Week Six: ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy’ by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This is week six of the #CEOChallenge – to read 52 books in a year. Follow along for weekly insights from some of the worlds most influential books.


“Not only do we learn more from failure than success, we learn more from bigger failures because we scrutinize them more closely.” – Sheryl Sandberg, 144


Adversity is not something many of us are comfortable talking about, let alone embracing it. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, recently suffered the adversity in the unexpected loss of her husband Dave.

Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” is Sandberg’s joint book with Wharton Professor Adam Grant. They openly discuss overcoming shame, learning from failure, and creating a team culture that embraces adversity. Here are some key takeaways:

Shame vs. Guilt:

Adversities can lead us to two destinations: the Pit of Shame or the Valley of Guilt.

In the Pit of Shame, we surround ourselves with walls that tell us we are worthless, useless, and unwanted. It is a trap that holds us to our self-image.

The Valley of Guilt is the place our actions lead us, and our actions are what get us out.

When we fail at something we should not feel ashamed, rather we can embrace guilt as something which inspires growth. Embrace the valley and abandon the pit.

Guilt is not bad, it tells us we can do better – it can be a valuable tool for learning. Shame is bad, it tells us we will never succeed – it is a terrible monster.

Learning from Failure:

Nobody like’s to fail, but those who are successful in life know how to best embrace it.

The best Baseball players fail to hit the ball 70% of the time

Learning to embrace failure is fundamental to eliminating errors and growing as Sandberg remarks:

“When companies fail, it’s usually for reasons that almost everyone knows but almost no one has voiced. When someone isn’t making good decisions, few have the guts to tell that person, especially if that person is the boss.” (152)

Creating a culture where people can speak freely is important to organization health – it pays off in the long run. Relationships grow when we embrace mistakes; when we acknowledge the mistakes we can then adapt for future opportunities.

Don’t get confused, failure is not what we should strive for, that is excellence – but the road to excellence is paved with past failures that have been overcome.

Failure is the foundation of freedom; it is the teacher of the wise, and the enemy of the fool.

The Power of the Other:

There is a simple thing you can do to help create a culture that relieves stress, and worry of failure – make a button for it.

So what is the blueprint for this button?

Write your cell number – yes, your personal one – where everyone can see it, and make it accessible at any time. Grant used this strategy to allow his students to reach out when they needed help and relief.

As the authors’ remark, “We find our humanity – our will to live and our ability to love – in our connections to one another.” (141)

By establishing people – and the wellness of their being – as our #1 priority we can then commit to making a positive change in the world.


Sheryl Sandberg is an amazing individual with a big heart for people, and Adam Grant is beyond brilliant in the field of Org. Psych. and my favorite author – check out my blog on his book “Give and Take” for more info on him and his research. I recommend reading this book if you are personally wrestling with adversity, or if you are looking for ways to better those suffering around you.

For more info on Sheryl and her work check her Website and follow her on Twitter, and Facebook for more insights into the things she is most passionate about.

See you next week,

Adam.

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