In and around the hustle and bustle of life, I have had the opportunity to read two wonderful books. The first was Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017) by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The second was Life is Good: the Book - How to Live with Purpose & Enjoy the Ride (National Geographic Society, 2015) by Bert and John Jacobs.
In the first book, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, shares about what happened after the sudden death of her husband, Dave. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend, Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, helps her through this stage by telling her about specific steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences.
I was drawn to the book because of the material in it about resilience, a subject that has interested me for the last 6 months. In particular, I believe we need to help leaders and managers right now become more resilient given the overwhelming amount of difficulties in the work place, and in our communities. Through Sandberg’s personal story and insights and Adam’s research, I found some interesting ideas about resilience.
For example, they write, “We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events.” I found it helpful when they shared the research of Martin Seligman, a psychologist who spent decades studying how people deal with setbacks. Seligman found that three p’s can stunt recovery: personalization which is the belief that we are at fault, pervasiveness which is the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life, and finally permanence which is the belief that the after shocks of the event will impact us forever. These three p’s create a loop inside our heads which repeat the following: “It’s my fault this is awful. My whole life is awful, and it’s always going to be awful.” Understanding the three p’s has helped me coach others through challenging times and assist them to put things into perspective.
Two weeks after losing her husband, Sandberg 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.
Right now, a lot of leaders and managers are not able to work with Option A, and are moving to Option B. This book offers sound insights and concrete steps on helping individuals through hardships, including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Sandberg’s story and the stories shared by others reveals the capacity of the human spirit to persevere and to rediscover joy. This book will help you become a better leader and help you assist others through the pain and challenges when Option A is no longer an option.
The second book Life is Good is the inspiring story of the founding of the Life is Good company by two brothers. It celebrates the power of optimism which is the driving force behind this socially conscious clothing and lifestyle brand, now worth more than $100 million. From their scrappy upbringing outside Boston, through the early years of selling t-shirts out of a van, to their current success, the book includes chapters about ten key “super powers” accessible to us all: openness, courage, simplicity, humor, gratitude, fun, compassion, creativity, authenticity, and love. Illustrated with the company’s iconic artwork, Life is Good explores how to overcome obstacles and embrace opportunities.
Many years ago, my wife gave me a Life is Good ball cap. I still wear it when I garden. It is frayed and beat up but I love the message on it. I also love the little tag that was on the cap when she gave it to me. It read as follows: “Do What You Love; Love What You Do.” In a time period when more and more people are feeling worn, stretched and overwhelmed by all that is happening, it was good to read the story of two people who founded a company doing what they love and loving the journey. When I got done reading this book, I felt reinvigorated to go back into the world and make a positive difference no matter what was the challenge before me.
My hope this week is that you will travel to your nearest book store or library, and check out the above two books. We, as leaders need resources which give us hope, perspective and the ability to stay focused on what really matters the most.