Book Review: Option B

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

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.

How to Start Reading

A step by step guide to start reading.

The secret to reading or reading more is extremely simple:

You pick a book and READ. 

No, really. I can’t make this any easier.

I get asked a lot about my reading habits often by people who claim to have read only one book a year or people who can’t seem to get around reading because they usually fall asleep. It’s okay, no judgement there. But if you really want to cultivate a reading habit you have to be sincere about it.

Habits are formed when you continuously work at it. Much like going to the gym or eating healthy in order to lose weight. It is the sum total of everyday routines that you religiously follow. Although reading isn’t as strict.

Know why is it you want to read. Is it because you want a hobby or you want to improve your writing skills or is it because you want to do well on your SAT scores or CAT examinations. Whatever the reason, go forth with it as something that will improve you way of living, expand your horizon while getting your mind off of everyday worries. It’s not something you HAVE to do or you’re forced to do. Reading is a solitary experience but one that is comforting. It is a fun thing to do and besides book nerds are the coolest people you’ll meet.

For you to get into the habit of reading, remember you have to take out time to read. You might have your bookshelf stocked with every bestseller possible but if you don’t deliberately go out of your way to read, there’s not much that can be done..

So now that you want to read and are ready to spend time on it, here’s how you can start:

  • The beginning: Since you’re reading after a very long time or reading a novel for the first time, it is essential that you choose a book that is of your liking. If romance is your genre, go ahead. If you like reading fantasy, pick up a fantasy novel. If there’s a book you read as a child and loved it, why not read it again? As long as the story sparks your interest, you’re good to go. Remember to start with books that are not lengthy or complicated. Go for novels that are fast-paced yet easy to understand. If you don’t want to start with novels, you can always opt for short stories or Graphic novels to give you a kick-start.
  • Time management: Now that you’ve chosen the book of your choice, you need to decide what time suits you best. You can read 10 mins in the morning before going to school/college/work or while having breakfast  or maybe before going to bed. The idea is to read every day; doesn’t matter how long or how much.
  • Reading slump:  Most of the time even though the book that we’re reading has been our choice, we seem to struggle getting through it (also known as a reading slump). Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Pick up another book and give it another try. Or wait for a day or two and come back again to the previous book.
  • Prioritising: Sacrifice watching Tv or sleeping more than necessary or staying on your phone( everyone’s guilty of this).  This doesn’t mean that you should stop watching TV altogether but instead of binge watching 10 seasons, just watch 9. (See, I am making it as easy as I can). Most of the time, I don’t read for days and often times I binge read but it works for me.Here, I don’t mean sacrificing study time to finish a book or neglecting responsibilities but ensuring you squeeze in a little reading time in your busy schedule. As long as you continue reading, you’re good to go.
  • E-books: I’ve realised that I read faster on my phone. I don’t have any scientific explanation for this but I tend to analyse and read ten times faster to the point where my eyes start hurting and burning and I’m half blind (Don’t attempt this, it’s unhealthy). Anyway, the point is if you are like me, you can download books on your phone. This way instead of being on social media you can instead use your brain to soak in some literary knowledge.
  • Travel Companion: Try to carry a book with you everywhere. You might get labelled as a first class nerd but then you should own that label and read even more. On a serious note, it’s not physically possible to carry books at all times, but you’ll realise how much reading you can get done when you’re waiting in your car or bus or have an off period in school/college. For instance, when I was doing an internship, my office was almost on the other side of the city and it took me an hour and a half to get there. So in total, I always had 3 hours of pure idleness. I used to get a lot of reading done. Most days, I used to stare out into oblivion but on other days I used to read.
  • Find a reading buddy: If you know anyone who is an avid reader, join in a read-along with them. You two can read certain chapters together and discuss the plots or maybe invite other people to join in and create a book club. Having people around you with similar interests gives you the motivation you need. Alternately, if you can’t find a reader buddy, join online book clubs or book sites. For instance, Goodreads offers a host of reading suggestions, author reviews, quotes and reading challenges. Seeing people being so passionate about reading will give you the much needed boost. Befriend people, follow what they’re reading and enjoy the whole reading journey.
  • Audio-books: If you still can’t get into the reading habit which is again absolutely fine, you can try Audio books. They’re easier to read since all you have to do is plug in your headphones and listen to it while driving or doing household chores. (I haven’t tried it out as yet but from what I’ve researched, it’s a hit amongst readers and non-readers)

 

Following are some of the books you can start your reading career with (I made that sound so official):

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns and Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Neven
  3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  4. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  5. Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
  6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  7. The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska by John Green
  8. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
  9. On Two feet and Wings by Abbas Kazeerooni
  10. The Good Girl by Mary kubica
  11. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I have on purpose not mentioned any classics because I personally find them a little intimidating and also because I haven’t read much on the classic front. (I am working on it).

I hope the above tips were even remotely helpful and that reading won’t seem as tedious anymore.