The Most Powerful Lesson From Sheryl Sandberg's Berkeley Speech

Sophie Miura

Jennifer Leahy for Facebook

Graduation is an exciting time—and not just for students in robes. It marks a time when people we admire offer up valuable life advice that isn't just relevant to those finishing school, but all of us. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO and author of Lean In, recently gave a powerful speech at UC Berkeley focusing on one invaluable life lesson: the importance of building resilience

For the first time since her husband's sudden death in 2015, Sandberg spoke publicly about her grief and the most valuable thing she's learned from the experience. Drawing on psychologist Martin Seligman's three P's of loss—personalisation, pervasiveness, and permanence—she offers advice about how to bounce back from adversity. 

"The three P’s are common emotional reactions to so many things that happen to us—in our careers, our personal lives, and our relationships. But if you can recognise you are falling into these traps, you can catch yourself," she says.

Here's Sheryl Sandberg's inspiring advice about how to navigate the three P's to build resilience.


"This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us," Sandberg told Berkeley graduates. She points out that studies suggest getting past personalisation can actually make us emotionally stronger. "Not taking failures personally allows us to recover—and even to thrive," she says. 


Pervasiveness refers to the belief that a setback will dramatically affect your life. "You know that song Everything is awesome? This is the flip: Everything is awful. There’s no place to run or hide from the all-consuming sadness," she says. 

Sandberg says returning to her job and daily routine helped put the loss in perspective. "[It] helped me see that there were other things in my life that were not awful. My children and I were healthy. My friends and family were so loving."

To keep gratitude top of mind, she writes a list of three things she cherishes each day before bed. "This simple practice has changed my life. Because no matter what happens each day, I go to sleep thinking of something cheerful," she says. 


The last P refers to feeling that sorrow will last forever. "For months, no matter what I did, it felt like the crushing grief would always be there," Sandberg reflects.

Permanence isn't just relevant to someone who is grieving. "I wish I had known about permanence when I broke up with boyfriends," she notes. "It would’ve been a comfort to know that feeling was not going to last forever."

At the core of her speech is one lesson: Hardship is inevitable, but it's what you do next that counts. "Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. … In that process you will figure out who you really are—and you just might become the very best version of yourself."

Looking for a graduate gift? Shop Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg ($11), then watch Sandberg's full speech below. 

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