Thanks to Patty Phillips for recommending this month’s featured selection. The North St. Paul superintendent recommended Brene' Brown’s Daring Greatly, as well as Brown’s TED Talks on YouTube. The rest of the title is How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Leave it to Patty to find a comprehensive book about authenticity and vulnerability, two extremely important aspects of leadership which are very difficult to achieve when you are in the public spotlight so often as the individual leader of your district.
“Daring greatly” is a term made popular by Theodore Roosevelt in his 1910 speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” Roosevelt’s speech credits the individual who is actually in the arena striving valiantly and spending himself or herself in a worthy cause and who “at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Brown interviews men and women who felt they were not “enough” and compares their stories with those of people who embrace vulnerability to live a life filled with passion and purpose, not only their own but also with others. After twelve years of research, Brown finds that the associated emotions around shame, connection, and worthiness are actually what make vulnerability the epicenter of meaningful human experiences. Her TED Talk “The Power of Vulnerability” was so popular, it inspired this book.
Brown investigates what drives vulnerability, the pervasive defense mechanisms that guard against it, the price of disengagement and turning off, and how to embrace and use vulnerability to live, love, parent, and lead more fully and wholeheartedly. The pursuit of “enough” is linked to our “culture of scarcity.” This ties self-worth to achievement and provokes endless comparison to others—just like what happens in referendum issues of whose passed and whose did not and why gets tied to our own self esteem at times. We need to dispel the myth that vulnerability is a negative force synonymous with weakness. This must be addressed because TRUST is the tremendous connection that arises when people have the courage to put themselves “in the arena.” Shame -resilience allows courage to replace fear, and self-worth is no longer attached to accomplishment.
We have learned to create masks and armor like disengagement, perfectionism, numbing, cynicism and victim mentality. You could put a name to each one of these as we look around at our colleagues, unfortunately. Brown gives us directions on how to step out into the arena and take the risks. The education system uses shame on a daily basis, with 85 percent of interviewees reporting they had experienced an impending shame-based school experience. Creativity, innovation, and learning, at work and in schools, have been replaced by predictability and safety—two defenses against vulnerability.
Instill a shame-resilient culture that promotes and rewards respect and empathy, and holds creativity and risk in high regard. Provide honest feedback and cultivate engagement to create a “daring greatly culture.”
Brown leaves the reader with some applications of the concept:
· 1. Check in with yourself. (Is this what I really want?)
· 2. Find your truth through trust. (Can I step into the arena and announce, “I am enough!”?)
· 3. Start talking to yourself. (Remind myself that I am enough and what I have done is enough…or I wouldn’t even be in the arena.)
· 4. Kick the Joneses off the block. (Am I setting up a competition that will destroy the possibility for connection and whole hearted engagement?)
Thank you, Patty, for this suggestion. I also came across Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. This too was a great read, especially for those of us who continue to be recovering perfectionists.
Send me a tweet like Patty did (@rauschenfels) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or a text (218-310-9550) and tell me what you are reading. I will share it with our colleagues.
Thankful to be associated with so many great, engaged, and vulnerable leaders in this time of grateful abundance,