Building Resilience with Option B

Tragedy and trauma don’t have to define us. Although they will hurt, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant offers insight on enduring hardship and moving forward without fear. 

You should read this book.

This book will make you cry. Several times. But you should read this book.

I’m not a crier, not at all. But this book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, left tears dropping down my cheeks every time I picked it up. Although the intellectual intent of the book is uplifting and reminds us we can all be resilient in the face of adversity, the narrative of the book takes the reader through painful moments and accounts of Sandberg’s year after her husband died.

Grace For Ourselves

Time and again, I found myself with a weight in my chest not necessarily feeling sorrow for her. Undoubtedly, she experienced something tragic. But I imagined myself being in her shoes, sitting at my own kitchen table waiting for my own dead husband to come home after work or telling my children their father died or actively trying to ensure that my boys always remembered their father and what made him special. I can’t be grateful enough not to have lived through this, but just imagining it feels heavy and sad.

Despite the sad biographical elements of the book, Sandberg and Grant remind readers that there’s life after tragedy. Bad things happen that totally suck and, some days those things will hurt more than others. But in spite of the setback, we can learn and grow from our experiences handling tragedy and trauma.

Specifically, Sandberg writes about the three P’s: personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. She described how these three perspectives of experiencing hardship make recovery more difficult. If we can see the tragedy as less personal (not our fault), less pervasive (not impacting every aspect of life), and not as permanent (the immense pain will fade over time), we can more readily move past the tragedy. She doesn’t suggest one will forget about it, only that recognizing these barriers helps move forward faster and with more resilience.

Grace For Others

I also like the book’s reminders to offer more grace and forgiveness to those who struggle or fail. We rarely really know what others are enduring in their lives and how those experiences impact them. Personal issues, for example, often seep into work performance and other friendships more than we realize. Supporting friends, coworkers and employees provides more benefit and return on investment than we can probably imagine.

As discussed in the book, supporting others in the face of grief or trauma often includes being more accepting and forgiving about failure. In the aftermath of a tragedy, we are far less likely to be our strongest selves in the office, as a friend, or on the playing field, as examples.

Failure Must Be Genuinely Accepted

Struggle or not, we are all bound to fail at times. We live in a world where failure is often hidden or ignored. We don’t talk about it, and we certainly don’t accept or encourage it.

But failure is inevitable in a world where we stretch ourselves to do better, try new things, and step out of our comfort zone by choice. Challenges and tragedy are also bridges our lives will inevitably cross, thus giving potential failure yet another opening into our world. Allowing for failure simultaneously opens doors for measured risk-taking, personal growth, and building camaraderie. Living in a world (or office or home) where we’re afraid to fail creates brick walls on the path progress.

Recently, I listened to an older episode of Ted Radio Hour called Disruptive Leadership. One of the speakers, General Stanley McChrystal, said of one of his best bosses, “he allowed me to fail without being a failure.”

In life, we will all fall sometimes. We will all struggle and endure hardship. Many of us will be greater for it. But certainly, we will fare better and bring more greatness to the world if those around us give us grace when we fall, help us back up, and let us productively learn from our mistakes with patience.

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  1. I heard a podcast interview about this book with the authors and . . . maybe Krista Tippett? It was SO Good, and now you’ve made me really want to read the book. Thanks!

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