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



Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Women, Work, And the Will to Lead

Women now have more rights than ever and life is much better. However, many of them are still in the sex trade. The vision to bring men and women to equal status is still in the works. Women still don’t hold many of the top positions in government and in the private sector. Our voices are not fully heard. Compensation has not been on par with the men. Revolution has stalled along the way. Once more women are in power, others will be helped as well. We often pull back instead of leaning in. We are often hindered by barriers of society. Attacking the institutional barriers is like a chicken and egg problem. This book is sort of like a female manifesto. It is important to lean in and be ambitious in your pursuits.

Not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both. I would never advocate that we should all have the same objectives. Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire. Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time. We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values and dreams. – Sheryl Sandberg

My grandmother was addressed as girlie in the past. She was taken out of school because of work. Her business took off as she was extremely determined and motivated. Later when she had kids, she understood the importance of education. My mum taught me to believe that all careers are open to me and that I should dream. Two generations after my grandma, the playing field seemed to have levelled. Integrating personal and professional aspirations was always difficult. Most of the time, women had to give up their careers in favour of the family. Although women are very capable academically, often, this does not translate in workplace success. Men aspire for the more senior positions in the work place. The leadership ambition gap is still present. I married a guy at 24. However I divorced him at 25. Women in the past liked to prioritize marriage over career. Ambition is still seen as something ‘dirty’. We are all brought up differently. When a female tries to lead, she is often labelled bossy. Men are encouraged to ask more questions. It seems wrong to go for both family and career for women. The US is the only developed country without a paid maternity leave policy.

There is far more to life than climbing a corporate ladder, including raising children, seeking personal fulfillment, contributing to society, and improving the lives of others. And there are many people who are deeply committed to their jobs but do not – and should not have to – aspire to run their organizations. Leadership roles are not the only way to have profound impact. – Sheryl Sandberg

We invited Tim Geithner from Facebook over. Women in that meeting seemed like spectators. Internal barriers can alter your behavior. Women sometimes hold themselves back. Being praised for their achievements doesn’t seem right. Capable people plagued by self-doubt suffer the impostor syndrome. Sometimes, we underestimate ourselves. Men then to overestimate their abilities. Men credit their success to internal factors while females credit theirs to external factors. I was also insecure in high school. I was admitted to Harvard for my personality, not my academic potential. My brother has always been more confident. Sometimes, you need to make an intellectual and an emotional adjustment. Self-belief is very important. A lack of confidence can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One can learn to fake confidence levels. Force yourself to smile and you will feel cheerful. ‘Fake it until you feel it’ strategy. Opportunities are seized, not offered. Men were offered more because they wanted it more. Usually, taking initiatives help a lot. Learn to take calculated risks. Women have to learn to keep their hands up. Learn to express gratitude for those who have helped you succeed. No one accomplishes anything alone. Keep your hand up!

It’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters. One of the things I tell people these days is that there is no perfect fit when you’re looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have. – Sheryl Sandberg

There were gender stereotypes on likeability for top professionals. We evaluate people based on stereotypes. This form of biases are holding us back. Successful women are deemed as very aggressive. For females, boasting about your achievements won’t do you much good. Women are expected to play a nurturing role first, before everything else. Intelligence and success are not clear paths to popularity. Being liked is a key factor for success. For women, claiming too much credit for success may not be a smart move to take. Some may pay a penalty for being helpful. Women who negotiate for their own benefits can be seen as more self-serving. I negotiated with Mark Zuckerberg on my salary package. To negotiate well, women need to come across as being nice. Think global, act local. Women also need to present a reason for negotiation. Every negotiation is unique and women must adjust their approach accordingly. Combine niceness with insistence for negotiation of pay. Ignore attacks and do your job. Learning to withstand criticism is very important. Feel the negative emotions and move on quickly. Females can also learn to help one another out.

Lori jumped in to Facebook with me. She ran our recruitment campaign to much success. People do not stay in one job as long as before. My dad was a physician and my mum also liked helping others. My dad decided to be a physician because he experienced a traumatic surgery. Having a meaningful life is important. I wanted to change the world. A long term goal can be to work in a particular field or to travel throughout the world. A vague goal can provide some direction. I flew to India for a mission trip. I headed to Cambridge business school. My first job was a consultant with McKinsey and Company. Later, I worked in the Treasury Department with the government. I was there for 4 years. It took me a year to find a good job at the Valley. I interviewed with Google and got the job. As a result, I joined Google. Board the rocket ship first. Learn to concentrate with results and impact. It was my first business deal and I said too much. I worked a total of 6.5 years at Google. Then it was time to continue. I do not like uncertainty but in life, you have to accept uncertainty and even embrace it. Later I joined Facebook as a COO. Follow your path even if it might take you back a few years. Women in general need to be more risk taking in their careers. In business, risk aversion may not be a good thing. Sometimes, women avoid stretch assignments and new challenges. Women believe that if they do their jobs well, they will get promoted. Taking risks, choosing growth, challenging ourselves are all important elements of managing a career.

We all want a job or role that truly excites and engages us. This search requires both focus and flexibility, so I recommend adopting two concurrent goals: a long-term dream and an eighteen-month plan. – Sheryl Sandberg

If you ask the question ‘Are you my mentor?’; the person probably isn’t yours. Many women have requested me to be their mentor. The search for a mentor is like waiting for a Prince Charming. Mentorship and sponsorship is important for career progression. There needs to be a real connection between the mentor and mentee. I get joy out of mentoring others as well. ‘Excel and you will get a mentor’. Start off with a well-thought-out inquiry instead of asking someone to be a mentor. Preparation is key when looking for a job. Mentoring is a reciprocal arrangement. Both parties actually flourish. If someone invests a lot of time in your development, he probably is a mentor. Both parties should have strong common interests. Senior men can mentor women as well. Be careful if you a senior man and you mentor a female face-to-face at a bar.

Children always speak with authenticity. It isn’t easy to communicate that way. Don’t hide stuff from others. Being honest in the workplace is difficult. In Facebook, it is nonhierarchical. Facebook encourages open communication. People in low power positions tend not to share their views completely. There is a fear of being criticized or drawing attention to ourselves. Opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speak honestly, but no not hurt others. You need to understand your point of view and the other person’s point of view. Truth should be expressed in simple language. Learn to solicit input from others. I set a rule: no more PowerPoint in my meetings. Feedback is not absolute. Any judgment you pass on others can hurt. Always try and see how you can help other people’s goals. Be open about your weaknesses too. Learn to praise people publicly. Humor can be a good tool for a message delivery. I cried in front of Mark when someone accused me of something. Sharing emotions builds deeper relationships. Emotion drives both men and women. There is no need to put on a fake work persona. Sometimes, your personal decisions outside will affect your professional life. Shedding tears might be a sign of authentic emotion. Continue to speak the truth.

Girls are more likely to choose marriage over careers. There is no need for premature marriage planning. Women leave before they leave. This means the woman stops reaching for opportunities. ‘The more satisfied a person is with her position, the less likely she is to leave.’ The aim is to take on more responsibility and do not scale back before you have a kid. The aim is to return to a challenging job after you have a kid. There is no need to lean in under all circumstances. The birth of a child changes your priorities in fundamental ways. There is no one way to raise a kid. The woman still does majority of the child care. Cost of raising a child has gone up considerably. The perception that the female should raise the child has not changed over time. Women sometimes are encouraged to drop out of the workforce. Women who take time out from the workforce might take a career penalty. Institutions need to do better to support these women. Child care is a huge expense. You should accelerate as much as possible until the birth of a child.

I hated the experience in labor pain. Dave, my husband, was the primary caregiver. We should have prepared more before we had a kid. We were not ready for the change in our lives. Research has shown that the mum does more of the housework than the husband. Mothers are still the designated parents. Learn to chip in. Men must be more empowered at home. Do not keep dictating how the husband should do this and that. Treat him like an equal partner and use the collaborative instead of gatekeeping behavior. Let the partner take responsibility. The majority of successful female business leaders have partners. Your partner can give you support. If men do their bit, women can climb up the corporate ladder. My husband and often have to discuss who will do what. I have a wonderful brother and husband. Children benefit greatly from paternal involvement and have better well-being etc. We need to encourage men to lean in to their families. Facebook offers equal time for maternity and paternity leave. Men taking leave for family care can be viewed negatively. If the woman is more successful than the man, it is perceived that the marriage is threatened. It is normal for females to out-earn the males. Find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who values fairness. Discuss upfront what the commitment of the other party should be. Couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex. Raising children is a demanding job.

No one can have it all. There will always be trade-offs. It is just a myth. Don’t be like Icarus. Everyone has our limits. Sacrifice and hardship are almost a necessity in this modern age. We all have to deal with different responsibilities. Perfection is the enemy. You can’t do it all. Know where to focus your attention on. Sometimes, all the planning to do can’t prepare you for parenting. Some variables can’t be controlled. ‘Done is better than perfect’. Do not set unattainable standards. Learn to embrace the mess. Exert more control over your careers. If you announce your goals to others, it can create greater accountability. Do not be too insecure. I did not spend 12 hour days in the office anymore. I focused on what truly mattered. Sometimes, people feel that working shorter hours will affect their career prospects. Sometimes, one can be more productive working from home. People are working hours than ever before. If you sacrifice sleep to free up more time for yourself, it doesn’t work. One can’t sleep 4 to 5 hours a night. Learn to take control of the situation. I still struggle with the trade-offs between work and home. Thankfully I have a good husband and a good sister who will chip in sometimes. Nowadays, children receive even more supervision than in the past. Research has shown that children who were cared for by their parents and others had no difference in development abilities. Therefore, there is no problem if mothers go to work. I love my job and the people I work with. I also love the time I spend with my kids. Setting obtainable goals is the key to happiness. Success is about making the right decisions, and then accepting them. Do the best with what you’ve got.

Very few people like the term feminism. Women are worried about sticking out too much. Employees were judged by how well they fit in. I also did not want to be known as a feminist. In 2005, I started to speak out. I invited Gloria Steinem to give a speech. We needed to be more open about gender talk. Now, I didn’t want to blend in and be quiet about it. Some men were receptive to the talk I gave as well. Discussion is important to keep things moving. Women can consider questioning whether there is any gender bias in the workplace. Sometimes, if you claim to be objective, it might be counter intuitive and biases may set in. Another bias is one where we want to work with people who are like us. Men and women were more likely to choose a colleague of the same gender. Research has shown that diverse teams do work better. Don’t be afraid to ask. Learn to avoid unavoidable sacrifice. Flexible time is always a touchy issue and will be unless we keep talking about it. Learn to create a more equal environment. Social gains must be seized. Now, I admit I am a feminist. Do not pretend that gender biases do not exist.

True equality still eludes us. Now, women have the right to work. We need to encourage female leadership. Women need to look out for women too. Often, successful women are unlikeable. Sometimes, other women in power are the problem as they only view that one woman should lead in one company. This is known as queen bee discrimination. Women can also be perpetrators of discrimination. Sometimes, they don’t help people of the same gender. We should expect professional behavior and kindness from everyone, not just females. Men can start seeking out capable females for promotion opportunities. Feminism isn’t supposed to make us feel guilty. Start validating those females who work without a salary. With more women in power, policies will change. Lean in…all the way.