Life is a funny thing. The rollercoaster of all rollercoasters. Much like the initial climb to the top of the track, the stressful times feel like they’ll last forever. These moments are filled with anticipation, anxiety, and a longing for what’s next. Eventually, we do reach the top. The stress changes to excitement and in the blink of an eye we’re screaming for joy, hands raised, wondering what we were so afraid of.

These ups and downs in life seem to be the norm. I’ve spent years trying to fight that cycle. Trying to increase the highs and eliminate the lows. That’s natural, I think, but I’m beginning to realize it’s not realistic. There will always be lows. Hard times are in my future. The question is how will I handle them?

One year ago, I experienced one of the deepest lows I’ve had so far. I lost one of my best friends to prescription pills. I’ve thought about him countless times in the last 12 months. I’ve grieved him, missed him, laughed with him, and cried for him. Every little bit is helpful, but that doesn’t make it easy. Acknowledging, learning from, and moving past traumatic events is hard.

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg knows this better than anyone. She lost her husband Dave unexpectedly to a heart complication. She found his body. He was 47 years old.

She talks openly about the grief she went through and the fear that her children would never be happy again. With support from a psychologist and friend, Adam Grant, she began to study grief and how to build resilience. They released a book and started a nonprofit focused on helping people build resilience.

I’m a big fan of their work. When graduation season came along and I learned she gave the 2017 commencement speech at Virginia Tech (Transcript, Video), I had to watch it. It’s a powerful example of vulnerability packed with lessons on how to build resilience. A couple of my favorite quotes are below:

“The most important thing I learned is that we are not born with a certain amount of resilience. It is a muscle, and that means we can build it…… We retreat into silence just when we need each other the most.


“Before I lost Dave, if a friend was going through something hard, I would usually say I am sorry – once. And then I wouldn’t bring it up again because I didn’t want to remind them of their pain. Losing my husband taught me how absurd that was – you can’t remind me I lost Dave.”


“Before I lost Dave, when a friend was in need, I would say, “Is there anything I can do?” And I meant it kindly – the problem is, that question kind of shifts the burden to the person in need…… Here’s a different approach. When my friend Dan Levy’s son was sick in the hospital, a friend texted him and said, “What do you not want on a burger?” Another friend texted from the lobby and said, “I’m in the lobby of the hospital for a hug for the next hour whether you come down or not.”


“One of the most important ways you can build resilience is by cultivating gratitude. Two years ago, if someone had told me that I would lose the love of my life and become more grateful, I would have never have believed them. But that’s what happened. because today I am more grateful now than I ever was before – for my family and especially my children. For my friends. For my work. For life, itself.

Life is not all sunshine and rainbows, and that’s ok, because we CAN handle it. We can build our resilience. We can be there for each other and ask others to be there for us. We can grow during hard times. And we can constantly remind ourselves of the beauty of each moment.