I just finished the reading the book "Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Adam Grant (Prof. in Wharton Business School).
After the sudden death of her husband, Facebook COO (and author of Lean In) Sandberg finds herself a widow and single mother. It is a brave attempt to unveil the vulnerability with such rawness and honesty.Her book isn't exactly a checklist--which I think is a good thing--but it is a way to take charge of one's own response to tragedy or difficulty.
Sandberg researches what these things are, and does her best to follow them. Turns out these types of mindsets or mental exercises are good for all of us who have gone through something as tragic or even mildly difficult. And they are good for those of us who have stood by friends who have lost loved ones or are battling enormous life adjustments. Or smaller challenges, too. Or maybe we're parents of children whose lives will inevitably involve some hardship, and we'd like to teach them to be resilient from a young age.
Some of the things I picked up from the book and will carry with me as tools to face or overcome the loss or failure, both in my own life and others:
- The "3 Ps" can stunt recovery: 1) Personalization, or the belief that we are at fault; 2) Pervasiveness, or the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; 3) Permanence, or the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. Challenging those responses and letting rational thinking return to the forefront helps.
- It's no big secret that learning from mistakes is helpful in school and at jobs. I liked the story of Kim Malone Scott at Google who brought a stuffed monkey named Whoops to team meetings. The person who had the biggest screw up got to have Whoops sit at their desk for the week.
- I loved the idea of opening yourself in a humble way to feedback. Sue Ashford's studies "show that although fishing for compliments hurts your reputation, asking for criticism signals you care about improving."
- "Believing it will all work out helps it all work out."
- Loved the last chapter of adding humor back into life after a tragic event or loss. "Humor lowers our heart rate and relaxes our muscles. Humor is a signal that a situation is safe. Laughter breaks tension by making stressful situations less threatening."
For people going through a tragedy or loss, Sheryl offers some useful phrases: “you are not alone” is better than “I cannot imagine”; “I will bring dinner” is better than “how can I help?” which puts the burden on the grieving one to come up with something to do. And as for “how are you?”: It can be a punch in the gut to someone already in pain, since the answer is probably somewhere along the spectrum of awful to unbearable. A better alternative: “how are you today?”
I strongly recommend this book. I am in complete admiration of Sheryl Sandberg and her determination to move forward in a positive way for the sake of her children, family, friends and colleagues and am thankful that she generously decided to share her nightmare with those of us who can always use a little advice of what to do when someone we love meets tragedy.
It is easy to forget the people who have helped us at different points. Parents, Teachers, Professors, Family, Bosses, Colleagues, Coworkers, Plenty to name and be thankful.