Sheryl Sandberg's husband Dave, passed away in May of 2015. Option B is a map of the journey that Sheryl took to deal with her grief, take care of her kids, negotiate life and work and in essence, to persevere and find joy. Some map-making coordinates, in the form of research findings, come from Wharton professor and author Adam Grant.
As Sheryl says, "This book is my and Adam's attempt to share what we've learned about resilience."
Other than the partnership of two such insightful and influential people, Adam from academia and Sheryl from technology, one of my major takeaways from Option B is:
Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity - and we can build it. It isn't about having a backbone. It's about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.
Not a Book Review
This isn't so much a review of Option B as it is a way for me to process what I've read. For an interesting review check out Rebecca Ruiz's treatment. The following are notes from chapters that I find insightful.
Psychologist Martin Seligman on setbacks and what can stunt our recovery:
- Personalization - The belief that we are at fault
- Pervasiveness - The belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
- Permanence - The belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever
Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room
When we're in pain the two things we want to know:
- We're not crazy to feel the way we do
- We have support
Treat others as they want to be treated.
When addressing those who are struggling do not ask "is there anything I can do?" Instead, do something, anything.
Instead of offering support like, "you'll get through this," say "we are going to get through this together."
Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence
Self-Compassion - offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to a friend.
Write down three things you've done well everyday. Active contributions build confidence. I personally call this Neurotransmittin. Doing activities that release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Companies should offer employees support to get through personal hardships.
Find Personal Strength - gaining strength through adversity.
Gain Appreciation - "He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any how." Adversity forges deeper appreciation for family, friends and being alive.
Form Deeper Relationships - "In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends." Friends can become family.
Discover more Meaning in Life - a sense of purpose rooted in the belief that one's existence has significance. When looking at this through the lens of work, meaning is often found in the service of others.
See New Possibilities - adversity can cause us to choose different pathways.
Taking Back Joy
Based on the premise that we find motivation when focusing on others, this story had a powerful impact on me. U.S. Army major Lisa Jaster was trying to gut her way through a twelve-mile march while carrying a heavy backpack. Lisa was attempting to graduate from the Army Ranger School and this was her final event. At the ten-mile mark her body was giving out when she thought of a photograph or her son wearing a Batman tee-shirt and her daughter wearing a Wonder Woman one. She had written on the photo, "I want to be their superhero." She went on to beat her target time and become one of the first three women to become an Army Ranger. I could absolutely feel Lisa's resolve in my fingertips as I touched the book.
The authors cite author Annie Dillard - "How we spend our days, is how we spend our lives."
Per Adam, Sheryl began writing down three moments of joy every day.
Raising Resilient Kids
Children's relationships with parents, caregivers, teachers and friends is critical in building resilience. The authors suggest that children:
- Have some control over their lives
- Learn from failure
- Matter as human beings
- Have real strengths to rely on
With the right support, beliefs can fuel action and become self-fulfilling.
Finding Strength Together
A key to resilience is hope.
Grounded hope - the understanding that if you take action you can make things better. A community of people with a similar vision create a shared identity. Add resilience to the group along with shared experiences, power and narratives and individuals become stronger.
Failing and Learning at Work
Resilient organizations learn from failure. This culture is enhanced when the company encourages its coworkers to acknowledge and learn from their missteps.
Debriefs - The Marines inspired Sheryl to record lessons learned after missions. This environment should be so safe that a low-level worker would feel safe and comfortable pointing out a higher-level one's mistakes.
Blind spots - Weaknesses that other people see be we do not. The culture should be such that these are pointed out safely and without retribution.
Is Sheryl too high up on the mountain?
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. How relevant could her advice be to those of us in base camp? Forged in the fires of deep loss, Sheryl's experience is humanly common. What makes it relate-able is, and this is my perception, her ability to empathize has grown over the last few years. I appreciate how the book looks at facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy through the lens of life and work.
What moves Option B into my Smoked-n-Signed category is Sheryl's co-author Adam Grant. Adam is an organizational psychologist (and professor) who produces concise and clear rhetoric based on his experimentation and research - a Malcolm Gladwell type only with the Ph.D. From the kind of stuff he writes about; if you didn't know that Adam is a thirty-something you'd swear he has to be a sixty-something. From his photo he can't be anything but a twenty-something.