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 don’t read ‘self-help’ books very often, to be honest. But I’d read about the death of Dave Goldberg and knew about Sheryl Sandberg, so I was interested to read this.
I was initially sceptical though. Sandberg is a privileged woman; she has wealth, and opportunity, and surely her experience would be far removed from that of normal, ordinary people? I was worried that the book might be one of those that preached from a position of power and privilege, telling ordinary women how to cope, when the author has no idea at all of the everyday struggles that those women (and men) face every day. Add grief and loss to that, and could Sandberg really understand? (Check out Ivanka Trump’s highly insulting, ridiculous and just plain weird ‘Women Who Work – Rewriting the Rules for Success’ and marvel at the complete ignorance of normality).
But Sandberg is fully aware of her privilege. She knows that she is lucky and she understands that other women (I say women because it is still women who are more vulnerable, at least financially, after the death of a partner) will have more to face than she did after a loss like this. And this self-awareness and acknowledgement really made me warm to her. I also couldn’t help but be affected by the sheer honesty and rawness of her grief. I lost my mum before I was forty. I know that isn’t comparable to the loss of a husband. But grief is something we feel a little bit ashamed of at times; we don’t like to let it show, mainly, I think, because we’re worried it will make other people uncomfortable. So to read an honest account of an intelligent, secure and focussed woman falling to pieces through grief was, perhaps selfishly, rather comforting. Her description of her husband’s funeral was heart-breaking. And her emotions are real – she’s a real person, with real feelings.
I liked her, and I respected and admired the way she cared for her children and acknowledged their pain. So I felt far more open to hearing what else she had to say.
I know that Sandberg’s wealth will be a sticking point for many. I know that she can afford childcare, and she doesn’t have to worry about a mortgage. And she has a supportive family and a supportive boss – things that lots of other people don’t have. But that doesn’t mean that some aspects of this book can’t be helpful to more ‘normal’ people. As already mentioned, just reading someone else’s account of grief can help when you have suffered a loss – acknowledging that your feelings are normal and understandable and understood can be a great help. And reading about other people who have suffered horrific things but who have managed to build useful and fulfilling lives is extremely inspirational. And there is advice here that doesn’t hinge on having money – writing a journal, for example, and looking for positive things in even the bleakest of times is helpful for anyone.
There were a few places where things got a bit spiritual, which didn’t do it for me, but these were few and far between. What I really liked were the anecdotes about Sheryl’s own experiences and how she helped herself and her children not only to grieve, but to begin to move on, without forgetting their father – simple things like beginning new family routines and traditions while not forgetting the old ones, for example.
It’s well written too, and thoroughly researched. Definitely worth reading, and recommended for anyone going through a hard time and trying to cope, whether through a death, redundancy, anxiety and depression – there are things here that can help.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy