Option B

This summer I read another book, “Option B”, written by one of my favorite authors and famous female leader, Sheryl Sandberg. She is the chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook and founder of Leanin.org.

It’s been a while since I read her first book, “Lean In”. “Option B” is a new book which is about how to face adversity, build resilience, and find joy. Sheryl lost her beloved husband, Dave Goldberg, the well-known Silicon Valley executive, from sudden death on a family vacation. Dave went to the fitness room, and he got a heart attack and slipped from a treadmill.

Sheryl lost her Option A, which was to raise the two children with Dave and have Dave as her lifelong companion. For such a sudden tragedy, nobody is prepared. It’s not something you can foresee or have a backup plan for.

But many times life needs an Option B or even C. For some cases, you can be proactive and prepare the other options. For example, you can make for your next 1st and 2nd roles in 3 or 5 years to stay motivated to learning, being built for changing or planning. It does not mean to jump boat from one company to another company but plan your career map ahead of time to progress your professional skills and knowledge. Or you can stay in one role for years but prepare for the next wave of knowledge refreshment. Learning a new experience is also a career plan. Or you can pay more attention to leadership skills growth and get ready to be a leader when you are prepared for it.

For some situations, you just need to have an “Option B” mindset to cope with any unexpected changes.

My father always told me to “be preparing for the rainy days when it’s sunny.” It’s an “Option B” mindset.

Option B Story 1:

Last Monday I go to the airport, and I am sitting there and waiting for my flight. The purpose of my trip is to go to the office in Santa Clara on Tuesday for the leadership training as a new manager. My flight is at 6:40pm, so I am supposed to arrive in San Jose at 9:30pm. The hotel is less than 10 miles away so I should come to the hotel around 10pm. It is a great plan and fits me well as I usually go to bed before 11pm.

However, around 5:30pm I receive a notification, and I am told that the flight got canceled. I recheck my email and don’t find any other alternative arrangements to let me know which other trip I was put on.

I ask my colleague who was also on the same flight. She said that she will probably just go home.

Then my Option A suddenly has an unexpected change. What should I do? I need to arrive in San Jose tonight since the next morning the training starts. As a new manager, I have less experience, so I definitely need that training most at this time.

I have to start my Option B mindset and work out a plan B right now.

I call the travel agency and ask for the other alternatives. I am thinking several Option B’s by order of preference.

➢   Change to another direct flight, which arrives at San Jose airport today;

➢   Change to another non-direct plane, which eventually arrives at San Jose airport by today.

After talking with the travel agent, I find neither option works, as there are absolutely no seats on the other flights in my above two options. According to the travel agency, I have to take the morning flight and arrive in San Jose at noon with the same airline. But I am going to miss a big part of the 2 days of training!

Luckily I suddenly remember there’s another airport, which is the San Francisco airport.

Although the airport is a bit further, 60 miles away from the hotel, and the time of arriving at the airport is quite late, 11pm., at least I can go to the training the next day, and I am not going to miss anything from the critical practice. That’s the most important thing!

Option B story 2:

During the summer vacation, I planned a trip to Chimelong Park in China, which is my son’s favorite park. I had planned it with my good friend several months ahead of time. She would bring her son, and I would go there with my son. The boys are of a similar age.

Everyone is looking forward to the trip. Then 3 days before the day of the trip, my friend tells me she can’t make it. She was told 2 days ahead of time that she needs to go to the new school with her son to register as a new student, next Monday, as there is a new spot. Otherwise, the spot will be given to another family.

My son is disappointed with the news since after this plan A change, his only companion is me. However, I am scared to take those fast rides with him.

My Option B mindset starts. I send out messages in several Wechat groups and ask if there’s any friend who is interested in going to Chimelong park with us. And I tell them that my son and myself are going.

In less than half a day, one lady who’s from the Cisco group messages me. She says she heard about Chimelong Park and she wants to go with me, and she has a son who’s just 1 year older than my son. She had heard of my name when we were both at Cisco, although we hadn’t worked together.

The result is everyone is happy. My good friend does not feel guilty because of her last-minute cancellation; my son is happy since he has a new companion to take the rides with; my Cisco friend is also pleased as she was hoping to arrange a trip to Chimelong Park, and eventually she made it and has us as her new friends.

So, they are two of my stories of Option B. I would say we’d better have the Option B mindset to stay flexible with changes and be more confident about tomorrow.