Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, Gotham Books, 256 pages, $25.00, Hardcover, September 2012, ISBN 9781592407330
The first thing to know about Daring Greatly is that it is engaging but unadorned. It’s an important distinction to make about a book we are recommending to a business audience, because while the book falls solidly into the self-help genre, Daring Greatly isn’t soft or amorphous despite its focus on feeling, on “vulnerability.” Perhaps it is because the research presented in the book is plentiful. Brené Brown, is “a fifth-generation Texan with a family motto of ‘lock and load’” whose “huge heart and ready empathy” has allowed her to write a book that has a straight-shooting, yet compassionate voice. Still, you might wonder why we’re recommending this book about embracing what some may view as weakness. Consider this:
Yes, we are totally exposed when we are vulnerable. Yes, we are in the torture chamber that we call uncertainty. And yes, we’re taking a huge emotional risk when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. But there’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves us to emotional exposure equals weakness.
So if vulnerability isn’t weakness, what is it? For Brown, it is “life’s great dare. It’s life asking, ‘Are you all in?’ Answering ‘yes’…is not a weakness: it’s courage beyond measure. It’s daring greatly.” But to do so, we need to re-cast vulnerability as a welcome thing, and work through all those issues of shame, perfection, fear, and cynicism that come up when we face uncertainty and risk.
Brené Brown’s “moment to ‘dare greatly’” came when she was invited to present at a TED event in Houston in 2010. A social worker and scholar, Brown's nerve was challenged by this notable public appearance, but she proceeded despite feeling vulnerable, despite being worried about how her ideas on that very thing would be received. A success, eventually her presentation appeared on the main TED website and has gained over 4 million views.
You see, only by embracing vulnerability can we fully engage in our lives.
Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive.
If you see something of yourself in that statement, and we all likely do, then this book, Daring Greatly, is for you.