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Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy Hardcover – April 24, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of April 2017: After the unexpected passing of her beloved husband, Facebook COO and bestselling author of Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, feared that she and her children would never find joy again. Fortunately this fear was unfounded. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy--co-authored with psychologist and friend Adam Grant--shows you how Sandberg, and many others who have overcome a wide range of profound hardships, triumphed over tragedy. The book posits that it’s helpful to think of resilience like a muscle, one that atrophies in the calm between the storms of our lives. But there are things we can do to develop it, so we’re better prepared when adversity strikes. In America, culture can put a kink in this plan. Processing a painful event can be hindered when you’re wired not to talk about it. We all know that when someone asks how we’re doing, the expected response is “fine,” no matter if we’ve just lost a limb, or had a cancer scare. We will grin, and we will bear it, and we will go back to work too soon and burst into tears in the copy room when confronted by a malevolent stapler (or maybe that’s just me). Recently, Sandberg helped to enact a new employee benefit at Facebook: 20 days of paid bereavement leave, twice the amount that was offered previously. As she explains in Option B, it’s the humane thing to do, and it also makes good business sense; compassionate companies engender more loyal employees. In this way, Option B is more than a little revolutionary. It challenges us to change systems that don’t always take our humanness into account. And that’s something we need to do on a personal level as well. None of us are immune to misfortune and heartbreak. We need to cut ourselves some slack when times get tough, and, as Sandberg discovered, flip the golden rule: When a loved one is in distress, instead of treating them how you would want to be treated, consider how they want to be treated, which may be quite different. Option B starts an (oftentimes) uncomfortable but important conversation. If we lean in to the numerous lessons it has on offer, there’s a lot more joy to be found. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review
“I recommend this inspiring book to everyone around the world. None of us can escape sadness, loss, or life’s disappointments, so the best option is to find our Option B.” —Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner
“Sheryl writes about her own heartbreaking experience with a rare honesty. Then she and Adam translate her personal story into a powerful, practical guide for anyone trying to build resilience in their own lives, communities, and companies. It’s hard enough to resonate with readers. It’s even harder to help them take concrete steps toward a better future. Option B does both.” —Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
“Thoughtful, insightful, and compelling. Both individually and collectively, we all need to understand the power of rehabilitation, recovery, and redemption if we are to overcome adversity. This incredible book doesn’t avoid the loss and tragedy we all sometimes encounter, but it is animated by a resolve that is both inspiring and instructive.” —Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative
“Option B is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. Here are stories of sometimes unimaginable pain and loss, but also of how human beings nonetheless have the capacity to endure and even thrive. This book is not just an absorbing read. It also provides lessons that everyone needs to learn.” —Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal
“Illuminating, original, and deeply inspiring, Option B is one part riveting memoir, one part heal-your-heart boot camp, one part stories of others who learned to thrive in the face of profound loss: a practical, vital contribution to the literature on loss and resilience.” —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
“A memoir of the loss of a husband and finding a path forward beyond the grieving process. Sandberg was living a life with all of the fulfillments one could hope for . . . However, no amount of professional accomplishment could prepare her for the sudden passing of her husband, after which she had to figure out how to carry on as a mother of two, and make the shattered pieces fit back together. This moving book is the result. Writing with Grant, a highly rated professor at Wharton, Sandberg explores how to weather the storm of grief, applying concrete skills—in addition to more complex theories of psychology about how to find meaning in life-changing circumstances. Going deeper and broader, the authors look at different factors that can stunt recovery after a loss. The challenges of moving forward are immense; this accounting of Sandberg's resilience does for the process of grieving what her previous work has done for women in the workplace. A book that provides illuminating ways to make headway through the days when there doesn’t seem to be a way forward.” —Kirkus
“Sandberg and Grant’s helpful and hopeful new book affirms ‘there’s no one way to grieve and no one way to comfort.’ For those who have suffered a tragedy, this book provides helpful advice in the form of case studies, expert commentary, coping mechanisms, and, most of all, hope, expounding upon ‘the capacity of the human spirit to persevere.’ Sandberg draws on her own pain around the sudden death of her husband, and shares what she has learned about resilience with a tone that is raw and candid. Her experiences led her to ask how others have dealt with and survived such adversity. Grant shares his perspective and knowledge as a psychologist. Both authors show how positive outcomes, such as strengthened relationships and a greater sense of gratitude, can be gleaned from awful situations. Those suffering as well as those seeking to provide comfort should find both solace and wisdom in this book, which observes, ‘Resilience is not a fixed personality trait. It’s a lifelong project.’” —Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Personally, I'm not a fan of "Lean In," so I was skeptical about this book but read it anyway because my best friend (dog) died a month ago, and I miss her very much. Some might criticize "Option B" because of Sandberg’s wealth, her effortless access to the world’s top experts, her Harvardy approach to dealing with grief especially for her young kids, or (weirdly) that it’s only been two year’s since her husband’s death so there’s no way she’s had time to process the whole ordeal or to suffer enough and therefore has nothing useful to say.
Nonsense! This book is truly helpful. Buy it. Read it. Gift it to those facing hard times. There are a ton of useful stories, proven ideas and concrete steps that can be quickly put in to action, requiring minimal time and cost. Why flounder in pain when you can do things today to speed recovery and recapture joy?
There's also great tips on what to do and say when somebody else is suffering. Don't ask "is there anything I can do?" (too open ended and vague) Do ask "what don't you want on your hamburger?" You can't magically erase their pain but you can show up with In-N-Out.
Through sharing the details of her husband’s way-too-early death and its aftermath - from her kids’ inability to walk at his funeral to self doubts at work to her own survivor guilt - Sandberg defines the vast boundaries of the dark void that once felt inescapable. Yet she also shows there’s a path back, which at times will feel bumpy and will require you to take action. Knowing the right steps and that you're not alone will speed healing. Doing nothing will cause one to stall and suffer more. Just look at Prince Harry's recent announcement that he sought mental help after decades of bottling up his pain (and acting like a horse's rear end) from his mother Princess Diana's death when he was 12. A person could spend years in therapy and thousands of dollars and still not get all the benefit or insights contained in "Option B." This book is truly a gift of wisdom.
And while Sandberg now admits that aspects of Lean In might not be practical or even possible for single moms (now that she’s one herself), I was hoping “Option B” would spend more time on the topic of what most of us give up when we do lean in to our all-or-nothing work world such as caring for loved ones, exercise and health, eating nutritious home cooked food, a comfortable and orderly home – all things somebody with immense wealth can buy. Women who lean OUT don’t necessarily lack “the will to lead," nor do we lack supportive partners, we just prioritize differently because we have more tradeoffs and constraints. How far should one lean in when the hard truth is life is precious and short?
The term "leadership" has been hijacked by elite society to make noble the pursuit of power, status and wealth. As a result, "Lean In" makes many women who lean out feel ashamed and belittled. This probably wasn't Sandberg's intent, yet when a person has hired help to buy the groceries, cook the meals and wash the dishes, it's easy to underestimate how something simple and routine like family dinner can take hours and overwhelm even a two-parent family. In our world, status comes primarily from career title, and giving status up so that the rest of one's life can work is a blow to any achievement-oriented person's sense of self. Women are tired of being told "you can't have everything" by women who seemingly have no tradeoffs. Devaluation of women who don't seek "leadership" (status, wealth and power really) must end.
There are many forms of valid leaders: thought leaders, moral leaders, spiritual leaders, heroes, creators, innovators, teachers, writers, armies of one, moms & dads, and anybody who is brave, compassionate or kind. People and institutions who bandy about the term "leadership" in an effort to prod others to aspire to power have an obligation to first define the term.
Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom, Sheryl. You are brave, generous and compassionate. You are a true leader! I wish you and your children much joy!
I've spent the last four years researching and writing about the powerful topic of Posttraumatic Growth. (I wish I could tell you the title of my book but it remains in the hands of agents and publishers. I hope it gets to be born someday.)
In the meantime I want to shout hurray and yeehaw on almost every single page of this book.
The smashing point of this book: All people can heal, and some people are even launched to a more meaningful place after experiencing trauma; clinical research shows how.
Growth is actually more common than the much better known and far better studied posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The challenge is to see the opportunity presented by seismic events. After trauma, people need hope. In the aftermath of the tragedy, people need to know there is something better.
Following a traumatic experience, most people experience a range of problems: Trouble sleeping, nightmares, agitation, flashbacks, emotional numbness, avoiding reminders of the traumatic event, anxiety, anger, guilt, hyper-vigilance, depression, isolation, suicidal tendencies, etc. Until recently the entire discussion of the human response to trauma ended with a summation of the hardships incurred by trauma. But as it turns out, a traumatic event is not simply a hardship to be overcome.
Instead, it is transformative.
Trauma survivors and their family and friends need to know there is another side to trauma. Strange as it may sound, half of all sufferers emerge from the trauma stronger, more focused, and with a new perspective on their future. In numerous studies, about half of all trauma survivors report positive changes as a result of their experience. Sometimes the changes are small (life has more meaning, or the survivor feels closer to loved ones) and other times they are massive, sending people on new career paths. The worst things that happen to us might put us on a path to the best things that will ever happen to us. A brush with trauma often pushes trauma survivors to face their own mortality and to find a more meaningful and fulfilling understanding of who they are and how they want to live.
To be clear, growth does not undo loss, and it does not eliminate adversity. Posttraumatic growth is not the same as an increase in well-being or a decrease in distress. And even for those who do experience growth, suffering is not mitigated in the aftermath of tragedy. Growth may make the pain meaningful and bearable, but it does not deny the hurt.
For decades, nearly all the psychological research into trauma and recovery has focused on the debilitating problems that people face, but Option B speaks of the paths people can take to heal from their experiences and discover new meaning in their lives.
Just this morning a blog reader wrote to me and said she feels stuck because of her father's suicide many years ago. The first thing I did was tell her about your book.
I have been, and will be, recommending this book to friends and clients.
Thank you Sheryl and Adam.