Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a powerful and motivating speech at UC Berkeley’s commencement Saturday about resilience and loss.
It was the first time she spoke publicly about the sudden death of her husband, Dave Goldberg. Goldberg, in May 2015 died in a horrible treadmill accident while vacationing in Mexico. Sandberg laid down for a nap and Goldberg hit the gym. While he was on the treadmill he suffered from cardiac arrhythmia, which led him to falling off the treadmill and fatally injuring himself. He was 47 years old.
Sandberg shared some lessons with the graduates. The first is that things can always be worse. And even when you’re overcome by sadness, you can find a way to be grateful for what you have.
Here is a short section of her speech:
“One day my friend Adam Grant, a psychologist, suggested that I think about how much worse things could be. This was completely counterintuitive; it seemed like the way to recover was to try to find positive thoughts. ‘Worse?’ I said. ‘Are you kidding me? How could things be worse?’ His answer cut straight through me: ‘Dave could have had that same cardiac arrhythmia while he was driving your children.’ Wow. The moment he said it, I was overwhelmingly grateful that the rest of my family was alive and healthy. That gratitude overtook some of the grief.
Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings. My New Year’s resolution this year is to write down three moments of joy before I go to bed each night. This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful. Try it. Start tonight when you have so many fun moments to list— although maybe do it before you hit Kip’s and can still remember what they are.
Last month, eleven days before the anniversary of Dave’s death, I broke down crying to a friend of mine. We were sitting—of all places—on a bathroom floor. I said: “Eleven days. One year ago, he had eleven days left. And we had no idea.” We looked at each other through tears, and asked how we would live if we knew we had eleven days left.
As you graduate, can you ask yourselves to live as if you had eleven days left? I don’t mean blow everything off and party all the time— although tonight is an exception. I mean live with the understanding of how precious every single day would be. How precious every day actually is.”