If Sheryl Sandberg were to have a human highlight reel, her top plays would look like this:

  1. Harvard Graduate – Summa Cum Laude
  2. Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook
  3. United States Secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton
  4. Named Time’s Magazine: Most Influential Women
  5. Bestselling Author

Despite her high profile accolades, what separates arguably one of the most powerful and influential women in the world from others dates back to 2015. What looked like an ordinary family vacation quickly turned this Facebook COO’s life upside down as her husband of 10 years passed away from sudden cardiac arrhythmia. They say that a person’s true colors are exposed when they go through hardships and, in this case, we learned a lot about who Sheryl Sandberg is: Warrior, Superwoman, and Human. Sheryl Sandberg may be known for her accomplishments, but what is the deeper story behind her milestones? Even with this traumatic event, what inspires me about Sheryl Sandberg is how she did not allow herself to become victim to her life’s circumstances. Instead she has channeled the pain of loss of her husband to become an advocate and provide hope for people who suffer grief. In her book, she quotes:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

Sheryl Sandberg, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Though I have not experienced the same kind of loss in my own life, I am currently learning to navigate my own hardships of family members with chronic health issues as well as the pain of neglect growing up. Being raised in Southern California by immigrant parents, it was a beautiful experience of diverse cultures under one roof. As a 22-year-old now, I look back and understand that the neglect I felt was not purposeful but rather a product of tough circumstances that my family faced. Like Sheryl Sandberg, I too want to use the pain and struggles in my life to provide a hope for those who are confused, lost, and purposeless. Here are two primary lessons that I learned from Sheryl’s story:

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems

The simple truth is that we magnify what we focus our attention on. After identifying what the hardship was for Sheryl, she worked hard to rewire her way of thinking. In fact, she thought of the bigger picture. She realized the pain she experienced was unbearable, so she wanted to reach out to others and provide them solutions to their grieving as she managed her own. Rather than focusing on the countless problems, why not shift our focus to what can happen? Why not shift our focus to the positive that can happen when we fight? Quitting was not an option for Sheryl.  

What’s Your “Why?”

One thing for certain is that HARD WORK is in Sheryl’s DNA. We all have dreams and aspirations, but do we ever slow down to ask ourselves, “Why?” Sheryl was aware of her “why”, and she found purpose through her pain. What is your “why”? When we get knocked down by life, our why has to be greater than the knock-down in order for us to get back up.