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Video: Author: Vulnerability is a ‘measure of courage’

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    >>> we all feel vulnerable from time to time. her new book "daring greatly" is a "new york times" best seller. dr. brown, good to see you.

    >> thank you.

    >> we asked a great mom, who happens to be hanging around, kimora lee .

    >> she puts herself out there.

    >> model, mogul and mom.

    >> we've been cracking jokes behind the scenes so we're ready.

    >> we're ready.

    >> okay. the title of the book "dare great greatly" where does that come from?

    >> it's a phrase from a speech roosevelt gave that says -- some people recognize it as it's not the critic who counts. the speech goes on to say it's not the critic, it's the person in the arena, who may be winning, may be losing, may be getting their butt kik cked but at least they're in there, daring greatly. this is everything i know about vulnerability. it's not about winning. it's not about losing. it's about showing up and letting ourselves be seen.

    >> i love that quote. the question that you used to guide your life in the past was what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail. but now instead you changed that thinking and say we should all be doing this, what is worth trying even if i fail? so why the change?

    >> i think we have to show up. i think we have to find the courage to walk into the arena . and when we ask people, what is vulnerability, the answers were shocking to me. vulnerability is saying i love you first. vulnerability is the first date after my divorce. vulnerability is trying to get pregnant after my second miscarriage. it's initiating sex with my wife, starting my own business. you know, putting my work out to the world. and so i think there's a myth that vulnerability is weakness when, in fact, i think it's our most accurate measure of courage. i think walking into that arena, especially in this culture today, where people are so critical and cynical, is incredibly brave.

    >> vulnerability can be very scary, too, though. you feel like you let your guard down, open yourself up and what if you're rejected after all that? that can devastate people. how do you help people prepare for the possibility that they might be rejected and find the courage to go ahead and be vulnerable anyway?

    >> there's no question. this is so important to talk about. if you keep going in the arena, you're going to come out bruised and bloodied a few times. that's just inevitable. i do think it's scary but i don't think it's as scary as spending our lives wondering what it would be like if we were to have shown up.

    >> i have three small kids. and hearing about vulnerability, you always think maybe am i giving in, am i letting them get away with murder? who is the parent and who is the adult? how does that come into play when it's about parenting and your young kids? you don't want to give in for everything. you want to be tough but not too tough.

    >> yeah. i'm a parent as well. i have a 7-year-old and a 13-year-old. i think it's the ultimate act of vulnerability, parenting. i think forever, in our entire parenting lives. for me it's really important -- one thing i think you have to bring into the arena with you at all times is a real clear idea of your values. parenting from our values and having the courage to be especially -- i have a teenage girl. to not be the friend, to be unliked. to stand up for what you believe in and to model that for your kids. what we need today are more courageous kids, kids who understand boundaries, know how to set them, respect them and hold them.

    >> in my case, a parenting question i have is teaching our kids to be grateful for the little things , because we do live in a day and age where kids expect instant gratification and they are so spoiled. but i want them to really appreciate the little things and their health and their happiness, because that goes a long way.

    >> gratitude and joy emerged as huge variables in my research. the most effective way to do it, really, is make gratitude a family practice . all of us fear raising kids who are privileged because our kids have a will the of thing we didn't have maybe. there's a big difference between privilege and entitlement and that difference is a gratitude practice.

    >> dr. renee brown, giving us a lot of things to

TODAY books
updated 1/22/2013 7:28:54 PM ET 2013-01-23T00:28:54

In "Daring Greatly," Dr. Brené Brown provides the tools to engage with vulnerability and transform the way you lead your life. Here's an excerpt.

The phrase Daring Greatly is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” The speech, sometimes referred to as “The Man in the Arena,” was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. This is the passage that made the speech famous:

“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 is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

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. . . .”

The first time I read this quote, I thought, This is vulnerability. Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.

Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.

Trust yourself: What's the best parenting advice you ever got?

When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be — a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation — with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Join me as we explore the answers to these questions:

  • What drives our fear of being vulnerable?
  • How are we protecting ourselves from vulnerability?
  • What price are we paying when we shut down and disengage?
  • How do we own and engage with vulnerability so we can start transforming the way we live, love, parent, and lead?

My moment to “dare greatly,” as Theodore Roosevelt once urged citizens to do, came in June 2010 when I was invited to speak at TEDxHouston. TEDxHouston is one of many independently organized events modeled after TED— a nonprofit addressing the worlds of Technology, Entertainment, and Design that is devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TED and TEDx organizers bring together “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers” and challenge them to give the talk of their life in eighteen minutes or less.

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The TEDxHouston curators were unlike any event organizers I’ve known. Bringing in a shame- and-vulnerability researcher makes most organizers a little nervous and compels a few to get somewhat prescriptive about the content of the talk. When I asked the TEDx people what they wanted me to talk about, they responded, “We love your work. Talk about whatever makes you feel awesome— do your thing. We’re grateful to share the day with you.” Actually, I’m not sure how they made the decision to let me do my thing, because before that talk I wasn’t aware of having a thing. I loved the freedom of that invitation and I hated it. I was back straddling the tension between leaning into the discomfort and finding refuge in my old friends, prediction and control. I decided to go for it. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Gotham Books
My decision to dare greatly didn’t stem from self-confidence as much as it did from faith in my research. I know I’m a good researcher, and I trusted that the conclusions I had drawn from the data were valid and reliable. Vulnerability would take me where I wanted or maybe needed to go. I also convinced myself that it wasn’t really a big deal: It’s Houston, a hometown crowd. Worst- case scenario, five hundred people plus a few watching the live streaming will think I’m a nut.

The morning after the talk, I woke up with one of the worst vulnerability hangovers of my life. You know that feeling when you wake up and everything feels fine until the memory of laying yourself open washes over you and you want to hide under the covers? What did I do? Five hundred people officially think I’m crazy and it totally sucks. I forgot to mention two important things. Did I actually have a slide with the word breakdown on it to reinforce the story that I shouldn’t have told in the first place? I must leave town.

Today that talk is one of the most viewed on TED.com, with more than five million hits and translation available in thirty-eight languages.

The experience of sharing my research led me to write this book.

My corporate talks almost always focus on inspired leadership or creativity and innovation. The most significant problems that everyone from C- level executives to the frontline folks talk to me about stem from disengagement, the lack of feedback, the fear of staying relevant amid rapid change, and the need for clarity of purpose. If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to rehumanize work. When shame becomes a management style, engagement dies. When failure is not an option we can forget about learning, creativity, and innovation.

When it comes to parenting, the practice of framing mothers and fathers as good or bad is both rampant and corrosive— it turns parenting into a shame minefield. The real questions for parents should be: “Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?” If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn’t exist, and I’ve found that what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults. The same is true for schools. I haven’t encountered a single problem that isn’t attributed to some combination of parental, teacher, administrative, and/or student disengagement and the clash of competing stakeholders vying to define one purpose.

Reprinted from Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2012.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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