Sheryl Sandberg Is Teaching a New Free Online Course on Mental Toughness

This content is recommended for 30~60 minute sessions. Note that tutors may not be familiar with the content. Make sure you consult with your tutor before using this material. 


After a quick greeting, read the following article out loud. Your tutor will go over pronunciation if necessary.

Sheryl Sandberg. CREDIT: Getty Images

[P1] When it comes to the school of hard knocks, Sheryl Sandberg is, sadly, a star pupil. The Facebook executive and Lean In author got a tragic master class in resilience and bouncing back from searing loss when her husband died unexpectedly while the couple was on vacation in 2015.

[P2] In an effort to make something good come from something truly awful, Sandberg later turned that wrenching experience into her book Option B, co-authored with star Wharton professor Adam Grant.

[P3] Now the pair is bringing all their research and real-life insight into how to persevere when life wallops you with setbacks to a new venue — a free online course offered on LinkedIn.

Resilience is a skill you can learn
[P4] The quick course consists of nine videos of around two to three minutes each that delve into topics including how to talk to others who have experienced a loss, how to raise resilient kids, how to take back joy after a setback, and the importance of gratitude, even in the face of hardship.

[P5] It’s built upon a simple but powerful idea: Resilience isn’t something you have, it’s something you build. Rather than a character trait, grit is a skill you learn.

[P6] “I remember asking Adam, ‘How much resilience do I have? How do I figure it out? How much do my kids have?'” Sandberg recalls of the dark time following her husband’s passing in the emotional introductory video. “He said it was the wrong question. The question is not how much resilience do you have, because there’s not a fixed amount. You build resilience. So what I should be asking him is, ‘How do I build resilience?'”

[P7] “It’s a skill set that we work on throughout our lives,” agrees Grant in the video, who cautions that the time to learn extreme mental toughness isn’t after you face a loss or a setback. “It’s something we can build long before we face any kind of tragedy or difficulty.”

[P8] If that’s a skill you’d like to build in preparation for the inevitable struggles life throws in front of all of us, check out the free short course on LinkedIn.



Read the word/expression and definition out loud. Your tutor will go over anything you do not understand. Practice creating a sentence or two to make sure you know how to use the word/expression properly.

Vocabulary/ Expressions

Expression Definition
hard knocks (n) difficult or painful experiences that people have in their lives or careers
e.g. He has taken plenty of hard knocks in his life.
The school of hard knocks [=the difficult experiences in his life] taught him how to be tough.
searing (adj) extremely intense, severe, etc.
e.g. She felt a searing pain in her foot.
wrenching (adj) causing great mental or emotional pain
e.g. gut-wrenching decisions
persevere (v) to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult
e.g. She persevered in her studies and graduated near the top of her class.
grit (n) mental toughness and courage
e.g. Through resourcefulness and grit, the pioneers survived the winter.

Discussion Questions

Use the following questions as a guideline to help develop an interesting conversation with your tutor. Feel free to diverge from these suggestions if anything interesting comes up.

  1. Summarize the article in your own words.
  2. Describe the most recent setback that you have experienced. And how you reacted to it?
  3. How do you normally deal with tough situations?
  4. What does ‘grit’ mean? How do you think you can build resilience to setbacks in your life? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!


Go over any new expressions or vocabulary that you learned today.

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