Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg opened up in her UC Berkeley commencement speech, speaking about the lessons she learned after the tragic death of her husband David Goldberg.
Sandberg presented a truth to graduates they weren't expecting.
Dave’s death changed me in profound ways. I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void — or in the face of any challenge — you can choose joy and meaning.
She also pointed out loss is an unavoidable fact of life. Every student, parent and professor would feel its affects, but what would become of them would depend on their ability to survive.
You will almost certainly face deep adversity. There’s loss of opportunity: the job that doesn’t work out, the illness or accident that changes everything in an instant. There’s loss of dignity: the sharp sting of prejudice when it happens. There’s loss of love. And sometimes there’s loss of life itself.
The question is not if some of these things will happen to you. They will. Today I want to talk about what happens next. About the things you can do to overcome adversity, no matter what form it takes or when it hits you. The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.
And their ability to cope. Sandberg continued to speak candidly about her coping process, and the lesson she hoped would embed itself on the students as they set out into the world:
"I hope that you live your life — each precious day of it — with joy and meaning. I hope that you walk without pain — and that you are grateful for each step.
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."
The speech has touched not only the hearts of the students she spoke to, but also to everyone who has seen the video or read the speech since then.
You can watch the full speech in the video below. It starts at around 4:30.