Sheryl Sandberg’s New Book Asks That We Embrace ‘Option B’


There's meaning in adversity.

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Next week marks two years since the death of David Goldberg, SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. And today, the Lean In author has released her second book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, which delves into the transformational process that came of grieving her husband.

Co-written by psychologist and author Adam Grant (pictured above, with Sheryl), Option B explores the value of taking on the challenge that you never asked for, heading into the unknown when you’d really rather disappear under a blanket, and as Sheryl put it a month after Dave’s death, choosing to move forward: “You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning.”

While at the time, she admitted to spending many a day in that void, Sheryl’s book is a call to spend more days out of it.

Here’s how to start embracing option B.

Dispel the “three Ps” myth

Adam helped Sheryl understand that there were three big misunderstandings about grief and adversity: that it’s your fault, that sadness has to exist in every area of your life, and that you’ll never feel any different. It’s what Adam calls the “personal, pervasive and permanent” mistruths about overcoming challenges.

Holding on to these concepts makes it that much harder to move on and get through the tough times. Realise that not everything is a result of your doing or that it has to take up too much of your emotional space, and certainly don’t assume you’ll feel the same way forever.

Do your best

“A few weeks after Dave died, there was a father-son activity,” Sheryl explained to CBS, “and I was sitting there with my friend, Phil, trying to figure out who could go with our son. And we figured it out. But then I just looked at him and I said, ‘I want Dave. I want Dave to do this with our son.’  And he said, ‘Option A is not available. So, let’s just kick the shit out of option B.’”

If you’re in a situation you never considered or never even wanted to be in, your only job is to try and tackle things within your control. If said event fell out of the realm of your potential efforts, you can’t do anything but try and make the best of it, whatever it may be. That said, things will likely suck for some time before you’re able to see any semblance of a silver lining, so don’t rush yourself.

Get honest

Sheryl recounts people having difficulty reaching out to her when she needed them most; even close friends were unsure of how best to approach her. The COO considered carrying a stuffed elephant around the office to remind people of the very thing they seemed to be ignoring. Then she realised she needed to be honest and open, and that would help others to help her – in other words, she had to confront the elephant to helps others do the same.

“When people asked how I was doing, I started responding more frankly. ‘I’m not fine, and it’s nice to be able to be honest about that with you’”, she writes in Option B. “Until we acknowledge it, the elephant is always there. By ignoring it, those in pain isolate themselves and those who could offer comfort create distance instead. Both sides need to reach out. Speaking with empathy and honesty is a good place to start.”

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