By Saket Suman
Title: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy; Author: Sheryl Sandberg with Adam Grant; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 599; Pages: 226
Let the reader be warned: This book will make you cry, remind you of a dear one you lost and perhaps recreate the most traumatic phase of your life once again. At the core of it, however, lies the simple message that we are far more stronger and resilient than we think ourselves to be.
Take your mind off the quirky Instagram and Facebook posts and it does not take long to fathom the depth of difficulties that many of us cope up with every day. The advent of social media may have redefined the very basics of communication but even in these tech-led days, some basic fundamentals of what makes us human — joy, grief, ecstasy and enthusiasm — sustain. It is thus that no number of funny videos on facebook will provide you comfort when you are grieving at the loss of a dear one.
This is where “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant comes into play. It is a powerful self-help guide about building resilience and moving forward when faced with adversity.
After the sudden death of her husband, Sandberg, like most of us would, felt sure that her and her children’s lives were not going to be the same ever again, that they were never going to find pure joy again in life. “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.”
But to the surprise of readers, what Sandberg did next — in resonance with the Silicon Valley spirit of solving problems — perhaps redefined her initial reception of grief and trauma. As she looked out for answers, she contacted a friend to help her overcome the tragedy.
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. The offering at hand mixes Sheryl’s personal insights with Grant’s eye-opening research to seek answers on finding strength in the face of adversity.
“Option B” opens with the traumatic moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor; Sandberg opens up her heart to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. This part of the book is so powerfully narrated that it almost puts readers in the author’s shoes and sort of makes them walk through the depth of her loss.
But the offering goes far beyond her personal 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. The book 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.
Among the many things that Grant tells Sandberg about is a well-researched study of children who had lost a parent but despite that had a very happy childhood and grew up to be normal adults. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives.
“The research was so helpful because something else that happens with death is this sense of complete loss of control,” Sandberg says. “I have no control over Dave’s death — it happened so suddenly. And even when death doesn’t happen so suddenly, you can’t stop it.” The writers impress upon the fact that resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us.
This book may serve as the guiding light to those struck with grief and Sandberg’s powerful narrative technique, coupled with Grant’s elaborate research, goes a long way in establishing that we never know how resilient and strong we actually are, unless faced with an unmatchable adversity. Stand up, face it and be resilient.