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Step Into the Arena and Dare Greatly: Brené Brown


Who is it for: Everyone, but specially those who believe they can skip vulnerability and still reach connection. Men -particularly those who believe masculinity cannot include emotion- can benefit from this book.

What makes it special: There is plenty to choose from when it comes to the author's work. However, this book is great at condensing some of the major topics she specializes in a clear, and effective message. It also covers leadership at home, at work, and in other organizational settings.

Let's make some unnecessary labels: Creativity, Personal & Professional Development, Organizational Leadership & Psychology.


Few speakers -writers in particular- reach the highs that Brené Brown achieved with her first TED talk in 2011. The unlikely juggernaut touched on a nerve that most of the population can relate to with over 13 million views and dealing with the subject of shame and vulnerability. 

A few years later, she released Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. It reflected the author's work, experience, and research combined into a single, accessible package. Brené Brown begins the book with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt's famous 1910 speech, and it sets the tone for the entire journey about learning to lean in, find courage, be vulnerable and dare to succeed, thrive, fail and live wholeheartedly. When the TED talk launched, the author was not prepared to step into the spotlight, always riddled by social conditioning to not be vulnerable, and playing small, she was thrust into the arena with nothing but her research.

The author herself will attest and recount the difficult process of stepping into her own, stop playing small, and dare for greatness. Through her journey and supported by her personal experience and the data she had collected, she set up to become one of the most renowned speakers on the subject of shame and vulnerability and the importance it has for personal and professional development. 

In Daring Greatly, Brené addresses the biggest misconceptions about vulnerability and the cost for individuals and organizations who choose to ignore its power, thus stifling their development, creativity, and overall wellness. After all, the work she proposes is a necessity, not a nicety to have when it comes to leadership and development. Shame disarms and weighs down those who are unaware of its presence or believe its existence is unavoidable.

At the core of her work is the recognition that human beings seek connection and thrive when allowed to engage wholeheartedly with others. She is careful to note that not everyone is 'worthy' of hearing someone's story, and that organization leaders do not need to confuse disclosure with vulnerability. There needs to be innate mutual respect between the parties, and the process to become vulnerable is long and measured. 


Book Quotes:


“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.”


“Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.”


“To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”


“Worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability) we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.”


“We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.”


“Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. I often say that Wholeheartedness is like the North Star: We never really arrive, but we certainly know if we’re headed in the right direction.”


“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”


“Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”


“Living a connected life ultimately is about setting boundaries, spending less time and energy hustling and winning over people who don’t matter, and seeing the value of working on cultivating connection with family and close friends.”


“…In its original Latin form, sacrifice means to make sacred or to make holy. I wholeheartedly believe that when we are fully engaged in parenting, regardless of how imperfect, vulnerable, and messy it is, we are creating something sacred.”


“Belonging: Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”


“Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?”


“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”


“One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”


“Shame resilience is the ability to say, “This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not the values that drive me. My value is courage and I was just courageous. You can move on, shame.”


“When we stop caring about what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits gets crushed. It’s a tightrope, shame resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality-check the criticism and cynicism.”

“We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”


“There is no intimacy without vulnerability. Yet another powerful example of vulnerability as courage.”


“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.”


“When we feel good about the choices we’re making and when we’re engaging with the world from a place of worthiness rather than scarcity, we feel no need to judge and attack.”


“What we know matters, but who we are matters more.”