I love Brené Brown’s story.

A “late bloomer,” Brené graduated from her undergrad when she was 29 years old, then proceeded straight into her master’s and Ph.D. programs. She experienced first-hand the impact of amazing professors and knew what she wanted her life’s work to be—changing the lives of students while getting to talk about what she was passionate about.

And Brené is passionate about vulnerability. She shared her passion in a TedxHouston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” and to her great surprise, it went viral. To date, it has been viewed over 35 million times online and is one of the top 5 TED talks of all time.

This event opened up a whole new world to Brené, including some great opportunities and discussions, but it also came with a heavy price. For every 1,000 supportive comments and engaging exchanges, Brené would receive a bitter, horrible ad hominem attack that left her reeling. She had to make a choice: move forward, or stay out of the arena?

“I found it a really hard time in my life, when I needed to be reminded that I was in the arena, and that I was trying to be brave with my life and my work, and it’s not the critic who counts. And so, it’s not hyperbole to say my life changed when I read [a quote from Teddy Roosevelt], ‘cause I was flooded with this belief that, You know what? One, I’m going to be in the arena. Two, vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s showing up when you can’t control the outcome, including the trolls on Twitter. And I’m gonna stop taking feedback from people who are not also being brave.”

Brené has certainly taken “showing up” to heart. She has written five New York Times bestsellers, and recently became the first researcher to have a filmed talk on Netflix, “Called to Courage.” She is passionate and enthusiastic, but also careful and measured in how she spends her time. While some enjoy the “further faster” approach to their career, Brené has discovered that she would rather keep things, “slower, closer,” and really examine whether any endeavor will bring her joy.

“I think I’ve spent a lot of my career proving, and I’m at the place now where I’m trying to inhale, and ask myself, ‘Am I doing this to prove that I can? Or because I want to, and it brings me joy?’”

I’m excited to see what new learning curve Brené will jump to next. Join us as we discuss what brings Brené joy; who inspired her to pay attention to vulnerability; and how the stories we tell ourselves can make or break us. Download the episode on iTunes, or listen on the player below. If you have a comment or some constructive feedback, please let us know!

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Takeaways from this episode:

  • Brené was a “late bloomer” that took her time going through school (it took her 12 years to receive her undergrad). Despite this, she has had an amazing impact on the world and taught many people the truth about vulnerability. If you’re thinking it’s “too late” for you to make a difference, think again.
  • Never underestimate the power of an excellent teacher.
  • Growing up, Brené felt that vulnerability was a weakness. After watching her mother grieve for a sibling that had been senselessly killed in a random act of violence, Brené realized that her view of vulnerability couldn’t be accurate. Her mother was the strongest person she knew. In that moment she was vulnerable, and yet not weak. This lead Brené to really dig in to research on vulnerability, and it changed her life.
  • Brené’s favorite quote from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who’s actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, and who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, when she fails, at least does so daring greatly.”
  • Research shows that you only need one or two people cheering you on, even if you feel there are more people in the “cheap seats.” Find people that will love you in your imperfections—“yes people” won’t give you honest feedback, and you need it.
  • Our brains are wired for storytelling. “In the absence of data, we make up stories.” This includes narratives about ourselves. What story are you telling about yourself? Brené’s research shows that those who are resilient reality-check their stories frequently.
  • When someone is leaving an organization, that is not only an event for the individual and their boss, but for the whole organization (communal experience). In the absence of data, people will make up stories. Be the kind of leader that offers a space for people to check out those stories.
  • Not everyone enjoys “scaling up.” After successfully creating new businesses, Brené realized that she is happier when she keeps things slower and closer. In order to write about things that are meaningful for others, she needs to be intensely and joyfully in her own life. When a new project comes around, she asks herself, “What are my days going to look like? What are my next 180 days going to look like?”
  • Also ask yourself, “Am I talking to myself like I talk to someone I love?”

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