Sheryl Sandberg's Option B Teaches Marketers Resilience

Micheal Krauss
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

What? Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, who lost her husband suddenly, authored Option B to impart the importance of resilience.

So what? Resilience can be necessary to work through disappointment and adversity, big and small.

Now what? Marketers and all professionals can learn ways to reframe adversity and apply resilience to their own challenges.

​July 29, 2017

Marketers and all professionals can learn ways to reframe adversity and apply resilience to their own challenges 

There’s a lot they don’t teach you in college or in that first management training program. Resilience is one trait we marketers learn experientially on the job.

No one teaches you what to do with a personal or professional challenge. You don’t always get that promotion. Sometimes the raise or bonus is less than you expect. You may get fired. At school or work, no one talks about coping with loss—loss of a promotion, a job, or in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s case, the loss of her beloved husband and life partner, David Goldberg.

That’s why Sandberg’s latest book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, is a must-read for marketers. Sandberg, the author of the best-selling book, Lean In, was vacationing in Mexico with her husband and friends in May of 2015. Her parents were watching their two children back home in California, so Sandberg and Goldberg could have an adults-only weekend getaway.

Sandberg writes, “We were hanging out by the pool playing Settlers of Catan on our iPads. For a refreshing change, I was actually winning, but my eyes kept drifting closed.

“Once I realized that fatigue was going to prevent me from securing Catan victory, I admitted, ‘I’m falling asleep.’ I gave in and curled up. At 3:41 p.m. someone snapped a picture of Dave holding his iPad, sitting next to his brother Rob and Phil. I’m asleep on a cushion on the floor in front of them. Dave is smiling,” she adds.

A few hours later, Goldberg was found on the floor of the gym where he had gone to work out. Sandberg started CPR. A doctor arrived, but Sandberg’s husband of 11 years, the father of their two children, died at age 47 from an undiagnosed heart ailment. Sandberg and Goldberg had achieved everything two people might desire: professional success, global fame, family happiness. Suddenly, it was gone. 


 Sheryl Sandberg on Option B


Option B, co-authored with Wharton professor Adam Grant, is more than Sandberg’s story of personal tragedy, intense grief and recovery. Sandberg shares her experiences in a way that will help all of us anticipate and cope more effectively with the personal challenges we will inevitably face.

I admire the book because it is a compelling tale of a woman, a wife, a mother and arguably one of the most successful executives in American business today, opening herself candidly to the reader and sharing both her feelings and thoughts in a way that is authentic and instructive.

Option B reminds us that no matter how successful we might be, life is unpredictable and the future is uncertain.

I also like Option B because of Grant’s influence. As the author of Originals and Give and Take, Grant brings an academic and a psychological perspective to the book. Yet, as a personal friend of Sandberg’s, his contribution is subtle, personal and behind-the-scenes. Grant’s presence enhances the power of the narrative.

Sandberg shares the personal experiences of others who have suffered loss, including those who have experienced rape, violence, physical disability and political ostracism to illustrate that these experiences can serve as guide posts to us all. Each of these stories are reminders to have more empathy and humility as leaders.

For me, perhaps the most instructive segment of Option B was when Sandberg writes, “We plant seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery. Personalization—the belief that we are at fault. Pervasiveness—the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life. And permanence—the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.”

Throughout Option B, Sandberg describes how she faced personalization, pervasiveness and permanence and how she once again began to find joy in her life.

Option B is neither saccharine nor condescending. It is personal, intimate and real. Most of all, it is instructive without being preachy. To her credit as a writer, Sandberg makes the reader feel her experiences with her.

Says Sandberg, “Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside of us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck (the sadness). It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more.”

She continues, “I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.”

Sandberg reminds us of the first noble truth of Buddhism: All life involves suffering. In its many forms, suffering is inevitable, and joyful moments too will dissolve. Sandberg isn’t advocating our conversion to Buddhism or any other religion; she is sharing how she coped with tragedy—by relying on family, friends, co-workers, psychologists, religion and philosophy—and how you might as well.

Sandberg’s description of how it feels when colleagues and friends avoided her or approached her awkwardly in the aftermath of her husband’s death is powerful and sadly informative. Readers come away from Option B with a better sense of how to relate to a co-worker who is suffering a loss. But that’s just one of the many benefits of reading this book. Option B gives all of us a way of vicariously experiencing and sharing Sandberg’s loss in a way that prepares us for the future of our careers and our personal lives.

Reading Option B will make us each better managers, coaches and leaders. It gives us a greater ability to avoid arrogance and hubris while maintaining the confidence and certainty to connect with one another and to experience the joys of our work.

Sandberg is more than one of the world’s great corporate executives; she may be one of the world’s great teachers as well

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Author Bio:

Micheal Krauss
Michael Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group based in Chicago.
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