An inspiration for when things don’t work out as planned


Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, seemed to have it all. Estimated at a net worth of $1.57B, she isn’t only one of the wealthiest self-made women in the world, but also one of the most influential. She is credited to helping “dramatically boost revenues at [Facebook],” according to Forbes.


She also founded Lean In, a nonprofit named after her first book, which advocates for women empowerment. She married the love of her life, best friend, and SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, and together they had two young children.


Sheryl’s life took a drastic turn however two years ago, when she lost her husband unexpectedly after he was found lying dead on the gym floor when the couple vacationed in Mexico. Dave had suffered an attack from cardiac arrhythmia.


Sheryl had become a widow.


A few weeks after my husband Dave died, I was talking to my friend Phil Deutch about a father-son activity that Dave was not here to do. We came up with a plan for someone to fill in so my son would not have to miss out. I cried, “But I want Dave.” Phil put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.” That became my mantra, and for the past two years I’ve tried hard to find meaning and happiness in the wake of our despair. My friend Adam Grant, a psychologist, told me that we are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, we can build it. Adam and I set out to explore how to build resilience—in ourselves, in our children, in our relationships, and in our workplaces and communities. @OptionB is our attempt to share what we’ve learned. Part of the book comes from my personal experience and my journals, and part comes from the work Adam and other psychologists have done on resilience. We also include stories of people we’ve met who have braved many different kinds of adversity—from job loss to illness to abuse to everyday setbacks and disappointments. These stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit not only to persevere . . . but to rediscover joy. Because no one’s life is perfect, we all live some form of Option B. It’s my deepest hope that Option B will help others learn what I learned: that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.

A post shared by Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg) on


Sheryl has since then penned a book about her loss and overcoming adversity, released earlier this year. entitled “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,” the book is raw and real, detailing Sheryl’s emotions, the steps she took to heal, and gives life lessons along the way.


Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the sh*t out of it.” – Sheryl


Here are 4 reasons to keep you hopeful for when things take a turn for the worst:


1. Even the strongest, wealthiest people live uncertain lives.

In “Option B,” Sheryl gets real about the pain, grief, and mess of emotions she felt from the time Dave died, to her ongoing healing process. “Poetry, philosophy, and physics all teach us that we don’t experience time in equal increments,” she writes.


Time slowed way, way down. Day after day my kids’ cries and screams filled the air. In the moments when they weren’t crying, I watched them waiting for the next instance they might need comfort. My own cries and screams—mostly inside my head but some out loud—filled the rest of the available space. I was in the ‘the void’: a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.


Sheryl wasn’t that boss in the board room or that speaker in some conference—she’s a real person, a wife and mother who lost her husband—JUST. LIKE. THAT. Her ordeal and the emotions she feels are real and relatable to those who’ve experienced loss.


2. There are lessons, based on psychology, that help with life’s curveballs.

Sheryl wrote “Option B” together with Adam Grant, a professor and psychologist at Wharton. There are many psychological gems in the book that can be applied at work and home when life doesn’t go as planned. Some of the more resonant ones include, acknowledging the elephant in the room. “At work, I told my closest colleagues that they could ask me questions—any questions—and they could talk about how they felt too,” says Sheryl on acknowledging the elephant.


There’s also executing the Platinum Rule, as opposed to the Golden Rule, which says to “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Sheryl writes to take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding—or better yet, show action.


And there are also the “three P’s” (personalization, pervasiveness, permanence). Realizing the opposite of these, that “hardships aren’t entirely their fault, don’t affect every aspect of their lives, and won’t follow them around forever,” help people recover from setbacks quickly, says Sheryl. The book is filled with lessons like these, so readers can expect an insightful and inspiring read.


3. You’ll realize you’re not alone. Be inspired by stories from all over the world of people who have overcome adversity.

Option B” is not just Sheryl’s inspiring story. She has snippets from people who’ve survived loss and adversity in the book. There’s the story of the rape victim her friend mentored, and how Sheryl tried to help her despite her suffering from an ordeal herself.


There are also anecdotes about personalities like Malala Yousafzai who visited Sheryl to talk about their fight for girls to have education. Malala’s story is a beautiful one, where she shared that ever since she got shot by the Taliban, her mother started giving her birthday cards dated from the beginning of her recovery (Happy 4th birthday, for the fourth year of her recovery), to remind her that she was on her “second life” so to speak.


4. You can help others out, too. Donate to OptionB.Org, a nonprofit initiative “to help people build resilience and find meaning in the face of adversity”.

To further pay it forward, Sheryl is donating all her income from sales of “Option B” to OptionB.Org. Readers not only learn from Sheryl’s experiences by reading the book but also get to do a good deed by helping others facing adversity when they buy the book. ∎

Did you like this article? Download the ‘NoInk’ app for the full experience! Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @NoInkOfficial.

Cover photo link