Sheryl Sandberg can teach a few lessons about resilience.
And that’s what she did during The Global Leadership Summit, a live simulcast expected to be broadcast to an estimated 400,000 people on Thursday and Friday.
The Fremont Church of the Nazarene was one of the broadcast sites.
Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, would learn much after the untimely death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, more than two years ago.
At that time, she and Goldberg were vacationing in Mexico, where he suddenly died of cardiac arrhythmia.
“For me, the grief was completely overwhelming,” she said. “I thought I would never feel better.”
Sandberg turned to friends and looked to God for comfort and to tradition.
She and Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, would write the book: “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.”
The book talks about three psychological traps of not getting through grief. They are:
Personalization (It’s all my fault) — Sandberg blamed herself for Goldberg’s death, for her not going to med school, and not knowing he had coronary artery disease.
“We blame ourselves for things that aren’t our fault,” she said. “It’s human to make mistakes. It’s not my fault he died and I know that now. And even if it had been my fault, beating yourself up over and over again is not the way to recover.”
Pervasiveness — At one point, it seemed like all areas of her life were terrible. Sandberg wondered how she could be a parent to grieving children. She figured she couldn’t do her job — she couldn’t get through a meeting without crying. Then Grant had her consider things that could have been worse. For instance, her husband could have had a cardiac arrhythmia while driving somewhere with the children. She would learn to find the things that are still good in her life.
Permanence — While the grief was overwhelming at first and Sandberg didn’t think it would get better, she realized it would.
When Sandberg wondered if she had enough resilience, Grant told her she was asking the wrong question.
“Resilience is the ability to overcome hardship and it is a muscle and you build it,” she said.
Sandberg decided she was going to mark every moment of joy and find reasons to be grateful. She would learn that people can experience post-traumatic growth.
“I would trade every bit of growth I have to have Dave back, but there are ways in which I have grown. I have a deeper, more appreciative, more meaningful life and gratitude has been part of this. Joy is something we have to look for.”
Sandberg said she’d feel guilty if she felt any joy, but knows people deserve moments of it.
She went back to work a different leader.
“I don’t sweat the small stuff as much. I have a calmer sense of what’s important,” she said.
Sandberg remembered when she returned to work how people were afraid to say anything. Now she can tell people that they may not want to talk about a trauma, but she’s there to go through it with them.
She spoke of the importance of building people back up after a traumatic situation. Sandberg told how helpful it was to have Facebook co-founder and chief operating officer Mark Zuckerberg give her a basic compliment after a meeting.
“Now, when people come back to work, I acknowledge what they’re going through, I ask them if they want time off, but I also say to them, ‘We still believe in you,’’’ she said.
Sandberg would learn how important it is for friends to be there for each other. She said it’s better to “show up and do something specific” than to simply offer to do something.
“You do not have to be someone’s best friend from the first grade to show up. We need to show up for each other,” she said.
Sandberg also said Grant told her to write down three moments of joy at the end of each day.
“I think sometimes we’re waiting to be happy because we think it’s the big stuff — getting to go on a special trip, getting a promotion, having a child,” she said. “Happiness is how we spend our days. It’s the small stuff. My coffee tasted great. My daughter gave me a hug without being asked.
“And by writing down those three things — and they were small — I realized I went to bed every night before this worried about what I did wrong or what I was going to do wrong the next day.
“When those moments happened I would say, ‘That’s a moment of joy.’ I was looking for the three things I was going to write down. I noticed it just a little bit more.
“We have to give other people permission to be joyful and we have to give ourselves (permission),” she added.
The Global Leadership Summit continues from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Nazarene church, 960 N. Johnson Road.