Sheryl Sandberg Talks About What Death Has Taught Her About Life: UC Berkeley Commencement Address, 2016




A little more than a year ago, Sheryl Sandberg‘s 47-year-old husband, Dave Goldberg, died unexpectedly. The ultimate cause, heart disease. Sandberg has since endured many dark days. And now, for the first time, she’s talking publicly about the whole experience, and particularly about what death has taught her about life.

Sandberg picked the appropriate venue to speak out–the commencement ceremonies at UC-Berkeley this past weekend. Graduation speeches traditionally ask accomplished figures to give life advice to young graduates, and, painful as it might have been, that’s what Sandberg offered. One day or another, you’ll experience howling losses of your own, and what can get you through these experiences–Sandberg wants you to know–is resilience. She remarked:

And when the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself.

Class of 2016, as you leave Berkeley, build resilience.

Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strikes, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined.

To increase your resilience, Sandberg would have you read the 1990 book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Life and Mind, where Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, outlines techniques for looking at life events in the healthiest possible way. (That’s what Sandberg is getting at when she talks about permanence, pervasiveness and personalization.) You can read a complete transcript of Sandberg’s speech here.

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