When Option A Is Unavailable
"Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is not a fairy tale or filled with false hope and shining horizons.
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have options for readers.
In their new book Option B, Sheryl Sandberg (Lean In) and Adam Grant (Originals), both New York Times best-selling authors, write, “Grief is a demanding companion.”
Sandberg, Facebook COO and founder of the women’s support organization LeanIn.Org, was pushed out of life’s comfort circles and into grief by the sudden, tragic death in 2015 of her husband, Dave Goldberg. Grant is a psychologist, top-rated Wharton professor, and a leading expert on motivation and meaning. Together, they co-authored Option B and created a nonprofit of the same name to help people and communities build resilience. Sandberg is the primary voice in the 240-page volume and is donating income from the book to OptionB.Org.
Writing about her loss and recovery was a primary method Sandberg used to reach the first half-second in which she was able to forget death and stop replaying the sight of her husband lying inert on the floor of a hotel workout room. Insights she learned from reading and from Grant and other mental health experts buttressed her Facebook posts, journaling, lists of “small wins” in which she recorded three things that went well each day, and other literary tools she relied on for self-support.
Most notably, from psychologist Martin Seligman’s decades studying how people respond to setbacks, Sandberg writes about learning to monitor and manage three P’s: personalization, pervasiveness, permanence. Misfortune graduated from “this is my fault” and “this will affect everything and last forever” to more empowering resolve. “I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.”
Admirably, thankfully, Option B is not a fairy tale or filled with false hope and shining horizons. Instead, Sandberg acknowledges her obvious advantages for recovery—money, broad network of friends and family, understanding and supportive employer, and more. There’s also rage, brokenness, humility, and confession: She admits her attitude when writing her previous book failed to adequately empathize with the difficulties faced by women raising children without a spouse or partner. Best of all, Sandberg and Grant allow the definition of resilience to include nonhealable fracture—grief in some measure will always be a companion—and future failure. The underlying theme is not that death can be foiled or fooled away. Instead, Sandberg says that life is about “leaning into the suck” and sometimes, going with Option B.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 242 pp., $25.95).
This report appears in the June edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.
Published online on June 1, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.