focus on learning from failure outperform those that don’t.
Despite her extreme grief, Sheryl ends her book by urging us to find humor, love and laughter again. She reminds us that the love we need for a fulfilling life cannot only come from others but must come from inside us as well. Resilience is within us and we are all born with it to make our lives better. We find our resilience during adversity and that is when we make our lives better.