Book Review: Option B

“Seeking joy after facing adversity is taking back what was stolen from you”

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Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 176

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4/5

I don’t know anyone who has been handed only roses. We all encounter hardships. Some we see coming; others take us by surprise. It can be as tragic as the sudden death of a child, as heartbreaking as a relationship that unravels, or as disappointing as a dream that goes unfulfilled. The question is: When these things happen, what do we do next?

Life, as we know it, is unpredictable. You’re walking down the road in your freshly cleaned and ironed white shirt only to have mud splashed across your entire body. You’re standing on the road, hailing abuses at the vehicle who did it, but there’s only so much you can do. Or maybe accidently dropping the scoop of icecream you’d been wanting to savour. These are small almost unimportant terrible things that happen. What does one do when they fail at an important phase of their life? How do you react when you lose a family member? Where do you go when you’re fighting to live?

You want to give up. Leave everything. And escape. But you don’t. You wake up every day, confused, miserable, but still ready to move on. When there’s no Option A, you kick the shit out of Option B. That’s exactly what this novel by Sheryl Sandberg is all about. To find the light at the end of the tunnel, to find the silver lining and learn to live some form of Option B.

The sudden death of Sheryl’s husband turned her world upside down. It came as a blow, one she thought she could never recover from. To make it worse, she couldn’t think of a life where her children would grow up without having a father. Happiness seemed like a distant dream. Sheryl feared her children would never find happiness again. They would never be normal. She would never be normal. Adam Grant, psychologist at Wharton and a dear friend of Sheryl jumped to the scene. Together they discovered how to cope with adversity and build resilience. Talking about Resilience Sheryl says:

I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had. He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient. Resilience is the strenght and speed of our response to adversity–we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.

So began a lifelong journey of Sheryl coping with the loss of her husband, maintaining her job as the COO of Facebook and ensuring her kids grew up to be strong and resilient. One of the foremost principle’s used in the book are the 3Ps that stunt recovery. This was formulated by psychologist Martin Seligman when he was studying how people deal with setbacks.

  • 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.

Studies have shown that the minute adults and children accept that they’re not in control of every situation, that they’re not to blame and that these hardships won’t follow them everywhere and will not affect all aspects of life, they recover quickly.

The book follows Sheryl’s everyday struggles which included attending her children’s school events alone or celebrating birthdays without her better half. One of the important points mentioned in the book which I personally found interesting was ‘focusing on worst-case scenarios’. Adam went on proposing that instead of trying to find the positives in an utterly miserable situation, one should think of how worse the current situation could be. I mean, come to think of it, you’re alive and reading this review right now( well, I hope you are). And the gift of life is probably the biggest gift ever. In Sheryl’s circusmtances, Adam reminded her that her husband, Dave, could have died while driving their children to school. His statement sent chills down her spine overwhelming her. She realized her children were still with her and that gratitude took over grief.

Option B is a sum total of not just Sheryl’s loss. It has tremendous stories of people from all walks of life who have defied all the odds, survived at the face of adversity and have overcome illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters and the violence of war. Not only do these stories inspire they also teach us how to persevere in times of hardships. They reveal how strong human capacity is and that pain usually bows down when faced with people who refuse to beaten by their circumstances.

I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.

Failure can either make you or break you. It’s easy saying you learn from failures. It’s difficult being on the receiving end. Talking about failures, Sheryl says, “Not only do we learn more from failure than success, we learn more from bigger failures because we scrutinize them more closely”. Imagine if we’d stop walking when we were little because we kept falling every time?

The measure of who we are is how we react to something that doesn’t go our way. There are always things you can do better. It’s a game of mistakes

—-Greg Popovich

I spent most of my time underlining and making notes because Option B does offer deep insights and there’s so much to learn from the book. The writing style is simple, it’s not preachy and Sheryl has described her emotions in a raw and unfiltered way. You can feel the emotions deeply but at the same time there’s a sense of hope and faith that pain is temporary.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

Sometimes it takes going through something so awful to realize the beauty that is out there in this world.

Author: Shumaila Taher

Because reading is one of the best things that has happened to me. I laugh at all your unfunny jokes too. I am currently pursuing a Master's degree in English Literature and I rave about books all the time.

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