August 24, 2015
Brené Brown taught us how to be courageously vulnerable in her last book. Her new book teaches us how to get up when that inevitably knocks us down.
Bren Brown knows this well, and has devoted new book, Rising Strong (out 8/25 from Spiegel & Grau), to the topic. You may know Bren Brown from her brilliant bestseller, Daring Greatly. That book was more than a bestseller, though... for many of those who read it, it was a breakthrough.
Daring Greatly changed how we view and experience vulnerability, encouraging us to embrace it as a strength rather than viewing it as a weakness, to love with our whole hearts, to live wholeheartedly, to pull down the barriers between us and others, to open ourselves up and feel fully. It told us to take a chance, to be all in. Of course, when we do that—in love, in business, in life in general—we often stumble, get hurt, and fall flat on our faces. So Rising Strong is an obvious continuation of her previous work (which includes an earlier bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection). As she puts it:
Here's how I see the progression of my work:
The Gifts of Imperfection—Be you.
Daring Greatly—Be all in.
Rising Strong—Fall. Get up. Try again.
But why are we recommending and giving this book away to a business book audience? For a very good reason, I assure you. As Ms. Brown explains:
Rising strong is the same process whether you're navigating personal or professional struggles. ... Whether you're a young man dealing with heartbreak, a retired couple struggling with disappointment, or a manager trying to recover after a failed project, the practice is still the same. We have no sterile business remedy for having fallen. We still need to dig into the grit of issues like resentment, grief, and forgiveness. ... Just because you're standing in your office or your classroom or your studio doesn't mean that you can take the emotion out of the process. You cannot.
It's a point that's reinforced as she dives into the first big story of the book, which incorporates and eye opening trip to Pixar Studios and her love of (Pixar co-founder and president) Ed Catmull's book Creativity Inc.. It involves the difficulty of the creative process, of getting through the difficult day two of her vulnerability training process, and how to have a good fight in one's marriage—or at least how to recover from the hurt of one.
But back to work... We like to proclaim that "it's not personal, it's business." But for those of us who have had the wind knocked out of us at work, we know that's a lie. We can set up emotional barriers around us, and often do to protect ourselves, but those just as often impede our own progress and development by stifling productive and helpful relationships. And they never truly protect us in the long run anyway. It's best to remain open to potential, possibility, and progress with others at work, even if it comes with the potential hurt, shame, and blows to our ego that exist when we're vulnerable. And those will come. So it's important that we learn to take our lumps and get back up, hopefully even stronger and with new knowledge from the experience. It's not easy, but it's essential. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, offers insight into that process and a wealth of research to back it. What she does not offer is a one-size-fits-all formula, because as she tells us:
I think attempting to sell people an easy fix for pain is the worst kind of snake oil. Rising Strong doesn't offer a solution or a recipe or step-by-step guidance. It presents a theory—grounded in data—that explains the basic social processes that men and women experience as they are working to rise after falling. It is a map meant to orient you to the most significant patterns and themes that emerged from my research. ... I've seen the process take twenty minutes, and I've seen it take twenty years.
Bren arrives to the page with a wealth of stories, her own and so many others. As she says, "That's where my richest data comes from: a person's lived experiences." And, in the process of telling these stories, Bren teaches us walk into and own our own. It is a process that mirrors Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, but is focused on and framed by her own research and conclusions.
The Rising Strong Process
The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives.
THE RECKONING: WALKING INTO OUR STORY
Recognizing emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.
THE RUMBLE: OWNING THE STORY
Get honest about the stories we're making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations ans assumptions to determine what's truth, what's self-projection, and what need to change if we want to live more wholehearted lives.
Write a new ending to our story based on the key leanings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead
We have been hammering home (or focusing on books that hammer home) the idea that business is an essentially human pursuit here lately, and that as computers get smarter and automation takes over more of our economy, our role in the business process will become even more focused on our most human qualities—those that separate us from our machines, like social skills, emotional intelligence, knowing how to collaborate and work well with others. Bren Brown adds vulnerability, bravery, and resilience as a key component in all of those. She teaches us how to be brave, and vulnerable, and how to pick ourselves up off the pavement when we've been ground into it. Daring Greatly helped us find the courage to start that journey. Rising Strong provides us a map for making it to the other side—changed, but intact—when we're knocked down along the way.And we have 20 copies of this map available to those who want to throw their hat in the ring.
This is usually where I'd circle back to the beginning and the quote from Vince Lombardi, but I'm actually a Chicago Bear fan. Of course, remaining a fan of the Bears, one of the most consistently dysfunctional and futile organizations in football, in the state that is the home to their rival Packers, one of the most consistently well-run and successful, is opening oneself to an irrationally emotional vulnerability and struggle all its own.