Sheryl Sandberg — of “Lean In” fame — has inspired another movement. This one emanated from tragedy, when you’re one of the most influential corporate executives in the nation trying to pick up the pieces where devastation lay.
On May 1, 2015, Sandberg found her husband, Dave Goldberg, lifeless on the floor of an exercise/workout venue at a ritzy hotel resort on a private beach in Punta Mita, Mexico. The couple was in Mexico celebrating the 50th birthday of dear friend Phil Deutch.
Two weeks after her husband’s death, Sandberg was preparing for a father-son event at school. That was a transcendent moment.
“Phil and I were sitting around talking about a father-son activity that Dave wasn’t around to do,” Sandberg recounted. “And we came up with options to fill in for my son. But I said, ‘I don’t want those. I want Dave. I want Dave to go to this; they signed up for this together.’
“And he said, ‘Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the s— out of Option B.”’
Sandberg’s new book, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,” focuses on dealing with grief and bouncing back from the knockdown. A true lesson in perseverance.
Sandberg spoke recently about the book — and the subsequent movement — with co-author, close friend and University of Pennsylvania psychologist Adam Grant during an appearance at a synagogue in Washington.
This was the most poignant segment of the night on the subject of coming to grips with cataclysmic upheaval: Said Grant, “I said one of the things that Sheryl should do is she should imagine how this could be worse. And she looked at me like I was an idiot.”
Sandberg’s take: “He’s one of the smartest people I ever met, and I thought he was a total idiot. I looked at him like, ‘My husband just died. I walked into a gym and found my husband on the floor. I later learned he was dead. What could be worse?’
“And he said, ‘Dave could have had that same cardiac arrhythmia driving your children.’ And you say that and immediately I’m like, ‘I’m good.’ And I wasn’t good. But the thought that I could have lost all of them, that happens. There are probably people here in this room who have lost multiple people at once. And it automatically shifted to thinking about was still good in my life.”
At the time, Sandberg’s children were 7 and 10 years old. A high-tech couple, her husband, Dave, was the founder of LAUNCH Media and CEO of SurveyMonkey; he was only 48 years old upon his death. Sandberg, of course, is the chief operating officer of Facebook, after serving as vice president of global online sales and operations at Google.
According to Forbes magazine, her net worth is approximately $1.59 billion, making the Harvard-trained Sandberg one of the youngest billionaires in the nation as she turns 48 in August.
With the help of her co-author Grant, Sandberg also learned of the three “P’s.” Grant explained them this way:
“One of the traps when something goes wrong in our lives is first we Personalize it. We go it’s all my fault, all my fault.
“Secondly, we say it’s Pervasive. Which is, this is going to ruin every part of my life.
“And the third piece is Permanence. This is going to be stuck with me forever. I’m always going to feel this way.”
Grant closed with this: “I had to tell Sheryl, ‘This happened to you; it didn’t happen because of you.’’’
The New York Post reported in March 2016 that Sandberg was dating again —going out with Bobby Kotick, 53, the billionaire CEO of video-game company giant Activision Blizzard, maker of such popular entities as “Call of Duty” and “Guitar Hero.” However, she has faced vehement criticism — heavily laced with lewd name-calling — on social media for entering into a relationship less than a year after her husband’s death, prompting Sandberg to tell People magazine last month, “People judge women much more than men if they start dating again. And that is unfair.”
Just as she did in 2013 with the New York Times best-selling book, “Lean In,” which essentially provided a rigid roadmap to guide women to the C-suite in the corporate hierarchy and has an accompanying help/advocacy website in Leanin.org, which includes a partnership with the National Basketball Association, Sandberg has set up OptionB.org, which offers advice, wisdom and support from professional experts and real-life testimonials for those dealing with life’s sorrows and setbacks.
The nonprofit website’s advisory board features such eclectic luminaries as Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, and Joe Primo, CEO of Good Grief. The OptionB.org initiative exists under the auspices of the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation. Sandberg is donating her income from the book to OptionB.org.
As Grant said that night in the nation’s capital, “Resilience isn’t a fixed trait. It’s a muscle that we can build.”
Sandberg learned that under the most tragic of circumstances.