Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, was the Commencement Speaker at U Cal Berkeley this past week. Ms. Sandberg also wrote the book Lean In which generated lots of controversy among women. (Full disclosure, I have not read it). Sheryl Sandberg has endured what is understandably the worst year of her life after her husband Dave Goldberg had a cardiac arrhythmia while working out on a treadmill about one year ago. The story of what came next is astoundingly honest, brutally frank, and incredibly inspirational. I’m providing a link to the transcript here as well as a later link to the video.
Since reading this commencement address, I’ve thought a lot about what Ms. Sandberg says about resilience and those life-changing times that we encounter in living.
I have an undergraduate degree in Music Education with a performance major in piano. I had my ego stroked quite often as reading music came quite easily to me and I could play fairly well. So I when I graduated, I figured teaching would be a cakewalk. Was I ever wrong!
My first teaching job was as a K-12 choral/general music teacher in a struggling northwest New Hampshire school district. I was ill-prepared for the actual job of teaching and so, after a year, I left. That failure, as difficult as it was to accept, forced me to reflect on what it was I really wanted to do. If the past 20 years is any indication, I think I did find it.
The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.
Finding a Plan B is not as easy as waking up the next morning and knowing what to do. Sometimes, as it did for me, it takes years to figure things out. And sometimes Plan B can turn into Plan C, Plan D and Plan E.
And if you’ve read Ms. Sandberg’s speech, well you’ll know what to do with Plan B when you get there.