ADVERSITY & An executive summary by missional coach candidate Mark Collins of “OPTION B: Facing Adversity, building resilience & finding joy” by Sheryl Sandberg

by Mark Collins, 2018 Missional Coach candidate, 4/17/18.

Sheryl Sandberg is most notably the COO of Facebook. Her previous book, “Lean in,” was a bestseller and encouragement to many women. In 2015, her husband Dave died suddenly while on a Mexican vacation, her world was devastated in ways most people could never imagine. She extended her pain to a friend, Adam Grant, a psychologist, author and great friend. He helped her to put the shattered pieces of her life back together. She also credits her boss and friend, Mark Zuckerberg with helping her in the melee. OPTION B: Facing Adversity, building resilience and finding joy is Sheryl’s story, her insights, and her emotions too. She combines her own narrative with research and information gathered by Adam Grant about the strength that people summon in overcoming devastating events and rediscovering their joy.

Very early in her journey, she recognized the importance of facing the elephant in the room and dealing with the realities and emotions face on. Two weeks after losing her husband she was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave” she cried. Her friend Adam replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

She reached out to her many friends and family and got solid advice on how to be prepared to answer questions about death. She entitled Chapter 2, The Platinum Rule of Friendship.

Sandberg painfully writes how they continued to work together as a family to be there for each other throughout all the emotional difficulties and in doing so, she describes that as the discipline of Bouncing Forward.

Perhaps most striking to me is her discussion about the importance of resilient communities and how much more organizations can do, and should do, to allow people time to grieve and to provide important support when their worlds become broken. 

She notes the response of Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston where eight parishioners were gunned down during a Wednesday night Bible Study, just a month after her husband died. The Pastor and the congregation made a determined effort to forgive the White Supremacist shooter. They forgave him and prayed that God would have mercy upon him. She writes how crucial it is to find strength together and then quotes Rev. Jermaine Watkins: “What unites us is stronger than what divides us.”

This book is a guide for an individual, family or even an organization who have suffered loss to be used a reference on how to be human. Death is utterly expected. However, most struggle with it when it happens to someone close. 

Through out the book she does not pull any punches and allows her inner voice to scream through the pain. As she writes; Some people say nothing, fearing they will say the wrong thing, or offer up statements like “I can’t imagine” (try) or “I don’t know how you do it” (as if we were given a choice).

It is filled with wisdom, from how to ask for help to how can I help and be more sensitive.

Grief is paralyzing and personal—facts Sandberg acknowledges throughout the book—but it has the power to weave us into the tapestry of human experience, if we let it. “I felt connected to something much larger than myself—connected to a universal human experience,” she writes. It is a silver lining none of us would choose, but one that is an inevitable, and eventually empowering, consequence.

She wrote this Facebook post in June 2015 “I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning.”

I read this book looking for answers. What happens when Plan A doesn’t work out. Many of the leaders that we coach are asking themselves this same Question about their own dreams and those aspirations of the organizations that they lead.

This book brought to light one key reality for me. That no one ever gets to live out their Plan A. So learning to adapting and embracing the reality of Option B, or C, D, E and F…is likely how life is going to play out.