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7 Lessons To Learn From Sheryl Sandberg’s 2016 commencement Speech At UC Berkley

Better known as the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg is a multi-talented person. She also wrote a book named Lean In. Considering her inspirational persona, she is often invited by various colleges/universities to deliver commencement speeches like:

Sheryl Sandberg’s Commencement Speech At Barnard College
Sheryl Sandberg’s Commencement Speech at Harvard in May 2014

Recently she was invited by UC Berkley to address the class of 2016 to deliver some words of wisdom and inspiration on their commencement day. The good thing is the University have made the entire speech available for the public on Youtube, so we all can get a chance to visit the same.

Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech at UC Berkley

After greeting students, she starts with fantastic lines, which actually convey the motto of a commencement speech effectively. I agree with her on this note that the commencement speech has to be a balance between the wisdom and the youth. If you convey a fantastic message in boring manner and if that is why it is not delivered effectively, then your efforts do not serve the purpose.

A commencement address is meant to be a dance between youth and wisdom.

A commencement address is meant to be a dance between youth and wisdom.

1. Every experience teaches us something, even the sad/unfortunate one

We all know that she suffered from her husband death before around a year. So far she hasn’t talked about it, and how it affected her life emotionally. She decided to to talk about it for the first time. So her lessons are focused on the facts we can learn from the death (or as she said, she learn from the death). In her own words:

I am not here to tell you all the things I’ve learned in life. Today I will try to tell you what I learned in death.

2. You can find joy and meaning in any challenge

So what if unfortunate events happened! What happened is what happened, and we need to find a way out of he saddening effects of the same. There are many inspirational tales we hear where people are actually turning their personal griefs into something useful to the society. Mahatma Gandhi was (then simply M. K. Gandhi) thrown out of the train despite of having valid reasons to travel in upper class, decided to fight against the system and was ended up being one of the most prominent figures on the earth. There are people whose loved one died due to a specific decease and now they run a mission to help people having the same decease. These are the people who are making the society, more human, and a place to live happily at. Sheryl says:

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.

3. Positive attitude and positive attributes matter a lot

Sheryl says that she learn many things from this incident.

Lessons about hope, strength, and the light within us that will not be extinguished.

It is very important to not to lose hope under any circumstance. Hope gives us the fighting spirit and courage to stand against all odds. If we lose the faith that eventually there is the end of the tunnel and there is light there, we may stop our efforts to move on. And that is what can be referred as death. Swami Vivekananda said: Strength is life, weakness is death. Everyone need to have strength to survive. And strength just doesn’t mean to be a physical ability or attribute.

The question is not if some of these things will happen to you. They will.

When we hear about something terrible, we feel sad, or even mourn if the loss is personal. However we simply move on, and often don’t think that this can happen with us too. From one perspective we can find it a good gesture towards ourselves, as it gives us a chance to move on in the life. Someone said that, Our ability to forget makes our lives much easier. We cannot live with burden throughout.

However, if it makes us ignorant, it is certainly dangerous. If there is no future of the future, we are not going to plan for the bad times. Or we are not ready to deal with the unexpected situations. Think it from the insurance perspective. None of us wants to get caught by even a simple illness, but then also we go for medical insurance. It is a kind of safety net. And we human beings are blessed with brain which can thing, plan and implement strategic steps; we must use it to full potential.

4. Do what you can, with what you have and where you are

Sheryl refers the following line in the context of her personal experience. She was talking about how her husband was there for the parents meeting at the school of their children and now she need to attend it alone! She thought she couldn’t make it and was simply went crying. She was almost not ready to attend it alone. It happens when you shared something with your loved one and now you need to do it alone, it breaks you down. But then, one of her friend gave her the advise that it was great if the couple could have attended it together, but now, as it is not possible, the only thing she can do is, just attend it alone.

Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.

Don’t you think it is true for almost every aspect in the life! There are many things we feel that should happen, or happen in a certain way, but they actually don’t. We have to keep ourselves open for the alternative always.

5. Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence

Not taking failures personally allows us to recover—and even to thrive.

Sensitive people have a habit of taking things personally. For anything happened wrong, they used to thing that if they could have acted in different way the mishap would have been prevented. In terms of learning lesson it is great. But this is not always true. Sometimes the situations are simply out of control and you cannot do anything. We need to understand it.

She talks in the context of her husband’s death and how she thought that she herself could have taken some steps to save his life. But then eventually she realized that there was no way she could have seen this thing coming. Even the doctors, the experts of the science of body and medicine, were unable to see the thing coming, than how can she, a person from business management stream could have seen it!

Such reality checks are very important. It saves us from unnecessary blame on ourselves for the terrible thing(s) happened.

I thought I was terrible at everything… but it turns out I was only terrible at spreadsheets. Understanding pervasiveness would have saved me a lot of anxiety that week.

Again this is a problem with the people who thing much and have the ability to self criticizing.

Everyone cannot do everything. You may be a good dancer but not a great author or singer. You may be a fantastic cricketer but cannot win a boxing match. This is a reality and we cannot runaway from it.

Sometimes when we are unable to accomplish something, we start blaming ourselves for it. And eventually we start remembering the things we are failed at. Gradually we started developing the theory that we suck at everything we do.

We certainly do not.

Sheryl said the above mentioned lines in the context of her job.

Just understanding that this is my week point(s) an these are my abilities, helps un in moving forward, effectively.

Do you remember the saying This too shall pass? Everything that comes, will go for sure. If there is night, there surely will be morning. When we are passing through sad times, we often feel that it is never going to end.

The third P is permanence—the belief that the sorrow will last forever.

It is very important to keep reminding ourselves that the we can reach to the banks by swimming only.

Just as our bodies have a physiological immune system, our brains have a psychological immune system—and there are steps you can take to help kick it into gear.

If we don’t let the positive thoughts come in our mind, and keep thinking negatively, we subconsciously start a verge to giving in.

6. Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience

One other way to look at any tragedy is to thing how worst it could have been.

At first glance you may consider it stupid, but after thinking twice/thrice you will realise that it actually boosts positiveness. For example you are heading to an interview and you car got punctured, you are late. This is something terrible of course. But what if you were not alone in the car and you have your loved one with you whom you need to drop at another important place. It could have been more terrible right?

Sheryl was taught this from her doctor. He asked that what if her husband had cardiac arrhythmia when he was driving their kids?! It could have been even more terrible than his death, considering other members are still safe.

The key is to think how bigger the loss could have been. It will eventually develop healthy attitude towards looking at things and taking them in the life.

7. Every day is precious, live it at full

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.

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.

Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything.


It was realistic, inspirational and full of wisdom. Your positive approach and attitude will be even sharper after reading/watching it.

Remember, this is not word to word transcription of Sheryl’s commencement speech, but our own vision and views for the same. Do let us know what else you find from the same via comments below. We will be happy to learn. And yes, do not forget to share this article with your loved ones if you found it helpful and inspirational.

Links To Follow:

News about Sheryl’s Commencement Speech
Full Transcript of Sheryl’s Commencement Speech

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