Review and Summary: Option B

Option B book cover

Author: Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Publication date: 24 April 2017

Publisher: Knopf

Number of pages: 240 pages

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.

The story behind this book is Sheryl Sandberg’s loss of her husband, David Goldberg. He was fallen from a treadmill while they were on a vacation in Mexico. It was a sudden death and an autopsy revealed that David suffered an undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. Two weeks later, she desperately wanted her late husband to present in their child’s father-child activity at school while cried, “I want Dave.” Her friend replied, “Option A is not available, so let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”

In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg released a book titled Lean In. This book becomes a best seller and brings women, leadership, and inequality to light. However, Lean In gains critics specifically from ordinary single mothers that situationally could not afford a life like Sheryl’s. How could a billionaire businesswoman with a fully involve husband could relate and give a book of advice to their situation? Two years later, suddenly being a single mother after her husband’s death makes Sheryl Sandberg aware there is a big gap in one of the Lean In‘s chapter where she talks about the importance of responsible husband/partner. In Option B, she fills up the hollow from Lean In.

Option B was written together with Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor at Wharton, who also Sheryl and her late husband’s friend. This book is about how to build resilience not only after we lost our loved ones, but also for all kinds of inevitable setbacks that will happen to us, and we have no other option but to face them.

I found myself choked up and teary in one page, then being strengthened on the next page along this book. The grieving detail in this book is heart-wrenching. If I should point out what i adore the most from people, it is their capability to share the lowest point of their life and going forward yet still acknowledging the inequality of battle among us. And I admire that in Option B. As a reader of Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s books, I always find a section where they point out that not every advice is fit for all. So does in this book. And it comforts me yet still encourages me at once.

“We also know that not every story has a happy ending. For each hopeful story we tell here, there are others where circumstances were too much to overcome. recovery does not start from the same place for everyone. Wars, violence, and systemic sexism, and racism decimate lives and communities […] The sad truth is that adversity is not evenly distributed among us; marginalised and disenfranchised groups have more battle and more to grieve.”


  • Martin Seligman, a psychologist, said that three P’s can stunt recovery in how people deal with setbacks that loop in our head repeats,”It’s my fault, this is awful. My whole life is awful. And it’s always going to be awful”:
    • Personalisation, the belief that we are at fault
    • Pervasiveness, the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
    • Permanence: the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.
  • Recognising that negative events aren’t personal, pervasive, or permanent makes people less likely to get depressed and better able to cope.
  • Those who are grieving isolate themselves and those who could offer comfort create distance instead. Both sides need to reach out. Speaking with empathy and honesty is a god place to start.

Empathy was nice but encouragement was better.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  • There are two different emotional responses to the pain of the others:
    • empathy, motivates us to help
    • distress, motivates us to avoid
  • There’s no one way to grieve and there’s no one way to comfort. What helps on person won’t help another, and even what helps one day might not help the next.
  • Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, 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.
  • Counting our blessings doesn’t boost our confidence or our effort, but counting our contributions can. This is because gratitude is passive, it makes us feel thankful for what we receive. Contributions are active, they build our confidence by reminding us that we can make a difference.
  • Post-traumatic growth could take five different forms:
    • Finding personal strength
    • Gaining appreciation
    • Forming deeper relationships
    • Discovering more meaning in life
    • Seeing new possibilities

I am more vulnerable than I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined.

Tedeschi and calhoun
  • A life chasing pleasure without meaning is an aimless existence. Yet a meaningful life without joy is a depressing one.
  • By creating a shared identity, individuals can form a group that has a past and a brighter future.
  • Believing in new possibilities helps people fight back against the idea of permanence and propels them to seek out new options; they find the will and the way to move forward. Psychologist call this “grounded hope”—the understanding that if you take action you can make things better.
  • Collective resilience requires more than just shared hope—it is also fueled by shared experience, shared narratives, and shared power
  • Resilience in love means finding strength from within that you can share with others. Finding a way to make love last through the high and lows. Finding your own way to love when life doesn’t work out as planned. Finding the hope to love and laugh again when love is cruelly taken from you. And finding a way to hang on to love even when the person you love is gone.


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