Option Bby Published 01 May 2017
#1 New York Times Best Seller
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.
Option B Reviews
Sheryl Sandberg suffered a tragic and unthinkable loss when her husband died on vacation, and just like anyone else, she had to develop coping strategies and solutions to problems in order to work through her grief, comfort her children and get back to living. Her personal story is honest, devastating and inspiring as she, along with her friend and co-writer, Adam Grant, present a lot of great information and ideas for those who have experienced a loss, also providing advice and suggestions for friends, family and coworkers on how to be supportive and understanding in Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
The book has expertly woven Sandberg’s personal stories with a more technical approach to grief. Based on research, Sandberg and Grant suggest recovery from a tragedy can be stunted if you tend to think what happened is your fault, if you believe the bad thing that happened will affect all areas of your life and if you think the feelings of unhappiness will never end. Once you realize none of these are true, you are better able to cope and are on the road to recovery.
They talk about the benefits of journaling to work through feelings and how to focus on the positives. Sandberg says “Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self confidence to navigate the present and future.” “Adam suggested I write 3 things I have done well today”. They suggest that “contributions are active” and they “remind us that we can make a difference”. Also the suggestion of writing down 3 moments of joy experienced each day helps to remember there are still good things happening.
Another area of helpful advice revolves around building resilience in children and helping them develop 4 core beliefs: “1) they have some control over their lives, 2) they can learn from failure, 3) they matter as human beings, and 4) they have real strengths to rely on and share.” Sheryl shares conversations with her children and although each person and situation is unique, it gives the reader ideas of how to help children process a death and cope with a painful situation.
In the wake of tragedy and loss we also learn about some possible positive repercussions. At this crucial time there is opportunity to change your thought process and dig deep. Post traumatic growth includes “finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life and seeing new possibilities.”
In Option B there are lots of great examples based on experts and research of how to face adversity head on and come out ok on the other side. In addition, Sandberg talks about her experiences, how she made decisions about the children without her beloved partner, how humor is necessary and plays an important role in resilience and what is helpful to receive in terms of support and kind words from friends, coworkers and others.
This inspirational book is Sheryl Sandberg’s personal story along with fantastic suggestions for things to do and ways to think about life when faced with adversity. It is a book everyone should read…a great gift as well.
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It’s rude to criticize grieving widows. Maybe it’s even mean or cruel, and a boiling cauldron awaits me in Hell. But Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Option B, is hard to take seriously, especially for those of us who are not multi-millionaires and have lost a spouse and been left alone caring for young children.
Many glowing reviews have been written about Option B, but few reviews mention the glaring inadequacies of this book. This is probably out of sympathy for the author. Or perhaps fear of retribution from Facebook, her employer, and probably the one of the most powerful companies in the world. Or maybe people haven't actually read the book and just want to express sympathy.
There is no denying that Sandberg’s grief is very real and quite raw and the book reflects that. However, her husband had been dead less than two years (seven days shy to be exact) when the book was published. That means she was writing and pitching it when he had been dead only one year. How much real insight can she have only one year into one of the most horrible experience of life? The suffering has only just begun. As an example, consider that Prince Harry, who was 13 when he lost his mother 20 years ago, recently admitted to visiting a counselor for help with his grief. The book, which sometimes reads like a victory parade, is premature, to say the least.
In many ways, the book seems like mortuary opportunism. It’s disjoint and cobbled structure gives the impression of publishers rushing to strike while the grief is raw, before the author can come to her senses and realize that her pain is being exploited as fuel for profits.
As an analogy, imagine that I get into a car accident. Am I then an expert in automotive safety? Or if I break my leg, should I write a book about skeletal fractures? No.
The expert in this book is Adam Grant, the co-author. But why is Sandberg making the rounds of talk shows and writing articles? Because she is rich and famous. So don’t expect much insight or expertise.
On the positive side, Sandberg finally admits that her previous book, Lean In, was insensitive toward single women. This was a huge criticism of Lean In. Finally, now that she has a had a brief taste of single parenthood, she can acknowledge that, well, it’s hard and her advice rang hollow. But in reality, she still has no idea. Most single moms don’t have billions in assets. They don’t have nannies. They don’t fly in top psychologists when they are feeling down. Lean In was criticized as elitist and detached from common reality. Option B follows a similar track, but with a tad more humility born of suffering.
Among other things, the book recommends throwing yourself back into work. That’s great, if you don’t actually have any real work to do, or if you have nannies, cooks, house cleaners to take care of the home, etc. Or if you can simply change the company's previously inadequate grief policy. Facebook is a great company, and Sandberg is very fortunate to work there. But most companies are not as generous.
In my experience talking with widows, mostly at support groups, many widows are eventually fired, laid off, or forced to quit because it’s impossible to balance work and home when there is suddenly only one parent. If the dead spouse had plenty of life insurance, this is not such a big problem. But that’s not the case for most people.
Naturally, most companies won’t outright fire a widow right away. No. That would look bad. But within the year, somehow, the job will be gone. And once you lose that job, you are virtually unemployable. I’m not talking about specialized scientists or well-connected executives—the top 1%--who’s skills are always in demand. What about average people? What advice does Sandberg, a business guru, have for these people? None.
But you can hardly blame her. She doesn’t really have to work. I mean she has more money than she could possibly ever spend. And she’s always been filthy rich compared to the average person. Born that way. So she doesn’t even know what it’s really like to be unemployed and desperate. She works because she wants to and it makes her happy. And that’s great. But most people are not in that boat.
Most widows have to work twice as hard and then come home to twice the disaster. Con artists trying to swindle you, kids acting out, shutting down, depression, friends abandoning you. Until the ACA, most people had little access to mental health care. And it looks like we may soon return to that state, but that’s a different story. In any case, competent mental health is very expensive. The free stuff provided by your insurance company doesn’t usually work very well. Rest assured that Sandberg’s counselor is far superior to any psychologist foolish enough to accept the miserly payments from your insurance company.
Sandberg’s story is tragic yet inspiring. No one denies that. The book is also full of stories of other people who have had to overcome enormous setbacks, like rape, and not just death. There are too many poignant stories to touch upon here. Although they sometimes appear as afterthoughts, clinical and calculated, added in to make the book appear more balanced, nevertheless they make the book more than just a banal memoir. The book is the work of two authors, a business guru and a psychologist, and it’s a relief that Option B pulls stories from various perspectives.
Yes, the book tells many stories and is well researched and documented. But that’s not enough. The main story, Sandberg’s story, is still too raw to make much sense. Like in Lean In, it’s a lesson about the life of the extremely rich elite, ignoring the perspective of the average person. In Option B, we get to see how super rich people deal with tragic loss and grief. Unsurprisingly, grief is awful and doesn’t really care whether you are rich or poor. And perhaps also unsurprisingly, even in grief, rich people are still out of touch with the experience of common people.
I have to give Sheryl Sandberg credit. The topic of this book is not an easy one to cover and let's be honest, the majority of authors that do pen such books related to rebounding from grief have some kind of educational background or job experience that gives them the authority to advise.
Sandberg uses her personal experience (the passing of her husband), to explain to readers that despite the pain and loss, happiness can still return (if allowed).
With the aid of her close friend, Adam Grant, Sandberg fuses statistics and facts with the experiences of other members of society who experienced some sort of tragedy. She shares their pain and loss and what they did to rebuild and move forward. I found many of the stories to be encouraging.
This book raised some great points regarding resiliency, which is very important when trying to rebuild or rebound. The tone of the book is very encouraging and the points are applicable not only to persons experiencing the death of a loved one, but even to those who may have lost a job or even a home. After all, tragedy and loss come in several forms.
I recommend this book not only for persons grieving, but for those individuals who want to learn how to help persons close to them that may have experienced such.
I gave this book 3 stars and that is only because I took issue with the statistics that were presented. They focused mainly on one or two ethnic groups (primarily, the Latinos and African Americans) and left out the research on Asians and Caucasians. This is important if the book is intended to address a wide range of readers.
That is the only issue I have with the book. If anything else, this book made Sandberg appear more human instead of a woman, who is so far up the socio economic ladder, that she is out of touch with the experiences of ordinary working class individuals from different economic backgrounds. This book will be her redeeming point since "Lean In".
This one is a tear jerker - ugly criers be warned. Beyond the Instagram selfies and humble brag Facebook posts is a ton of grief in all of our lives that we do our best to hide from others. Option B uses Sheryl's tragedy to openly discuss trauma, it's impact, recovery, and post trauma growth in a tone free of pretension. I especially appreciated parts of the book that recommended actions to take to support a friend experiencing a loss of some kind. There's a lot of realness in this book. I'm glad I read it and I hope all of my friends do too.
Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband, and that is very sad, and is a tragedy that no one deserves. Also, SS learned how to gain resilience and re-find joy, which is fantastic, and I know we all wish for her. That said, the advice she offers in this book does not seem relevant or helpful to almost anyone but Sheryl Sandberg (with the possible exception of other billionaire celebrities with limitless job security and financial resources). For example, in this book, SS recommends the following:
1. It's ok to cry at work. [For everyone but SS, it is NOT ok to cry at work.]
2. It's ok to cry when hosting a dinner party for your employer's "most important" customers. [NO, it is not ok.]
3. Falling asleep at a meeting is a sign of progress, meaning that you no longer are crying and/or thinking only about your personal tragedy. [No.]
4. Because most companies fail due to problems that were known but not addressed, it is a good idea to tell your boss what he/she is doing wrong. [A. It is not clear what this has to do with the subject of the book, and B. No, unless you want to be fired.]
5. If you have lost your lease or mortgage due to the death of a spouse, and now you are homeless, confidence and a positive attitude will get you through. [No specific details offered how that works exactly.]
6. After tragedy, try to get back to your regular routine, e.g. traveling internationally with your extended family and friends, and meeting with famous people in India and China [that probably won't be helpful to most people].
7. Most of all, make sure that everyone in your life -- your parents, siblings, in-laws, friends, co-workers, and bosses -- are supportive and perfect, and definitely not crazy [How? How?].
With a somber tone, SS describes how the majority of widows face significant financial challenges from the death of their husbands. Many lose their leases or mortgages; many enter poverty. SS has no suggestions for those millions of women. Rather, she notes, she is blessed that she does not have those problems.
Similarly, SS recommends finding a new love interest in order to find joy. This advice, also, fails to address the financial context of many marriages -- the way that financial dependence on a deceased husband often leads to financial dependence in remarriage.
Truly, my heart does go out to SS for the loss of her husband. This kind of loss is monumental and life-altering. I do not deny the reality of her pain and suffering.
That said, I think that this book has a very narrow target audience. I am not poor by any means, yet her experience lacks any similarity with those of my best friends who lost their husbands over the past 3 years (unfortunately, 3 of them). In the case of the widows in my life -- which meshes with statistics nationally and internationally -- all of the women were forced to grieve without having the luxury of taking any kind of break from work or family responsibilities. In fact, all 3 had to move to different homes, had to turn to friends and family to pay down significant debt, and had to sell belongings and take on additional work hours to resolve financial crisis. Even though all of their husbands died a longer time ago then SS's did, none have had time to date, and none otherwise have found joy.
Sadly, the cold hard truth is that for the vast number of people who experience the loss of a spouse, resilience alone does not provide relief. Perhaps the moral of this book is that money buys happiness -- or, at least, being a billionaire does. Although there must be other routes to joy, I don't think you will find the answers in this book.