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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