Being in a position of power doesn’t necessarily exempt you from the horrors of the human life. Just ask Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of perhaps the most popular website on the planet—Facebook.
In her commencement speech at the University of California – Berkeley, she discussed how grieving for her husband’s death played an important role in her life.
“I have never spoken publicly about this before,” she said. “It’s hard.”
She had lost her husband Dave a year ago—a sudden and unexpected death. They were at a friend’s party. She took a nap. Dave went to work out. When she went to the gym, she found him on the floor, dead.
“Dave’s death changed me in very profound ways. I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss.
“I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that today, as you take the next step in your life, you can learn the lessons that I only learned in death. Lessons about hope, strength, and the light within us that will not be extinguished.”
Like the true leader that she is, she found a way extricate data from her experiences and use it to her advantage.
“As a representative of Silicon Valley, I’m pleased to tell you there is data to learn from.
“After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that there are three P’s—personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence—that are critical to how we bounce back from hardship.”
The seeds of resilience, she said, are planted in the way we process the negative events in our lives.
Throughout the commencement speech, Sheryl was visibly heartbroken at the recollection of her husband’s death, and yet she still managed to deliver her speech with dashes of humor and real wisdom.
She ended her speech stressing how important it is to build one’s resilience.
“When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything,” she said. “I promise you do.”
Sheryl added: “As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined…Build resilient organizations…My favorite poster at work reads, ‘Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.’ When you see something that’s broken, go fix it.”
Photo credit: Jennifer Leahy
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