What I learnt from Malala, Sheryl & Adam

A few weeks ago I attended my first Intelligence2 event. The line-up just happened to be Malala Yousfzai, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.


Just some of the greatest minds and speakers of our time. It was truly amazing.

Sheryl, Malala and Adam — straight from my IPhone!
We all live some form of Option B — Sheryl Sandberg

I am so grateful that IntelligenceSquared put on such an amazing event and I managed to grab tickets before they sold out! I know many of my friends wanted to attend but couldn’t quite make it so I thought I would write up some key takeaways that I got from the event.

Finding gratitude even in the smallest of things is important.
Sheryl spoke about how losing her husband Dave at the young age of 47 and how this devastating event made her embrace the importance and significance of everything else in her life. I really love this message of gratitude because every day every single one of us has something to be grateful about. One action she gave here was to write down 3 things you are grateful for at the end of every day. Watch and wait to see how this positively affects your mood and your outlook on life.

If you are hopeless you waste the present and the future.
Sheryl mentioned how she initially spent days and days feeling hopeless and not knowing how she would cope with the rest of life. She said it was friends like Adam that really helped her to pull herself together again and realise that each day she wept for Dave was having an implication for her future and was surely not what he would have wanted for her and her kids.

Pre-traumatic growth is what we should all be aiming to achieve.
During the talk Sheryl and Adam spoke about pre-traumatic growth which is mentioned in their book Option B. Pre-traumatic growth is a similar concept along the lines of embracing gratitude and having a positive outlook on life. It is all about highlighting that you do not need to experience tragedy to build resilience for whatever lies ahead in life.

Less self-help and more help others
Adam mentioned during the talk how he puzzles over the fact that we have ever expanding self-help sections in bookstores and a serious lack of books about helping others. Why is that? It is crazy because most of us spend more time trying to help others than helping ourselves.

Accepting help is not a sign of weakness but sign of strength
For some reason there is a real stigma about getting help for anything as an adult. Beyond getting help with your homework during primary school, asking for help becomes stigmatised for adults and seems to imply that you are ‘weak’ or not mature enough to deal with your problems yourself. Or simply ‘adulting’. I think this is wrong and instead we should be trying to accept help where we can. Sometimes it is not necessary to struggle. The most recent example I can think of this is at university where I know some people felt reluctant to accept or ask for help from the university careers service or extenuating circumstances when they definitely needed it. In fact I think it’s quite mature to know when you can’t do everything yourself and you need other’s assistance and that seems to be what Adam emphasised during the talk too.

We could all be a bit more caring
During the conversation they also discussed Malala’s work with empowering girls all over the world. Malala spoke about how in Pakistan there is a culture for caring about others whether you know them or not. The west could do very well to adopt a more caring attitude. We need to show more compassion and put ourselves in others shoes more often. We can see how much people speak up about topics they are passionate about (Brexit, Refugee crisis, Black Lives Matter etc.) but Malala challenged us each to not only recognise that people are interested in these issues but address how we can harness this passion and interest to make a tangible difference in the world.

Sheryl is an amazing speaker
Sheryl has a wealth of experience in the corporate world as COO of Facebook and previous vice president of global online sales and operations at Google. For me as a young professional just getting started in her career, how easy she makes public speaking look and how natural and calm she looked on stage was incredible. She engaged the audience so effortlessly by sharing anecdotes from her life and getting us to raise our hands to see if we had had similar experiences.

Overall, I had a truly amazing time at this event. Malala’s passion and vision to change the world left me feeling empowered. Sheryl’s determination and eloquence made me feel inspired and Adam’s insight left me feeling knowledgeable.

It was great. You can watch a video or audio recording of the event here. I would also encourage you to check out Option B, it not just a book about death but a book that is widely applicable to anyone about building resilience and finding joy in everyday life.

If you would live to find out more about IntelligenceSquared Events — check them out here.

By Mary Agbesanwa (@MillennialMaryA on Twitter)

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