Brene Brown starts off her book Daring Greatly with the following quote from Theodore 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 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, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The rest of the book deals with what it means to be in the ring and dare greatly.
Join me for the next 10 minutes as we explore why daring greatly is such short supply these days, and what we can do to create more of it in ourselves and the people we lead.
**The Problem: A Culture of Scarcity**
Why don’t we have more “people in the ring?”
Brown suggests it’s because we live in a culture of scarcity, which has three distinct components. Here are some questions to consider to determine whether or not you are working in an organisation where there is a culture of scarcity.
Is fear of being made fun of used to manage people and keep them in line? Is the self-worth of the people who work with you connected to achievement, productivity, or compliance? Do you often find people blaming each other for problems? Is name calling an acceptable norm?
As Brown points out, there’s a difference between health comparison and unhealthy comparison. Is there constant comparing and ranking of people at your company? Are people judged only by narrow standards and not recognised for their unique contributions to the team?
Are people afraid to try new things and take risks? In meetings, is it easier for you and others to stay quiet in meetings rather than share stories, experiences or ideas? When you do share, does it feel like nobody is paying attention or listening carefully?
If you answered yes to some or all of those questions, it’s likely that you are participating in a culture of scarcity.
Why are so many organisations like that? It has a lot to do with how we perceive and view vulnerability in our culture.
**Myths of Vulnerability**
Daring Greatly requires us to be vulnerable, which means that we leave ourselves open to uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
There are 4 myths of vulnerability that have led us to, as a culture, view it as something to be avoided at all costs.
*Myth 1: Vulnerability is Weakness*
To speak up when we don’t understand. To do push to the edges of our ability to see what we are truly made of, even though we will most likely fail. To share when we are struggling with something so that we can get help.
Unfortunately, in our culture, those things are considered weaknesses. You are supposed to hit your goals, know the answers, and keep a positive attitude at all times.
However, only the strong can admit when they are struggling and push themselves to the limits of their abilities, exposing themselves to certain and constant failure.
Brown knows this from her research, because when people describe what vulnerability feels like, they describe things that look an awful lot like strength instead of weakness:
– Asking for help
– Saying no
– Starting my own business
– Helping my wife with cancer prepare her will
– Saying “I love you” first
– Trying something new
– Getting pregnant after three miscarriages
– Waiting for the biopsy to come back
– Exercising in public when I’m out of shape
*Myth #2: I don’t do vulnerability*
Brown starts off this section with a great quote from Madeleine L’Engle:
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
It’s easy to tell yourself that you “don’t do” vulnerability – that’s for other people. That’s for children.
But, of course, there’s no way to avoid it in life. As Brown says, we don’t do vulnerability, vulnerability does us.
*Myth #3: Vulnerability is Putting it All Out*
Vulnerability is not oversharing, talking to everybody you meet about your feelings and posting emotional messages on Facebook.
Rather, it’s sharing your feelings and experiences with the people who have earned the right to be in your inner circle. Vulnerability is something to be shared with people you can trust.
As Brown points out, trust is something that is built “one marble at a time,” which is a reference to a concept she calls “The Marble Jar.” Basically, trust is not a single grand gesture, but something that gets built by small and consistent deposits over time – like remembering somebody’s birthday, keeping secrets when you are asked to, and sensing when somebody is sad and asking them why.
*Myth #4: We Go at it Alone*
We live in a culture that celebrates individual achievement. However, vulnerability isn’t one of those things you want to do by yourself.
You’ll need somebody by your side to help pick you up and dust yourself off. You’ll need people that will let you try on different ways of being as you get used to expressing yourself in new ways.
Vulnerability is a team sport.
**Understanding and Combatting Shame**
What’s standing in our way from becoming more vulnerable?
Shame. It’s the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.
It’s the silent killer of hopes and dreams, because it’s the biggest killer of creativity and innovation.
Let’s say that you’ve written an article, designed a product or created a piece of music and you want to share it with your friends or colleagues.
When your sense of self-worth is tied up in how your project is received, one of two things happen:
1. Once you realise (consciously or subconsciously) that your self-worth is tied to how they respond, you are unlikely to share it. Or sand off all of the rough edges of the idea to make it more likely not to be rejected.
2. You do share it fully, and when the reception isn’t what you had hoped, you are crushed. Your shame tells you that it was a bad idea to share your ideas and that “next time we’ll know better than to share our ideas.”
Brown tells us that there are three things that we need to know about shame.
1. We all have it. It’s one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience and the only people who don’t experience it have no capacity for human connection.
2. We are all afraid to talk about shame.
3. The less we talk about it, the more control it has over our lives.
What do we do to combat shame as it shows up in our day to day lives?
1. Recognise shame and understand what triggers it in you. Shame comes along with some physical signs, which only you’ll be able to spot. When it happens, examine what happened immediately before the feeling. What events or messages triggered the shame?
2. Practicing critical awareness. Do a reality check about the events or messages that triggered it. Are the expectations you placed on yourself reasonable and attainable?
3. Reaching out. Share your story with the people in your circle of trust.
4. Speaking shame. When you are connecting with that person, talk not just about the event but also how it makes you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in that moment.
**The Vulnerability Armory**
When we were children, we found a lot of different ways to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. From being hurt and disappointed.
We used our thoughts, emotions and behaviour as weapons and how to make ourselves blend in or disappear.
As adults, we have to let go of that baggage so we can be ourselves again. It’s the only way to “be in the arena.”
Here are some of the vulnerability shields we might have used in the past and how we can replace it with Daring Greatly to finally let them go.
It feels safer to feel nothing or wallow in our negative thoughts than it does to be happy and risk being seen. Too much joy equals pain.
The antidote for foreboding joy is gratitude for the happy moments and joyful events in our lives.
We use perfectionism as a shield by telling ourselves we’ll avoid shame once we get it perfect. Which, of course, we never do.
The antidote is to have compassion for yourself and a sense of worthiness, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.
A glass of wine before going to sleep, occupying all your free time with Netflix and anything else you use to escape from reality on a regular basis.
The antidote is to get in touch with your feelings and to learn how to deal with difficult emotions. It’s the only way to reliably deal with stress.
**Daring Greatly for Leaders**
So, what does all of that have to do with you being a better leader?
Through her research, Brown has spoken to thousands of people from all walks of life. As she was asking herself (and the people she was interviewing) what they would want to say to their leaders about the topic of vulnerability, they had this to say, which Brown calls the Daring Greatly Manifesto:
To the CEOs and teachers. To the principals and the managers. To the politicians, community leaders, and decision-makers:
– We want to show up, we want to learn and we want to inspire.
– We are hardwired for connection, curiosity and engagement.
– We crave purpose and we have a deep desire to create and contribute.
– We want to take risks, embrace our vulnerabilities and be courageous.
– When learning and working are dehumanised – when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform, we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas and our passion.
What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us and learn from us.
Feedback is a function of respect; when you don’t have honest conversations with us about our strengths and our opportunities for growth, we question our contributions and your commitment.
Above all else, we ask that you show up, let yourself be seen and be courageous. Dare Greatly with us.
So, if that’s what your people want to see from you, what’s the solution?
Brown calls it “sitting on the same side of the table.” Basically, it’s a set of rules to tell you how to be present when you need to give feedback to one of the people under your charge.
Here’s how you know that you are ready to give feedback that creates the environment for Daring Greatly:
– You are ready to sit beside them, rather than across from them;
– You are willing to put the problem in front of both of you, rather than between you.
– You are ready to listen, ask questions and admit that you might not fully understand the issue;
– You what to acknowledge what they do well instead of focussing on their mistakes;
– You want to recognise their strengths and figure out how to use them to find and implement the right solution;
– You can hold them accountable with blaming or shaming them;
– You are willing to own your part of the problem;
– You can genuinely thank them for their efforts;
– You can talk about how resolving the challenges will lead to their growth and opportunity;
– You can model the vulnerability that you want to see in them.
If you are ready to do all that as a leader, you are ready to Dare Greatly.
Hope you enjoyed this summary. As always leave me a comment if you did.
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