Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 1)

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Introduction. I met Dave Goldberg in the summer of 1996. He was very comforting and lovely. It was love at first sight. He was assuring and very understanding. However, 11 years into our wedding, one day, he suffered from a heart attack while on a treadmill and passed on. I was in utter shock and disgust and didn’t believe that this was happening to me. My kids very truly upset too. I felt like I was in a void. At times, I felt like I could hear Dave calling out to me in my sleep. Ordinary events were painful to go through. I was worried my kids would never be the same again. The songs on the radio weren’t helping too. People encouraged to let grief run its course. Adam Grant gave me advice too. The fact is that many people who have lost parents turn out to be resilient. Time will heal the wounds, or so they said. I have no choice but to get over the shock. This book is about how to build resilience. Adversity is everywhere. I am fortunate for the support I have received throughout. It is possible to find greater meaning. Life is never perfect and sometimes we have live Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. – Sheryl Sandberg

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. – Sheryl Sandberg

Breathing Again. A friend I knew was too trusting and gave a co-worker a ride home. However, he raped her in the end. I offered this lady help. If you don’t believe in all 3, you will find it easier to cope. It is never all your fault and there are things which you might not be able to do better. Learn to stop saying ‘sorry’ after a while. Not everything was terrible after all. We had access to grief counsellors. Working also helps with the pervasiveness bit. However, if you return to work too soon, grief can interfere with the performance. Employers should provide flexible arrangements and financial assistance etc. Humans tend to overestimate how long negative events will impact us. I tried to banish the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from my vocabulary. The pain temporarily eased up after a while. Humans are also wired for grief. Deep breathing helps me to calm down. The second derivative thoughts were not pleasant at all. I learnt from Buddhism that suffering is inevitable. Over time, my kids and I learnt to respect our feelings. Sometimes, it is necessary to take cry breaks. Focusing on worst case scenarios also had me feel better. We also pray before every meal and thank God for the food. Counting the blessings in your life can make you happier and feel satisfied. We are also financially stable and that is very important to us all. Once, I went for a mammogram and I was alarmed. Thankfully, it was a false positive. Even heartache doesn’t last forever. When life kicks you under, learn to breathe again.

3 P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. – Sheryl Sandberg

Part of every misery, is misery’s shadow… the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. – Sheryl Sandberg

Dealing with grief was like building physical stamina: the more you exercise, the faster your heart rate recovers after it is elevated. And sometimes during especially vigorous physical activity, you discover strength you didn’t know you had. – Sheryl Sandberg

Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room. I went for a college reunion with some of Daves’ friends. Sometimes, asking someone about their illness can comfort them and show that you care. I felt miserable when friends didn’t ask how I was doing after Dave’s passing. People avoid asking because they want to avoid difficult questions. However, the fact is that people who have endured terrible things want to talk about them. Some parents who have lost children also want others to speak about them from time to time. ‘Mum effect’ is when people avoid sharing bad news. By remaining silent in your suffering, you isolate others. It would be good to have friends who ask you difficult questions but do not judge on your answers. People who have been through adversity can connect better with others who are suffering too. Cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions is common. The fact is that most people do not know what to say, especially when it comes to personal matters. I thought that I carrying an elephant around. A month after my husband’s passing, I shared my thoughts openly on Facebook. After that post, I received a lot of love and compassion. Not everyone will be comfortable about talking about personal tragedy. Opening up can improve mental and physical health. Instead of ‘How are you?’; ask ‘How are you today?’. I acknowledged the elephant’s presence and after opening up, many colleagues did reveal that they did not dare to speak up because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I had failed to ask him directly about his health not because I didn’t care, but because I was worried about upsetting him. – Sheryl Sandberg

When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friends who died of lemons. – Postcard

When someone is struck ill with cancer, you can ask ‘I know you don’t know yet what will happen – and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be there with you every step of the way.’ Or ‘I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. – Sheryl Sandberg

The Platinum Rule of Friendship. Adam encountered a kid, named Owen. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and later took his own life. When you are feeling stressed, you need an outlet. For instance, you can call a counsellor at any time of the day. Sometimes when we feel like reaching out to help, we might suddenly hold back because we fear saying the wrong thing or offending the person. This is like choosing escape over empathy. The trick is just to show up, showing up can make a huge difference in a friend’s life. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are not the one suffering. Instead of saying ‘I will do anything to help you’, you could say ‘let me get you a burger, let me know what you not take’. Specific acts are more useful for someone in need. Even holding someone’s hand can be a big help too. One can offer comfort to those closest to the tragedy and gain support for those further away from the tragedy. We all grieve differently. It is very rude to suggest that someone should be over their grieving period.

Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. Take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding – or better yet, action. – Sheryl Sandberg

Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence. Coming to grips with ourselves. Self-compassion is rarely talked about in our society. Everyone makes mistakes. These imperfections make us human. Self-compassion is the key to a faster recovery from trauma. Focus on the mistake and not the person’s character. Guilt and shame are completely 2 different feelings. Learn from your mistakes and own up to them. Writing down your thoughts in a journal might be useful and has much therapeutic effects. The more you acknowledge the negative emotions that you are feeling, the better you can tackle them. Talking into a voice recorder can have a similar effect to writing. Learn to understand that your worth is not tied to your actions. Self-confidence is the key. I am grateful to have a compassionate boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I start journaling and realized that it helped me tremendously. Even when you are really down, you can focus on 3 small wins and write them down daily. Just reminding that something had gone well that day can improve your day instantly. Learn to count your contributions too. Take one extra step even though you are afraid. Learn to treat those who are undergoing a tough time as regular team members and praise their work occasionally. The number of single mums are rising and a lot of them are having a tough time too. Over time, I journaled less. I want to move on and start living again. I am not alone.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give it to a friend. It allows us to respond to our own errors with concern and understanding rather than criticism and shame. – Sheryl Sandberg

This loss of confidence is another symptom of pervasiveness: we are struggling in one area and suddenly we stop believing in our capabilities in other areas. Primary loss triggers secondary losses. – Sheryl Sandberg

Bouncing Forward. The one I become will catch me. When you can’t change a situation, you will have to change yourself. Some people can experience post-traumatic growth. This means bouncing forward. It can take 5 forms: forming deep relationships; discovering meaning in life; gaining appreciation; finding personal strength and seeing possibilities. One can walk away with greater resolve. The little things do not bother you so much anymore. If you can find your why to live, you can find meaning to live. I appreciate my close ones more. If you visit poorer communities, you might start to appreciate life more. Gratitude is the key to happiness. Now, I celebrate birthdays every year. You do not need to wait for special occasions to show your gratitude. One could write thank you notes. Every day is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Going through difficult times together can cause one to forge stronger bonds together. It is also important to find meaning in suffering. One could do so via spirituality and religious beliefs. It is important to stay hopeful in your darkest hours too. Trauma can help to build resilience. Work can provide a source of meaning. You can energize yourself with meaningful work. A brush with death can lead to a new life. Some believe in co-destiny, where bereaved parents view their child’s life in a larger framework. Parents can do good, which becomes part of their child’s impact on the world.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. – Old Saying


How to Deal with Adversity by Christopher Hamilton

Life contains many adversities. Why is there adversity anyway? It is inevitable. Our world is not full of limitless resources and humans are in competition with one another. The human body is also very vulnerable. We all desire safety and security. As a result of this, we face adversity. Humans are also psychologically vulnerable. We often seek to want more. This can be due to any of the 3 factors: vacuity of life; hunger of imagination and craving for novelty. The human mind is constantly in motion. We construct ideas of how the future will be like. Even if we have achieved our goal, we remain hungry. We are like on a perpetual treadmill. Desires have problems too, they can tempt us in all kinds of ways. This can lead to envy when we compare with others. Some humans experience an emptiness in existence. Humans need to fill their time and don’t want a meaningless existence. All human activity is a form to rid ourselves of emptiness. Alcohol and other ways are examples to fill that vacuity in life. The world is indifferent to us. Humans are natural addicts. Humans want to find constructive things to do. One way to kill boredom is to find new things to do. Humans are psychologically messy. Religion helps to make sense of human suffering. Humans start inventing ideals to transcend themselves. We are naturally power hungry and want to dominate. No one is free of ontological tendencies. We cannot choose where we are born and it is matter of chance. A lot of things in life is due to chance. These things are out of our control and make us insecure. We are thrown into the world. Accept that adversity is inevitable. This book will guide you on how to deal with adversity more constructively. It covers the 4 aspects: Family, Love, Illness, Death. This book contains many philosophical ideas. Learn from others. Philosophy helps make sense of the human condition.

The human mind is intolerant of limitation and restraint, and seeks to expend itself. It lives very largely in the past and the future, reflecting on what has been and propelling itself onto potential plans, projects, ambitions and aims. It is, in short, hungry. – Christopher Hamilton

If humans are placed quietly alone in the room, they grasp acutely the vacuity of life, a sense of themselves as empty containers that cannot bear their own emptiness. Hence we crave distraction all the time. We need to fill up our time. – Christopher Hamilton

That is why those we are truly addicted to something feel, when indulging the addiction, that the world is theirs. But, of course, when the moment has passed, they feel even more acutely the indifference of the world – which feeds the addiction. – Christopher Hamilton

No one chooses to be born, or when and where to be born, or who his or her parents are, or what mother tongue he or she speaks. No one chooses his or her basic psychological proclivities and tendencies, or early formative experiences. – Christopher Hamilton

The family is a very important unit. However, it can be a source of conflict and violence too. There are two kinds of people: those who seek to silence others and those who get used to the noise others make. We do not reflect much when we are happy and enjoying ourselves. Therefore, we do not analyze the different types of happy families. Maintaining a family is tough because it is like balancing on a tightrope. The goodness of a parent extending it to a child can be removed in an instant. In the example quoted in the book, Marcel gets what he wants but the family dynamics has changed and he is not happy. Often, humans do not understand the nature of their desires. When they get it, they may achieve the happiness they initially thought they would. The problem is once the child grows up, he may start comparing his parents with others. He might realize that he is not being treated fairly. When our family fails to offer love, it can lead to trouble and pain. The child will learn that he is not central to its existence. Do not forget that humans are idiots at times. Some of our behavior can be absurd, looking back on hindsight. Rather, learn to laugh at your shortcomings at times. Think of happy moments. Hermann Kafka, his dad, often bullied Franz and this had an impact on him in future. Eventually, he didn’t want to blame his father and sought to tell him everything happened because of their differing personalities. Humans are like chemicals. When there is an external chemical or reagent, they respond differently. His father was everything Franz was not. When the two personalities are too different, clashes are inevitable. Franz didn’t want to change as he found that that was who he was. It does not make sense to change others. If there is an abusive parent, the best solution is to avoid him/her. There are children who are permanently damaged by their parents. Kafka turned his pain into something creative by becoming a writer. Learn to write down your thoughts in a diary. Externalizing your thoughts can detach you from you and your life. Everyone wants their family relationships to work. Blood ties count for a lot. Rilke, in his letters to Kappus, urged him not to fight his feelings of loneliness. Live your questions now. Loneliness is an opportunity to find yourself. Hold onto things that are difficult. It is good to be lonely, for loneliness is difficult. Pretend to be a child and learn to detach yourself. Pretend that one doesn’t understand. Accept loneliness and the mystery of family relations and live your questions. Pay attention to other things in the world. Even though you may hate your parents, but it was they who brought you into this world to enjoy it for what it is.

Afterwards, I was, indeed, at that time very obedient, but it left me inwardly wounded. Given my nature I could never reconcile the normality of my pointless crying for water with the extraordinary terribleness of being carried outside. – Franz Kafka

If it is impossible to avoid being hurt by someone, then the best thing is simply to reduce contact with that person. – Christopher Hamilton

Everyone is obsessed with love. There are many dating websites available. Is romance so great? Divorce rates are increasing. People also experience breakups. In the Greek era, many people have been fond of romance. Eros was the deity. Love is supposed to go deep, beyond the normal tiresome duties. We feel released when we are in love. Christianity has largely shaped our views of love. Any evidence you find will point to the fact that you love her. Imagination matters too. For instance, someone can look classy by wearing material items. Make pain the part of life. From your failures, tell yourself that you are learning about the human experience. Be realistic and rid yourself of illusions of love. For those who breakup, they may think that they could have made it work with more effort. The reasons why we like someone are mysterious. You are not in control over your love. Who you love largely is a matter of luck and chance. Couples should spend a lot of time together. Do not be complacent that the relationship will work. Realize that your relationship is no better than other couples out there. There are 3 types of friendships: utility, pleasure and shared virtue. Only the last one is enduring. Each one cares about the other. This is what friendship ought to be. Love your friend for their faults. Leave the other person alone. Do not keep intervening. Love is also, in essence, selfish and self-forgetting. When you are angry, wait before you act. Act only when you are sensible. Do not expect yourself to give more than you can when it comes to love. Do not set too high expectations of yourself or your spouse. Pursue pleasurable activities together. Friendship may flourish even if you do not completely understand the other person. This is because you do not try to analyze everything in the other person’s mind. Some form of mystery is good sometimes. Jealousy stems easily and it’s because you try to think about what the other person is thinking or doing. The problem with jealousy is that what you want won’t come true. In addition, jealousy and love stem from the same source. Fidelity is not something to be expected, but can be counted as an achievement. Commitment, or marriage, requires a great deal of diligence and discipline. If you fear your wife, you will refrain from straying. Understand that fidelity is difficult. Humans are naturally very fickle. Love does fail at times. Love is just one aspect of a relationship. It is not sufficient. Do not regret having a divorce. Sometimes, the problem with people is that they view breakup as a failure. Your life is valuable because of all the experiences you acquired.

What I call crystallization is a process of the mind which draws from everything that occurs new proofs that the loved one is perfect. – Christopher Hamilton

From the moment he is in love, the wisest man no longer sees anything as it really is. He underrates his own qualities, and overrates the least favours granted by his beloved. Hopes and fears at once become romantic and wayward. – Stendhal

A person of kindness and virtue, in whom we find nothing to which to object, can leave us indifferent or cold from a romantic point of view, whereas someone else who is without these virtues may, for reasons that are almost completely unclear, appeal to us profoundly. – Christopher Hamilton

The essence of friendship lies in the exercise of a capacity to perceive, a willingness to respect, and a desire to understand, the differences between persons. – Richard Wollheim

Humans are like porcupines. On a cold day, the porcupines huddled together for warmth, but, in doing so, hurt each other with their spines. So they moved apart, but in this way become cold again. – Arthur Schopenhauer

We crave the warm intimacy of closeness with others, especially in romantic love, but, once we get it, we can end up hurting each other through that very closeness. – Arthur Schopenhauer

Without good health and bodily functions, you can’t do anything. In the past, the fact was that people couldn’t afford much luxury to practice self-reflection. Illness is not so prevalent in the developed countries but it won’t be eradicated. The human body is fragile. Kidney stones cause acute pain. The pain was so intense that some contemplated suicide. Physical vulnerability also opens up to physical pleasure. For instance, we can eat, drink and sleep. These are pleasurable activities. Allow your illness its own place. Submit to your condition. Do not complain if you have a condition. What can happens to others can happen to you as well. As you grow old, realize that illnesses might come. Recognize that at least you were healthy in your younger life. You might be able to face death with greater equanimity. Write down famous quotes and keep them near you. Sometimes, being too anxious over something can make you ill too. Be realistic about your vulnerabilities about your body. Seek to use illness for your own advantage. Sometimes, illness makes you stronger. The Western view is that illnesses can be cured. Some people think that the body is something that one needs to regulate. Accept illness as something that passes through you. Humans cannot bear meaningless suffering. Find your own sources of help. Illness is not a form of punishment. When Kafka had TB, he tried to seek meaning for his disease. He saw it positively and started to be creative in his writings. Sometimes, we also blame others for our condition. ‘Why me?’ The world is neither just nor unjust. Do not burden others with talk of your illness all the time. Keep laughing. You must have the will to live. You can boost your immunity by being happy and good spirited. Learn to laugh more.

You are not dying because you are ill; you are dying because you are alive. Death kills you perfectly well without the aid of illness. – Michel de Montaigne

This is why we need to try to be attentive to others around us and the story of their life, in order to discover the interesting, the strange, the good and the lovely in them, which we so often miss in the general rush of everyday life. By doing so, not only can be understand them better, but we can also understand ourselves better too. – Christopher Hamilton

If you are ill, seek comfort from your friends, but remember that it is gladness rather than sadness which best nourishes you, your friend and your friendship. If you manage to laugh in and through your illness that will probably help you. – Christopher Hamilton

My dad suffered from pains in his body. Later, it was learnt that he contracted cancer and was dying. Later, he died in a hospice. I was impressed by the way he approached death. He did not demonstrate self-pity. Learn to face death with dignity. Is it possible to find a good death? It is terrifying to think about death. We always think it will happen to someone else. When you die, not only your world, but the rest of the world ends. Dying is like falling asleep. Death, to many, is the end of the world. That is what is so frightening about it. In death, you experience nothing. So essentially, it is not a misfortune. This does not mean you cannot face death with grace and nobility. Cancer can bring you down to earth. Make sense of your experiences. Face reality. Acceptance in the key. Death is a part of life. There is nothing left to defend once you know you are dying. You get to see the world in a different light. Life is a form of dissolution. This means that if you were immortal, you would think you have a lot of time and because of this, you would not live life to your fullest. A heightened sense of death also gives you a heightened sense of life. Even if contract illness at a young age, knowing that you will die soon is a form of learning more about yourself. Everyone has to face death alone. This is why it is so frightening. There are worse things than death. Life is unexpected and you have to be prepared for death anytime. The whole of life is a progression towards death. Try to learn from others how they dealt with it. In the grand scheme of things, it does not matter if we live a long or short life. The destruction of personality is even more painful than death. Be grateful for life while you can. The solution to this is to live well. Are we frightened of death itself or only the act of dying? If you die with your loved ones, you can be happier. Do not be in denial of death. You can still pass on a message to your loved ones when you pass away. You can still learn from the dead. Humans are very resilient. You can deal with what life throws at you. Death in the pursuit of some good can be very worthy. Understand the fact that humans are mortal creatures. You cannot beat death, but death cannot beat you.

If someone else dies, however much I care about or love that person, life goes on, the world continues to exist. If I die, then there is – nothing. – Christopher Hamilton

We all die, but we each die our own death. To confront one’s own death, one needs to find one’s own way, one’s own style, as it were, and for that there can be no formulae – though it can be helpful to see how others have confronted their death. – Christopher Hamilton

If you have never learned how to use life, if life is useless to you, what does it matter to you if you have lost it? – that is, if you die? – Michel de Montaigne

What matters is much less the length of your life than the spirit in which you live it. The struggle to live in a spirit of integrity is also a struggle to see one’s mortality for what it is, to live one’s mortality, precisely because it is inevitable and, as part of your external destiny, needs to be made one’s own in the inner life. – Christopher Hamilton

Live life with skepticism, but give others the benefit of the doubt. Meditate and imagine bad stuff happening so that when it happens, you can cope better. Thinking about pleasurable activities help you deal with adversity too. Laugh at your own foolishness. Adversity is a form of enlightenment.

The adversity in your life has been a precious source of enlightenment. You will face more adversity. As you do you should seek not simply to cope with it as constructively as possible, turning it to account, but also remember that it is giving you an understanding of things that is irreplaceably valuable, it is part of your inheritance as a human being – and you should seek not to consider it alien to you. – Christopher Hamilton