Book Review: Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, And Finding Joy. By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Book Review. Book Cover. Inspiring and motivating Quotes.“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.”

Sandberg is the COO of Facebook whose husband of 11 years suddenly died in May 2015 during their vacation in Mexico. Their friend and psychiatrist Adam Grant helped her cope with the tragedy. This book is the result of Sandberg’s personal insights, Grant’s research, several interesting studies and inspiring stories of many who faced adversity -death, illness, sexual assault, war or other extreme hardships- and how they got over it.

Here are some important points I noted:

  • 3 P’s that stunt ones recovery (per psychologist Martin Seligman) :
    1. Personalization– belief that we are at fault for a given adversity
    2. Pervasiveness – a belief that an event will affect all areas of our lives
    3. Permanence– a belief that the aftershocks of the adverse event will last forever.
  • It is important for family and friends to reach out and acknowledge the pain and assure that they are there, rather than avoid because they are uncomfortable or not sure what exactly to say.
  • Journaling, or even voice-recording, could be a powerful tool for learning self-compassion. By putting feelings into words, you give yourself more power over them. At the end of the day, write down 3 things you are grateful for. Another more active form that builds self-confidence would be to write down three things that you did well in the day, the “small wins”. 
  • Building resilience in children depends upon the opportunities they have and the relationships they form with parents, teachers, friends and caregivers, fostering four core beliefs:
    1. That kids have some control over their lives: This comes with clear and consistent communication of expectations, and giving them structure and predictability.
    2. Learning from failure: Tell kids that if they find something difficult, it means their brain is growing. Foster a “growth mindset” as against “fixed mindset,” e.g. when applauding say “you tried so well” as against ” you are so smart”. The latter actually puts a cap of sorts that discourages kids to go beyond.
    3. That kids matter as human beings: Listen closely to their ideas, make them feel that others notice , care for and rely on them. This helps them create attachments.
    4. They have real strength to rely on and share: Help children identify their strengths. This is a great tool in life and critical after any traumatic events.
  • Just as family stories help children feel a sense of belonging, collective stories create identities for communities building collective resilience that is the need of the hour in today’s fragmented world.
  • We have blind spots- weaknesses that others see but we don’t. It is important to seek constructive criticism; one of the best ways to see ourselves clearly is to ask others to hold up a mirror.

The last part is about learning to love and laugh again, especially after a partners death. Sandberg gives statistics and stories of how prejudiced the society is, particularly towards widows, if they try to find love again. Her own case proves the point: encouraged by her family and friends she started seeing someone, the news story received some very angry and mean comments.

I found Sandberg’s intimate description acute pain she and her kids experienced day in day out quite touching, and left me teary eyed many times. It is indeed difficult to get through loss or trauma, but trying is all we can do. And if there is support of either family – friends, or if one reaches out to groups facing similar struggle, along with right tools, it becomes easier.  Also, finding greater meaning in life makes it bearable.
Option B: Facing adversity, Building Resilience, And Finding Joy is well written, not too big, comprehensive and an easy read. 5 Stars of Goodreads.

Helpful Links: OptionB.org,  Facebook Page.
Some thoughts from the book:
“Self-compassion isn’t talked about as much as it is usually confused with self-pity and self-indulgence. Self-compassion comes from recognizing that our imperfections are part of being human.”
“Children look for acceptance in drugs, alcohol and unsafe sex.”
“Talk to people about their grief instead of avoiding the conversation because you are uncomfortable or you think they will not feel good about it.”

 

 

The little story of a dragonfly: Hope

The little story of a Dragonfly:

This is the story of a water beetle who lived with her friends deep down in an obscure lily pond. Their life in the soft pond mud was content and uneventful, away from the direct sun and any disturbances far above. However, every once in a while, some beetle would climb up a lily stalk making its way up, up and away. Never to return. This would make all of them sad, wary and fearful.

One beautiful summer morning the sky above was still rosy, when down below, this one beetle got restless. Boredom and curiosity got the better of her and she started her climb up one firm lily stem. She was determined find out what lay beyond and to come back and share her findings with her friends below. The climb was long and steep, and she finally broke through the surface of water into a sea of gleaming lilies ubiquitous in the gorgeous sunlit pond. She was fascinated beyond her wits, but the long climb had tired her out. She lay on the lily pad in the blanket of the warming sun, soon falling into a deep sleep. She slept long, only to be shocked once she woke up. Her body had transformed during the long nap; she now had a long electric blue tail and lustrous wings, perfect for flying. The beetle was transformed into a brilliant dragonfly! She took her first flight above the pond and the lilies, rising and swooping and soaring back up again. A whole new world had opened up for her, a way superior life than that the one she had known all her life. More like a fantasy beyond her wildest imagination. Now back on on lily pad for a little respite, she remembered her life under water, and felt a pang of sympathy for her friends. In a gush of emotion to tell them all about this new world, she headed to get under water only to jolt back. Her new body was no more for the water.

A realization came upon the beetle that even if she went, her friends wouldn’t recognize her, nor believe this “absurd” tale. That they would realize it only when each one takes that step and experiences it for themselves. Poignant, but peaceful, the beetle took an deep breath and darted into the dazzling sunlight towards her glorious new life, now as a radiant Dragonfly!

Death:

In the face death, the harshest but most certain reality of life, this story assuages us that our loved one might just not cease to exist. They might just have found a glorious world beyond our knowledge. It gives us reassurance. It gives us hope.

Life:

In the face of life and the living, when I died many tiny deaths in face of frustration and failure and hopelessness and depression, it empowered me to go beyond the unpleasant and the dark. It urges to go past any complacency of a certain  “just OK” life-situation encouraging for an exploration of a more meaningful and fulfilling life. It gives the hope of a possibility of something splendid, only if one resolves to break through.

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. Inspiring story of hope. Quote form the Shawshank Redemption by Andy Dufresne to Red.

To hope!

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

‘Zen And The Art of Minimalism’ could be an alternate title of this book by Marie Kondo. It is the English translation of the original book written in Japanese.

img_0084-1I am part of the Generation X, and grew up when middle class was really the middle class. We seemed to have just enough to get by and save and be debt-free. We rarely discarded anything, I remember, partly because we didn’t seem to have much to discard, and partly because we could surely ‘use it in future’. Now in the age of consumerism, it is  “hoarding”, and there was an urgent need to unlearn.

That point on space & time graph:

I believe that there are trying times in all our lives that sweep us off our feet and we question everything that we have – people, relationships, things. Looking around in this moment of powerful contemplation and finding meaningless “stuff” about us, we just might have the ‘and-why-do-I-have-all-this-cr@p-anyway’ moment. I did, over a year ago when, quite serendipitously, I found this book. Because it resonated with me so much, I strongly wanted spread the word. It answered for me questions like “how do I create my Happy Place?” literally,  or “how to be happy”.

Fight Club, Minimalism, Quote. We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. Things you own end up owning you.The book:

With systematic steps to declutter your home, what she calls the Kon-Mari method (from her last and first names), the author writes passionately and in an honest voice. Her principle is to surround oneself with things that spark joy, and discard the rest (as much as possible). She goes a few steps further in asking readers to touch everything and see if you feel good about it, to their express gratitude for their service  (something she is ridiculed for). No wonder this book seems to be a hit or a miss. Yes- there is repetition, and yes-there are suggestions that might seem beyond you. But do not take it literally, if you so disagree; take it with a grain of salt so as to not miss the important underlying principle.

Minimalism

MinimalismBeing idealistic and passionate, I aspire to the ideal of minimalism. In principle, one doesn’t need to have what one doesn’t need to have. More and more, I look for meaning in things and people and relationships- quality, more than quantity. Have less things, but good ones that serve your purpose that you feel happy about. Don’t let the things you own, own you.
Minimalism is not as much about figuring and discarding what you don’t want as it is about diving deep within to find what you really do. Gnothi seauton: Know thyself. Quite simple. And very difficult. When you let go of things, I think, you practice “letting go” in general, a very handy virtue. When I  give up/away things with-out, it frees up energy that sort of comes back to me within. This is highly empowering. Pointing to this truth is the beauty and the value of this book.

In defense of the book:

What is an ideal? Some thing that is perfect- a highest attainable degree of excellence. Are  or can humans be ideal? No-not generally. So, do we need ideals? Yes, absolutely. Because we need something to aim for. Something to go by. I wonder if religion had a similar purpose with its tenets- all point to some basic ideals (and ideally keep out of trouble with the Church and one another- but that is a whole ‘nother complex topic). A particular example that I grew up knowing is of Sri Ram in Indian mythology, called maryada purushottam, the ideal man; though no one could be all like him, the society has Him as the model to aspire to.img_0096

While The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up contains tactical steps and a method to tidying up your stuff, the book is not really about things; it is actually about the ideal of living very consciously and having your home/space as an expression and extension of it… with the things that spark joy. Now what a beautiful, inspiring and life-changing idea that is!

Further Reading: The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, Best resources

 Goodreads review.

The great night of Shiva, tonight.

Tonight is Maha-Shiva-Ratri [maha – great, ratri – night], one of the most important of the all the Hindu festivals. Commonly, Shiva represents one of the three principal deities in the Hindu trinity. But more importantly Shiva represents the formless and the infinite divinity. Tonight marks the celebration of the limitless dimension in oneself by identifying it with the Universal infinite principle of Shiva.

The occasion behooves the mention of Adi Shankara, the young Indian scholar and philosopher from the 8th century AD, who propounded the concept of Advaita or non-dualism (a-non, dvaita-two/dual). Advaita holds that the Creator is not distinct or separate from the Creation; that finite beings born of the Infinite are, therefore, themselves Infinite. So, as a young boy of eight wandering  in search of a guru, Shankara encounters a seer who asks him “who are you?” Shankara responds in these six exalted Sanskrit stanzas that would be known as the Atma Shatakam. Below is a concise and beautiful translation of the sublime verses I took from the acclaimed spiritual classic and one of my favorite books, Autobiography Of A Yogi.

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Atmashatakam by Adi Shankara. (Photo: South Padre Islands Beach. #nofilter)

One of the renditions of Atma Shaktakam (also called Nirvana Shatakam) that I love the best is from the album Sacred Chants of Shiva:

Further reading:

Anger: the monk’s little story

 

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An evening in Rancho Viejo, Texas. The ambience– so dramatic and beautiful. None can beat Nature’s own filter! Just like being in a 3 dimensional painting … #nofilter (Skyscape # 007)

The Little Story: To meditate alone with no interruptions, a monk decided to go to a nearby lake. He took a boat and moored it in the middle of the lake, closed his eyes and began meditating. After a few hours of uninterrupted solitude passed and he was in a deep meditative state, when suddenly, he felt the bump of another boat colliding with his own. His eyes were closed still, but he was agitated, and felt his anger rising.  By the time he opened his eyes, he was about to scream at the boatman who had so carelessly disturbed his meditation. On opening his eyes, however, he was startled to find that it was just another empty boat that probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.

That moment the monk had a profound realization: all the anger was within him; it merely needed the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. And that moment on, whenever he came across someone who irritated or provoked him to anger, he reminded himself that the other person was merely an empty boat; it is he who has the choice to react independent of the whatever the other person did.

There have been times when I would feel frustrated and hopeless about things and myself, and it gave way to so much anger I didn’t know I was capable of. It is easy when you think you have a wrongdoer in your life to blame. But in absence any villains, one confronts the stark reality of one’s own nature. After the fact, realizing how it was making others feel would kill me. I felt powerless and at mercy of this intensity of the emotion I had no explanation for. Thats when I stumbled upon this story.

It hit me in the head like a brick. Past the cleverness of the story and the intellectual stimulation such stories might give, a space needs to be created for a lot of work to be done on self: take it in, assimilate the knowledge, contemplate on it until it shines back out as wisdom, becoming a part of one’s nature.

I wonder if you can relate to it…