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Book Review: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, & Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant
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Book Review: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, & Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, & Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, & Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

Sheryl Sandberg is the sort of business leader who’s frequently in the headlines. The COO of Facebook stirred the waters with her 2013 treatise Lean In, an often polarizing work whose musings on women in executive positions inspired a sub-genre of publications responding to and resisting Sandberg’s assertions. Two years later, while much of the furor was still circulating, she suddenly lost her husband to a coronary arrhythmia.

Sandberg’s coauthor, Adam Grant, is a psychologist whose books (Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World; and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success) we’ve reviewed and referenced several times over the past few years. Grant is a scholar with an unusually accessible writing voice. He doesn’t dumb down any of his material for the sake of accessibility; rather, he smartens up his audience so they can grasp the often counterintuitive data he uses in making his case.

When Sandberg wrote the introduction for Originals, it was clear that the authors didn’t know each other only by reputation. Sandberg suggested that she and Grant might be opposites in working styles, pointing to her Type A personality as evidence she may never be one of the titular world-moving non-conformists. Her appreciation and admiration for Grant as professor, writer, and friend lent extra credibility through its unabashed, seemingly sincere fondness.

All of which makes Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (Knopf, 2017) pretty close to a must-read for anyone who’s admired the work of either Sandberg or Grant. The book’s title has the ring of a boring presentation at a conference you never wanted to attend, but maybe that’s so its intended audience might expense the cost of the book without raising flags in accounting. Because what’s really going on here is Sandberg’s accounting of the incredible, unenviable hell someone endures while grieving the death of a spouse. And like the color commenters in TV football broadcasts, Grant practically draws up his science-based explanations for grief, resilience, and coming out clean on the other side with a Telestrator, so that we all might apply Sandberg’s experiences to our own lives.

We have often reviewed books in this space with positive thoughts when the books were short and easily digested. Here is a book we’re recommending for opposite reasons. It’s not an easy book to get through: nearly anyone capable of feeling pain on someone else’s behalf is going to need a tissue or two, and if it brings a tear, it should also lead to personal application. Readers who need a few breaks from the narrative in order to figure out how this all works will need time as well for holding the frameworks in front of their own lives. We may not make 15.5 million dollars per year, but Sandberg’s loss and our own losses are easy to compare.

Readers with preexisting biases against Sandberg may have trouble picking this one up, but they would be encouraged to do so anyway. One of the ways we villainize others is to forget how human they are, but that’s nearly impossible to do when she’s telling her story. Perhaps a book like this can be difficult to find space for on the office shelf, but the Five Secrets of Leadership or the Nine Habits of Creativity you’ve been quoting at your team meetings are only half the human equation. And since we all work with humans, diving deeply into our humanity—with all its imperfections and nonsense—and finding the critical, essential connections in our experience can be valuable beyond measure.

Option B is very highly recommended, as close to a “must read” grade as we’ll ever give.

 

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Book Review: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, & Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant - Executive Leadership Articles

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