Book Excerpts: Option B

Option B was written by Author and COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. After losing her husband unexpectedly she wanted to share her perspective on how she handled extreme adversity through her loss and how you can help those who are coping with difficult situations. Her words about what to say to those going through difficult times and what not to say are profound. Unfortunately, being compassionate and helping people in ways that are actually helpful aren’t always innate to us. Reading her book has made me a better coach and a better person. I feel more prepared to actually help others during their time of need and how to communicate what I am going through when I encounter difficult times. I suggest reading the whole thing so you fully understand the context of these excerpts but if you don’t have the time the excerpts below can add value to how you handle these situations!

Summarizing the two greatest things I learned from the book:

The first big idea I took away was the 3 P’s of how we all feel when bad /traumatic things happen:

  1. Personalization – The belief that we are at fault for what happened 
  2. Pervasiveness – The belief that it will affect all areas of our life
  3. Permanence – The belief that the aftershock of the event and the pain we feel will last forever
  • This thought that everything is awful and will always be awful gets repeated in a persons head when they go through trauma, which just simply isn’t true in the majority of cases but continues to make the situation worse if not addressed
  • It is helpful to remind people (if you have the proper relationship with them) that what happened isn’t their fault, that it isn’t going to affect every area of their life and that the pain, although excruciating at the time, will eventually lessen

The second big idea was the emphasis on how those who are more resilient when adversity hits are the ones who focus on what they can control and not what they can’t. This simple yet incredibly difficult concept is easier to understand than to implement. A consistent and hopeful dedication to the elements of life (especially gratitude, perspective and daily practices of joy)  that we can control during good times and bad are essential. 

  • We all need other people — and I do more than ever. But at the end of the day the only person who can move my life ahead, make me happy, and build a new life for my kids is me. P 76
  • These resilient children shared something; they felt a strong sense of control over their lives. They saw themselves as the masters of their own fate and viewed negative events not as threats but as challenges and even opportunities. The same holds true for children who aren’t at risk. The most resilient ones realize they have the power to shape their own lives. Their caregivers communicate clear and consistent expectations, giving them structure and predictabilities which increases their sense of control.
  • (Talking about the Andes plane crash of 1972) Parrado and Canessa set out on a trek with a third survivor and nearly froze to death before locating the tail of the plane, which contained insulation that they turned into a sleeping bag. Nearly two months after the crash, this makeshift sleeping bag allowed Parrado and Canessa to launch another expedition. They hiked thirty-three miles across treacherous terrain, scaling a 14,000 foot peak. After ten days, they spotted a man on horseback. The 14 survivors were rescued by helicopter. P 129 (They didn’t sit and wait for help. They went for help and survived.)
  • …And Adam, patient yet insistent that the darkness would pass, but that I would have to help it along. That even in the face of the most shocking tragedy of my life, I could exert some control over its impact. 

Other Excerpts from the Book:

Seligman found that words like never and always are signs of permanence. Just as I had to banish sorry from my vocabulary, I tried to eliminate never and always and replace them with sometimes and lately. I will always feel this awful became I will sometimes feel this awful. P 21

When we look for joy we often focus on the big moments. Graduating from school. Having a child. Getting a job. Being reunited with family. But happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity. In a twelve year study of bereaved spouses in Australia, 26 percent managed to find joy after loss as often as they had before. What set them apart was that they re-engaged in everyday activities and interactions. P 100

In Denmark, mattering is part of the school curriculum. During a weekly hour called Klassen time, students come together to discuss problems and help one another. Danish children do this every week from age 6 until they graduate from high school. To sweeten the deal, each week a different  students brings cake. When children present their own problems, they feel listened to, and when their classmates seek guidance, they feel they can make a difference. The children learn empathy by hearing others’ perspective and reflecting on how their behavior affects those around them. They are taught to think, How do others feel? And how do my actions make them feel? P 116

As Martin Luther King Jr said, Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. P 136

The more times a government or company had failed, the more likely they were to put a rocket into orbit successfully on the next try. Also, their chances of success increased after a rocket exploded compared to a smaller failure. Not only do we learn more from failure than success, we learn more from bigger failures because we scrutinize them more closely. P 144

The majority of regrets were about failures to act, not actions that failed. Psychologists have found that over time we usually regret the chances we missed, not the chances we took. As my mom often told me when I was growing up, you regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do. P 145

We would ask our scouts to provide three detailed examples of how these young players faced adversity on the field and responded to it, and three examples of how they faced adversity off the field. Because baseball is built on failure. The old expression is that even the best hitter fails seven out of ten times. P 151

Byron showed me that building resilient teams and organizations takes open and honest communication. When companies fail, it’s usually for reasons that almost everyone knows but almost no one else has voiced. When someone isn’t making good decisions, few have the guts to tell that person, especially if that person is the boss. P 152









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