Non-fiction, Uncategorized
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Reading Notes: ‘Option B’ by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

 Sheryl Sandberg’s second book ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy’ – beautiful and heartbreaking

By Jasmine Huang

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Knopf, $25.95 (240p)

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy written by Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton professor Adam Grant quietly came out this April in part because the Traditional Chinese translation was not ready yet. Wondering around in an Eslite bookstore nearby the main entrance of National Taiwan University(NTU), I picked up the quiet white paperback book and read the first two pages where Sheryl Sandberg recalled on her husband’s sudden death. Sandberg‘s memoir writing was so honest and beautiful, I broke into tears. The last book that made me weep was Maya Angelou’s 1969 autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

I enjoyed the memoir writing parts of the book and was glad to see Sheryl Sandberg worked together with one of my favorite authors Professor Adam Grant in co-authoring it. I was very curious to read about the latest research on resilience and also very curious about what psychologist Adam Grant had to say on this particular topic. I’m a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg, absolutely loved her international best-seller book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, and I liked Adam Grant’s most recent book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World too.

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s collaboration aims to help readers to be more resilient, and build resilience before tragedy or difficulty. In the book, they shared key findings about ways to build resilience. They discussed things like opening up helps us overcome isolation; acknowledging suffering is the first step to speaking with empathy and honesty. Interestingly, reading it reminds me of a best-seller book called “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown that I had read years ago.

Here are some of the parts that I particularly liked from Option B:

P4 Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said that everything would be okay. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he helped me figure it out. Like all married couples, we had our ups and downs. Still, Dave gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported, and completely and utterly loved. I thought I’d spend the rest of my life resting my head on his shoulder.

P62 Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity. Decades ago, health psychologist Jamie Pennebaker had two groups of college students journal for fifteen minutes a day for just four days––some about nonemotional topics and others about the most traumatic experiences of their lives, which included rape, attempted suicide, and child abuse. After the first day of writing, the second group was less happy and had higher blood pressure. This made sense, since confronting trauma is painful. But when Pennebaker followed up six months later, the effects reversed and those who wrote about their traumas were significantly better off emotionally and physically. 

Since then, more than a hundred experiments have documented the therapeutic effect of journaling. It has helped medical students, patients with chronic pain, crime victims, maximum-security prisoners, and women after childbirth. It has crossed cultures and countries from Belgium to Mexico to New Zealand. Writing about traumatic events can decrease anxiety and anger, boost grades, reduce absences from work, and lessen the emotional impact of job loss. Health benefits include higher T-cell counts, better liver function, and stronger antibody responses. 

P75 Towards the end of our time there, I sat down in front of the grave by myself. I spoke to him out loud. I told him that I loved him and that I missed him every minute of every day. I told him how empty the world seemed without him in it. And then I just cried, as it was so painfully clear that he could not hear me.

“Option B” is the book that broke my heart. I wish Sheryl’s husband could come back to life and read the book that his wife had written for him. Any readers could tell that the book was painfully written and that it was very brave of the book authors to write and publish. But Sheryl and Adam are no ordinary people. They are great leaders and their ambition do not stop at writing about facing adversity and building resilience. I hope the publication of this book means that the ambitious, relentless, lean-in, the what-would-you-do-if-you-weren’t-afraid Sheryl is back. I secretly hope that Sheryl would quickly put out another book for me to read because I sense that I am starting to miss the Lean-in voice after reading most parts of the Option B book.


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