Resilience: Embracing Option B

by Tim Rinaldi
6 min read

When you experience adversity, do you just wish it would go away rather than seeking to grow from it?

Do you strive to become more resilient, especially with everything that has resulted from the pandemic? 

Do you wish you knew how to help others who are suffering from grief but are scared of saying or doing the wrong thing? 

Usually, when I read the books that inspire my posts, I’m immediately motivated – I’m pumped up and want to put what I learn into action. I often listen to these audiobooks while going for runs, and I can feel myself running faster than my typical pace. That wasn’t the case with Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, the number one New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In And Originals, but not in a bad way – to explain how she learned to develop her own resilience, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, started this book with her detailed and heart-breaking account of her husband’s sudden death and her struggles with grief and raising their children in the aftermath of such a tragic event. I was on the verge of tears many times throughout this book; while this doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable experience, I’m incredibly thankful that she and Adam Grant chose to write this book to help others to learn from her experience.

From Ted.com: "She manages Facebook’s sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. It’s a massive job, but one well suited to Sandberg, who not only built and managed Google’s successful online sales and operations program but also served as an economist for the World Bank and Chief of Staff at the US Treasury Department. At TEDWomen in 2010 Sandberg made the bold decision to talk about the experience of being one of very few women at the C-level of business. She noted that many women, in anticipating having a family, "lean back" from leading at work. After her TED Talk took off, Sandberg wrote the book Lean In, which has spent nearly a year on the New York Times Bestseller list."

From his website: "Adam Grant has been Wharton’s top-rated professor for 7 straight years. As an organizational psychologist, he is a leading expert on how we can find motivation and meaning, and live more generous and creative lives. He has been recognized as one of the world’s 10 most influential management thinkers and Fortune’s 40 under 40. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 5 books that have sold millions of copies and been translated into 35 languages: Give and TakeOriginalsOption B, and Power Moves. Adam is the host of WorkLife, a chart-topping TED original podcast. His TED talks on original thinkers and givers and takers have been viewed more than 25 million times."

Resilience is a trait that we all need and should be working to develop, especially with everything that has resulted from the pandemic. So while I hope you can’t relate to the grief that Sandberg wrote about, I’m confident you will be better off for having read it, as I am. Here are my major takeaways from Option B:

1- We must overcome the three P’s 

Sandberg and Grant explained how the three P’s stunt our recovery and prevent us from developing resilience: personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. Personalization refers to us believing that we are at fault for what happened, no matter what the evidence suggests; pervasiveness refers to the grief affecting all areas of our life; and permanence refers to our belief that the grief will last forever. Sandberg wasn’t able to recover and develop her resilience until she recognized the three P’s and prevented their continued negative impact on her life. She explained how she apologized and used the words “never” and “always” constantly as she struggled with her grief, until Grant helped her to move past this phase; eventually, she learned to replace “never” and “always” with “sometimes” and “lately” to reinforce that her grief was not permanent. 

Again, I pray that I won’t have to reflect on the three P’s while suffering through such an incredible tragedy. But, this lesson is applicable to any adversity we face, when we blame ourselves unnecessarily, allow it to impact all areas of our lives, and assume it will not go away. When I was at my low point before joining Raincatcher, I blamed myself for giving up the solid career path of a physician, I allowed the regret to affect my relationships with my wife and children, and I stressed that I would never find what I was meant to be doing in my career. Thankfully, I was exposed to the great books that I have written about and learned that I should be in control and take action in my career, rather than giving in to my regrets and doubts. 

Reflect on the adversity you have faced in your career – how much time did you spend struggling because of the three P’s? What helped you to eventually overcome it? How can this help you to face similar adversity again in the future?

2- Then, we should strive to achieve post-traumatic growth 

Once Sandberg was at a point in her recovery when she would be more receptive to the concept, Grant taught her about post-traumatic growth and the five forms it takes: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities. To achieve this post-traumatic growth, we must first practice self-compassion, or offering ourselves the same kindness that we would offer to a friend and recognizing that our imperfections are just a part of being human. She explained how she began writing down three moments of joy each day, which helped her to better notice and appreciate them. She stressed the importance of believing that we have some control over our lives, we can learn from our failures, we matter, and we have real strengths to share with others. Finally, as I’ve seen in many of the other books I’ve written posts on, she looked for and celebrated her small wins each day. 

This lesson very much reflects the growth mindset – when we experience adversity, rather than allowing it to define us, we should be resolute that we will instead grow from it. Whether the adversity is a difficult performance review or something much more tragic, it can and should (eventually) help us to grow. Sandberg and Grant wrote of many individuals who focused on gratitude to help them overcome their grief, realizing that no matter what happened, it could have been worse. 

When you experience adversity in your career, do you fear that it will define you, or do you embrace the opportunity to learn from it? While you may not consider it “post-traumatic growth”, how have you experienced the five forms of it in your career? How can this prepare you for future adversity that you will experience in your career?

3- To help others who are suffering, don’t settle for the golden rule; practice the “platinum rule”

Sandberg explained the difficulty she had with friends and colleagues who didn’t know how to respond to her grief – in many cases, they either didn’t say anything (out of fear they would say the wrong thing) or asked her to let them know how they could help. She didn’t want them to tell her it would be ok, that they knew what she was feeling, or to not say anything. Instead, she stressed that we should just be there for those who are suffering and make it clear that we are ready to help in any way we can by continuously checking in. 

Rather than asking how we can help, we should just take action. She gave an example of a friend asking, “What do you not want on a burger?” (rather than “Can I get you something for dinner?”). She defined this as the “platinum rule” – don’t just treat them how you want to be treated, but strive to treat them how they want to be treated. She referenced the saying, “In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.”

I know I’ve responded to my family, friends, and colleagues’ grief the way many of her friends and colleagues did. It’s easy to tell ourselves that it’s best not to say anything out of fear of saying the wrong thing; now, I know the most important thing is showing up and being there when I’m most needed. This way, when my family, friends, and colleagues are facing adversity, they’ll know I’m one of their friends. 

Have you ever acted like one of Sandberg’s friends and colleagues and prioritized avoiding saying the wrong thing? Instead, how can you be someone who practices her platinum rule and demonstrates empathy when it’s most needed?

While Option B may not have been the easiest read, I know I am a better person because of it. We should be on a mission to grow from any adversity we face but especially to help others with their struggles. We should also strive to prevent hardship to ensure that fewer have to suffer in the first place, as Sandberg and Grant explained.

Finally, as the old adage they referenced states, “Let me fall if I must fall. The one I become will catch me.” No matter what form of adversity you face, this is the mindset you need to be on your mission to “kick the shit out of option B.” 

These are just a few of my takeaways from Option B, so I highly recommend reading it and determining how it will impact your life and career. Here is a referral link to Amazon. Note- I used the Audiobooks app to listen to this book and highly recommend it! 

To learn more from Sheryl Sandberg, please visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sheryl 

To learn more from Adam Grant, please visit his website: https://www.adamgrant.net/

How can I get better?

My mission is to impact as many people as I can from what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in my career. If you have any feedback on how I can do that better (about my writing style, other books/articles/videos I should check out, etc.), I’d love to hear it!

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