Watch Sheryl Sandberg’s University of California at Berkeley 2016 Commencement address and browse the transcript below (or read a summary of highlights from other 2016 commencement speeches):
Many thanks, Marie. And many thanks esteemed members of the faculty, proud parents, devoted friends, squirming siblings.
Congratulations to all or any of you — and especially to the magnificent Berkeley graduating class of 2016!
This is a privilege to be at Berkeley, which includes produced so many Nobel Prize winners, Turing Award winners, astronauts, members of Congress, Olympic gold medalists — and that’s just the ladies!
Berkeley is definitely prior to the times. In the 1960s, you led the Free Speech Movement. Back days past, people used to state that with the long hair, just how do we even tell the boys from girls? We have now know the answer: manbuns.
In early stages, Berkeley opened its doors to the complete population. When this campus opened in 1873, the class included 167 men and 222 women. It took my alma mater another ninety years to award an individual degree to an individual woman.
Among the women who came within search of opportunity was Rosalind Nuss. Roz was raised scrubbing floors in the Brooklyn boardinghouse where she lived. She was pulled out of senior high school by her parents to greatly help support their family. Among her teachers insisted that her parents put her back to school — and in 1937, she sat what your location is sitting today and received a Berkeley degree. Roz was my grandmother. She was an enormous inspiration if you ask me and I’m so grateful that Berkeley recognized her potential. I would like to take the time to offer a particular congratulations to the countless here today who will be the first generation within their families to graduate from college. Just what a remarkable achievement.
Today is a day of celebration. A day to celebrate all of the effort that got you to the moment.
Today is a day of thanks. A day to thank those that helped you arrive here — nurtured you, taught you, cheered you on, and dried your tears. Or at least the ones who didn’t draw you with a Sharpie when you fell asleep at a celebration.
Today is a day of reflection. Because today marks the finish of one era you will ever have and the start of something new.
A commencement address is intended to become a dance between youth and wisdom. You have the youth. Someone will come in to be the voice of wisdom — that’s said to be me. I operate here and let you know all the things I’ve learned in life, you throw your cap in the air, you let your loved ones have a million photos — don’t forget to create them on Instagram — and everyone goes home happy.
Today is a bit different. We will still do the caps and you still want to do the photos. But I am not here to let you know everything I’ve learned in life. Today I’ll try to let you know what I learned in death.
I’ve never spoken publicly concerning this before. It’s hard. But I’ll do my absolute best never to blow my nose upon this beautiful Berkeley robe.
Twelve months and thirteen days ago, I lost my hubby, Dave. His death was sudden and unexpected. We were at a friend’s fiftieth party in Mexico. I took a nap. Dave visited workout. What followed was the unthinkable — walking right into a gym to find him lying on to the floor. Flying home to tell my children that their father was gone. Watching his casket being lowered in to the ground.
For most months afterward, and at often since, I was swallowed up in the deep fog of grief — what I believe of as the void — an emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your capability to think or to breathe.
Dave’s death changed me in very profound ways. I learned all about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that whenever life sucks you under, you can kick against underneath, break the top, and breathe again. I learned that when confronted with the void — or when confronted with any challenge — you can choose joy and meaning.
I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that today, as you take the next phase in your daily life, you can learn the lessons that I only learned in death. Lessons about hope, strength, and the light within us that won’t be extinguished.
Everyone who has managed to get through Cal has recently experienced some disappointment. You wanted an A nevertheless, you got a B. OK, let’s be honest — you have an A- but you’re still mad. You requested an internship at Facebook, nevertheless, you only got one from Google. She was the love you will ever have — but she swiped left.
Game of Thrones the show has diverged a significant amount of from the books — and you bothered to learn all 4,352 pages.
You will likely face more and deeper adversity. There’s lack of opportunity — the work that doesn’t workout, the condition or accident that changes everything immediately. There’s lack of dignity — the sharp sting of prejudice when it happens. There’s lack of love — the broken relationships that can’t be fixed. And sometimes there’s lack of life itself.
A few of you have previously experienced the sort of tragedy and hardship that leave an indelible mark. This past year, Radhika, the winner of the University Medal, spoke so beautifully about the sudden lack of her mother.
The question isn’t if many of these things may happen for you. They will. Today I would like to discuss what goes on next. About the items that can be done to overcome adversity, whatever form it requires or when it hits you. The simple days ahead of you will end up easy. It’s the hard days — the changing times that challenge you to your very core — that may determine who you are. You will end up defined not just with what you achieve, but by how you survive.
A couple weeks after Dave died, I was speaking with my friend Phil in regards to a father-son activity that Dave had not been here to accomplish. We developed a plan to complete for Dave. I cried to him, “But I’d like Dave.” Phil put his arm around me and said, “Option A isn’t available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”
Most of us at some time live some type of option B. The question is: What do we do then?
On your behalf of Silicon Valley, I’m very happy to let you know there is data to understand from. After spending decades studying how people cope with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found there are three P’s — personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence — that are critical to how exactly we bounce back from hardship. The seeds of resilience are planted in the manner we process the negative events inside our lives.
The first P is personalization — the fact that we are in fault. This is not the same as taking responsibility, that you should always do. Here is the lesson that not everything that occurs to us happens becauseof us.
When Dave died, I had an extremely common reaction, that was at fault myself. He died in seconds from a cardiac arrhythmia. I poured over his medical records asking what I possibly could have — or must have — done. It wasn’t until I learned all about the three P’s that I accepted that I possibly could not need prevented his death. His doctors hadn’t identified his coronary artery disease. I was an economics major — how may i have?
Studies also show that getting past personalization can in fact cause you to stronger. Teachers who knew they could do better after students failed adjusted their methods and saw future classes continue to excel. College swimmers who underperformed but believed these were with the capacity of swimming faster did. Not taking failures personally we can recover — and even to thrive.
The next P is pervasiveness — the fact that a meeting will affect every area of your life. You understand that song “Everything rocks !?” This is actually the flip: “Everything is awful.” There’s room to perform or hide from the all-consuming sadness.
The kid psychologists I spoke to encouraged me to get my kids back again to their routine as quickly as possible. So 10 days after Dave died, they returned to school and I returned to work. I recall sitting in my own first Facebook meeting in a deep, deep haze. All I possibly could think was, “What’s everyone discussing and how could this possibly matter?” But I got drawn in to the discussion and for another — a brief moment — I forgot about death.
That brief second helped me see that there have been other things in my own life which were not awful. My children and I were healthy. My relatives and buddies were so loving plus they carried us — quite literally sometimes.
The increased loss of somebody often has severe negative financial consequences, specifically for women. So many single mothers — and fathers — battle to pay the bills or have jobs that don’t permit them the time they have to look after their children. I had financial security, the opportunity to make an effort off I needed, and employment that I did not only have confidence in, but where it’s actually OK to invest all day long on Facebook. Gradually, my children started sleeping during the night, crying less, playing more.
The 3rd P is permanence — the fact that the sorrow can last forever. For months, regardless of what I did so, it felt just like the crushing grief would continually be there.
We often project our current feelings out indefinitely — and experience what I believe of as the next derivative of these feelings. We feel anxious — and we feel anxious that we’re anxious. We feel sad — and we feel sad that we’re sad. Instead, we ought to accept our feelings — but recognize that they can not last forever. My rabbi explained that point would heal but also for now I will “lean into the suck.” It had been good advice, however, not really what I meant by “lean in.”
None of you will need me to describe the fourth P — which is, of course, pizza from Cheese Board.
But I wish I had known about the three P’s when I was your actual age. There were so often these lessons could have helped.
Day among my first job out of college, my boss discovered that I didn’t understand how to enter data into Lotus 1-2-3. That’s a spreadsheet — ask your parents. His mouth dropped open and he said, ‘I can’t believe you have this job without realizing that” — and walked out from the room. I went home convinced that I would be fired. I thought I was terrible at everything — nonetheless it works out I was only terrible at spreadsheets. Understanding pervasiveness could have saved me a whole lot of anxiety that week.
I wish I had known about permanence when I split up with boyfriends. It would’ve been a comfort to learn that feeling had not been likely to last forever, and easily had been honest with myself. Neither were some of those relationships.
And I wish I had understood personalization when boyfriends split up with me. Sometimes it’s not you — it truly is them. After all, that dude never showered.
And all three P’s ganged through to me in my own twenties after my first marriage ended in divorce. I thought at that time that no real matter what I accomplished, I was an enormous failure.
The three P’s are normal emotional reactions to so a lot of things that eventually us — inside our careers, our personal lives, and our relationships. You’re probably feeling one of these at this time about something in your daily life. But when you can recognize you are falling into these traps, you can catch yourself. Just as our anatomies have a physiological disease fighting capability, our brains have a psychological disease fighting capability — and there are actions you can take to greatly help kick it into gear.
1 day my pal Adam Grant, a psychologist, suggested that I believe about how exactly much worse things could possibly be. This is completely counterintuitive; it appeared like the best way to recover was to attempt to find positive thoughts. “Worse?” I said. “Are you kidding me? How could things be worse?” His answer cut straight through me: “Dave could experienced that same cardiac arrhythmia while he was driving your kids.” Wow. As soon as he said it, I was overwhelmingly grateful that the others of my children was alive and healthy. That gratitude overtook a few of the grief.
Finding gratitude and appreciation is paramount to resilience. People who take time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. As it happens that counting your blessings can in fact boost your blessings. My New Year’s resolution this season is to jot down three moments of joy before I go to sleep every night. This simple practice has changed my entire life. Because regardless of what happens every day, I fall asleep thinking about something cheerful. Check it out. Start tonight if you have so many fun moments to list — although maybe do it before you hit Kip’s and may still remember what they are.
Last month, 11 days prior to the anniversary of Dave’s death, I broke down crying to a pal of mine. We were sitting — of most places — on a bathroom floor. I said: “Eleven days. Twelve months ago, he previously eleven days left. And we’d no idea.” We viewed one another through tears, and asked how exactly we would live if we knew we’d 11 days left.
As you graduate, is it possible to ask yourselves to live just like you had 11 days left? I don’t mean blow everything off and party at all times — although tonight can be an exception. After all live with the knowledge of how precious each day will be. How precious each day happens to be.
A couple of years ago, my mom needed her hip replaced. When she was younger, she always walked without pain. But as her hip disintegrated, each step became painful. Now, even years after her operation, she actually is grateful for each and every step she takes without pain — a thing that never could have occurred to her before.
As I stand here today, a year following the worst day of my entire life, a couple of things are true. I’ve an enormous reservoir of sadness that’s with me always — the following where I could touch it. I never knew I possibly could cry frequently — roughly much.
But I am also aware that I am walking without pain. For the very first time, I am grateful for every breath in and out — grateful for the gift of life itself. I used to celebrate my birthday every five years and friends’ birthdays sometimes. Now I celebrate always. I used to visit sleep worrying about everything I smudged that day — and believe me that list was often quite long. Now I try very difficult to spotlight each day’s moments of joy.
It’s the greatest irony of my entire life that losing my hubby helped me find deeper gratitude — gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my children, the laughter of my children. My expect you is that you will discover that gratitude — not only on the nice days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will actually need it.
There are so many moments of joy before you. That trip you always wished to take. An initial kiss with someone you truly like. Your day you get yourself a job doing something you truly have confidence in. Beating Stanford. (Go Bears!) Most of these things may happen for you. Enjoy every single one.
I am hoping that you live your daily life — each precious day of it — with joy and meaning. I am hoping that you walk without pain — and that you will be grateful for every step.
So when the challenges come, I am hoping you understand that anchored deep within you may be the capability to learn and grow. You aren’t born with a set amount of resilience. Just like a muscle, you can build it up, draw onto it when it’s needed. For the reason that process you will work out who you truly are — and you simply might become the absolute best version of yourself.
Class of 2016, as you leave Berkeley, build resilience.
Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, understand that you have the opportunity to complete absolutely anything. I promise you do. As the word goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are more powerful than we ever truly imagined.
Build resilient organizations. If anyone can do it, you can, because Berkeley is filled up with people who want to help make the world an improved place. Never go wrong to take action — whether it’s a boardroom that’s not representative or a campus that’s not safe. Speak up, especially at institutions such as this one, that you hold so dear. The best poster at the job reads, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” When you see something that’s broken, go correct it.
Build resilient communities. We find our humanity — our will to live and our capability to love — inside our connections one to the other. Be there for your friends and family. And I mean personally. Not just in a note with a heart emoji.
Lift one another up, help one another kick the shit out of option B — and celebrate just about every moment of joy.