At 9:15 AM, this past Saturday, the line in front of Marathon Music Works in Nashville, TN was already a block long and several people deep. The doors were scheduled to open at 10AM for Rising Strong Day with Brené Brown to begin at 11AM.
As I was walking from the parking lot toward the line, a passerby asked what was happening. When I related the information and mentioned Random House as one of the sponsors, he replied, dismissively, “It must be nice having a big publisher back her”(Brené). I smiled, mentioned it was her 5th book over a multi year career and continued on my way. I interpreted his response to my comment as a smirk.
The theme of the program was “When you own your story, you get to write a brave new ending.”
The title of the book, Rising Strong, was written by social scientist, Brené Brown, a grounded theory researcher who states in the book’s introduction that she knew she would “ultimately write a book about falling down” …and getting back up over and over again. (Her TED Talk on vulnerability is one of the top 5 in viewings.)
Brené Brown is a successful woman. She could have brought a polished, professional, I’ve so got this/made it, woohoo look at me self to the stage. She could have. She didn’t.
She was professional, articulate, engaging, and polished but what she initially shared with the 800 of us in the audience as she walked on stage was her emotion. She felt overwhelmed.
When the event was set up, she felt afraid. She wondered aloud how many people she knew in Nashville she could call to fill seats!
She looked around the packed venue and paused. She couldn’t get over that 70% of the attendees were from out of state and that 3 foreign countries were represented, all to hear about her latest research on falling, getting your butt kicked. Isn’t that how anybody wants to spend a Saturday? (in Nashville!)
Her overwhelm was palpable and genuine. She shared her emotion. (a critical component of her new book)
Then, she knocked it out of the park with her presentation!
She described her (and others’) recent research conclusions in a manner understandable to anyone. She used words such as: reckon, rumble, y’all(she’s from Texas), shitstorm, and badass. Brené is a PhD. She knows the professional language. She is a professor. However, she mentions in the introduction to Rising Strong her desire to start a global conversation: shame, vulnerability, imperfection, whole hearted living, courage, falling down, getting up, being in the “arena”.
She reminded us of Theodore Roosevelt’s quote with which she opened her last book, Daring Greatly:
“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 up 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….”
Brené talked about the critics. She shared that if the critic isn’t in the arena, she doesn’t engage. She emphasized that the critic still creates hurt feelings. We should never numb to the hurt feelings but, instead, refuse to engage with the critic.
She illustrated an example of healthy “caring what they think of me” by giving us this exercise:
Draw a 1″ x 1″ box in the middle of a piece of paper.
The names of those who you care what they think of you should fit in the box!
The critic I met on the way into the program isn’t in the “arena”. Maybe he will step in someday. Until then, his comments don’t matter.
The importance of connection is a key element of Brené’s work. She used stories, personal stories, to illustrate some of the concepts she was teaching. In her new book, she mentions an increased use of personal stories to enhance learning.
Brené defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship”
She demonstrated connection in an interesting way that I found to be unexpectedly moving; so simple in appearance though the intention behind the gesture required mindfulness.
Each of the 800 attendees had the opportunity for a photo op with Brené. I’ve attended events with this opportunity several times and this was subtly, powerfully different. The usual experience, which I’ve observed but taken a pass, has been one in which the speaker pastes on a smile as the line of people parade by with nary the turn of the speaker’s head.
Not this time.
As each one of us had a turn, Brené shook our hand, looked us in the eyes and said, “Hi, I’m Brené”.
Exhausting for her, right?
After 4 straight hours of Brené greeting individuals, during which time other excellent speakers were presenting, Brené arrived back onstage for a final interview with the editor of O Magazine.
She was vibrant and laughing, stating that people continually asked her if she wasn’t exhausted by the recent meet and greet photo op.
Her answer, no, it was energizing to connect with people. Connection. Energy. Leading by example.
Sometimes in life we are blessed to be in the presence of the “real deal”, the authentic, no BS, generous, loving, brilliant human.
Today, we connected with one of them, Brené Brown.
Brené made it clear that all of us have this capacity for truth.
She is opening that door to everyone, professionals, non-professionals, leaders, and team members through affordable online courses. www.COURAGEworks.com
16 years ago, Brené Brown’s stated vision was to begin global conversations about uncomfortable topics.
Based upon her client list, the world is taking notice.