When Facebook COO and Leanin.org founder Sheryl Sandberg gets up to speak, the question isn't if she's going to say something meaningful and motivational, but instead what source of motivation she'll offer on that given day. And on Friday, according to the transcript of Sheryl Sandberg's commencement speech at Virginia Tech's graduation ceremony, it was nothing short of inspiring. This time, the source of that inspiration wasn't, as she said, "something I know and you don’t." Instead, she delved into the concept of resilience — and how adversity can, in the end, actually make everything in your life seem just that much brighter.
The speech started on a few sad notes, when Sandberg talked about the sudden loss of her husband, Dave, and how the 2007 deadly mass shooting at the university spelled a collective loss, one that it still feels. What she went on to emphasize, though, is that resilience is a muscle, and that what strengthens it more than anything else is a community of support during times of adversity.
She then outlined what support through community actually means — and it's not just calling to ask what someone needs when they've been through a traumatic experience. Support is specific help, directed at the person who needs it. Support is bringing over a meal to a friend mourning a loss, whether they've asked for it or not. Support is coming together in a group to build hope, and through that, resilience.
Sandberg also shared some of what she's learned as the founder of Leanin.org, specifically how groups coming together with the same goals can build collective resilience and how nurturing what she calls "grounded hope" can lead to achieving even the most difficult goals. Grounded hope, she says, is "the understanding that if you take action you can make things better" — and she emphasized exactly how important it is in a tense time like now:
When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that deep inside you, you have the ability to get through anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined. Build resilient organizations. Speak up when you see injustice. Lend your time and your passion to the causes that matter. My favorite poster at Facebook reads, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” When you see something that’s broken and there is a lot that is broken out there, go fix it.
She ended by sharing her experience with a simple life strategy that has gotten a lot of recognition in recent years: gratitude. "Counting your blessings," she said, "increases them. People who take the time to focus on the things they are grateful for are happier and healthier." Whether that means writing down the things that have brought you joy on any given day, as Sandberg says that she does, or expressing your gratitude towards people in your life more directly, it's an excellent way of building up that muscle that is resilience.
Luckily for you, Sandberg's speech is still available on Facebook, so you didn't have to sit through a rainy commencement ceremony in order to experience all of it. But then again, that would have been an excellent chance to strengthen those resilience muscles — so now Virginia Tech's graduating class of 2017 will really leave with something wonderful to remember.