Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant


A personal account of grief, combined with insightful research that demonstrates the human capacity to find strength in the face of hardship, and the ability to rediscover joy.



Helena: I really appreciate how Sheryl, whom we all know as a leading female business woman, lays herself bare and shares her deeply personal account of losing her husband. I was really interested by the research that illustrated the misconceptions of what it means to be resilient in our society today.


H: No criticism whatsoever!  Sheryl is so self-aware that she pre-empts potential challenges to her philosophy, recognising that she has the financial foundations to give her the resources she needs to cope. However, the book is filled with everyday strategies and examples of how we can support ourselves and others, in ways that don’t require wealth.


Naomi:  I am a huge fan of Sheryl and her work in relation to business and leadership, but Option B particularly moved me and taught me that personal pain can’t be compartmentalised. For me, currently dealing with a tough situation,  her account gave me hope.  In addition, this book also aids understanding how to help friends or co-workers who are going through difficult times.  


N: A simple take-away that triggered me into action was the suggestion that we keep a journal as ‘writing can be a powerful tool for learning self-compassion’, and that labelling negative emotion can make the feelings more manageable.   An extension of this could be a daily gratitude list, or recognising what we’ve done well that day, however small.  Option B was the result of Sheryl journaling during her period of grief.  So, if it works for Sheryl, we should all give it a go!


“I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had.  He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient.  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”.  

~ Introduction

“Philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, said that life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.  Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self-confidence to navigate the present and future”.

~ Chapter 4, Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence 

“Resilience is not just built in individuals. It is built among individuals - in our neighbourhoods, schools, towns, and governments.  When we build resilience together, we become stronger ourselves and form communities that can overcome obstacles and prevent adversity.  Collective resilience requires more than just shared hope - it is also fuelled by shared experiences, shared narratives, and shared power.” 

~ Chapter 8, Finding Strength Together


option b chart.png


H:  What I learned was that I’ve been asking the wrong questions!  The thing that stood out to me the most in Sheryl’s account was that the most commonly asked question in times of crisis - “let me know if there’s anything I can do?” - is not always helpful, as it puts the onus on the person in need.  I have been supporting Naomi, my best friend and business partner, recently though hard times, and this insight really made me reflect on my approach - that it’s better to just do something, or anything, for the person, instead of waiting for them to tell you what they need (because they don’t always know!).  A lovely example of this was last week when we were having a COR meeting, Alice had to rush off early, but when we came to pay the bill, we were told it had already been settled - Thanks Alice!

N:  I don’t know where to start!  I guess the big thing for me was the giving myself the permission to feel whatever I need to feel.  I recently can’t help crying and I felt I must look like a mad person most of the time, but after reading this book, in which Sheryl talks about taking time out at work to cry and pulling the car over at the side of the road to have a weep,  I realised that it’s OK to drop the brave face and let it all out when you need to.  In fact, I did this at one of my favourite cafes that I often work from, and when I eventually reappeared, the owner, a dear friend, was there and rather than saying anything, she just bought me over a huge hunk of cake!

N&H: Another common response to hearing people’s tragedies is “I can’t imagine”.  Well, neither can the person that’s going through it.  What Option B tells us is that survival is the only option.  We all deal with grief in different ways, but ultimately, the pain does eventually lift, and there is an element of agency that we can apply in how that pain impacts us.  Because we have no choice but to keep going, we mustn't feel guilty when we do find moments of joy amidst the darkness, and when we finally find our way through.

N:  As with the last book review, I honed in on the ‘collective’ element, and there is a whole chapter in Option B dedicated to the idea of collective strength.  Inspired by this, I have found my own collective called ‘Kid’s Time Project’, a charity for children of parents with mental health problems.  I had the first meeting with the Board recently and rapidly realised that all of us in the room shared a common understanding. As an extension of the book,  Sheryl has created an online community ‘’ for people to connect with others coping with challenges.  As Sheryl says, ‘by coming together and supporting one another, we can bounce forward and find joy again’.

Lots of love, H & N x