Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a commencement speech at UC Berkeley on Saturday to the class of 2016.
It’s powerful and motivating, and you should read every word of it.
But if you don’t have time to read it all, you should at least read this one part.
OK, these two parts.
Sandberg lost her husband, Dave Goldberg, in May 2015 to a horrific treadmill accident. The couple was on vacation celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday. Sandberg laid down for a nap and Goldberg hit the gym. But while he was on the treadmill, Goldberg suffered from cardiac arrhythmia, which led to him falling off the treadmill and fatally injuring himself. He was 47 years old.
The commencement speech was the first time Sandberg spoke about her husband’s death publicly. And she shared some lessons she’s learned since Goldberg’s death with the graduates.
The first hard lesson she learned is that things can always be worse. And even when you’re overcome by sadness, you should figure out a way to count your blessings.
Sandberg had this realisation while speaking with a psychologist. Here’s her recount of the conversation.
“One day my friend Adam Grant, a psychologist, suggested that I think about how much worse things could be,” Sandberg told the audience. “This was completely counter-intuitive; 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.
Grant helped Sandberg realise that while she lost her husband, at least she still had her health and her children were safe.
Another particularly moving part of Sandberg’s speech was when she told the audience to live like they only had eleven days left.
That’s because, as the anniversary of Goldberg’s death approached, Sandberg couldn’t help thinking what she or Dave might have done differently if they’d known they had just a few more days together left.
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.
Here’s Sandberg’s full speech.