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Sheryl Sandberg gets personal in powerful UC Berkeley commencement speech

The Facebook Chief Operating Executive opened up about losing her husband last May.
/ Source: TODAY

It's graduation season, and you know what that means: commencement speeches, that all-you-can-absorb buffet of life lessons from some of the world's most inspiring people.

Let's be honest: A lot of these speech-givers give the same (good!) advice. Which is why it's so refreshing when they diverge from the normal path, like Facebook's Chief Operating Executive Sheryl Sandberg did on Saturday at UC Berkeley.

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Rather than discuss her professional challenges (which have been discussed ad nauseam by many others), Sheryl opted to go a more personal route, opening up about the "sudden and unexpected" death of her husband, Survey Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg, last May — and the result was an inspiring and uplifting speech that made so many others from this graduation season pale in comparison.

"I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss," she said, recalling a foggy state of grief that dragged on for months. "But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again."

The tragedy forced Sandberg to "lean in" to a side of herself she hadn't known existed.

RELATED: Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg reveals why she grieved publicly after husband's death

"When the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow," she said. "You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it."

She added, "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.”

Graduation can be a time of extreme celebratory highs and anxious lows. It's so important for grads to see the big picture beyond the immediate stress of finding a job and building an independent life ... and even those of us who have been adult-ing for years can benefit from this advice.

Thank you, Sheryl!