Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, knows a thing or two about vulnerability: In 2007, she delivered a talk at a TEDx conference in her native Texas called “The Power of Vulnerability,” in which she revealed that her decade of research on shame and worthiness had led to a personal breakdown. “The definition of research is to control and predict,” Brown told an audience of entrepreneurs, educators and tech CEOs, “and now my [research] had turned up the answer that the way to live was with vulnerability, and to stop controlling and predicting.” Coming from an eminent social researcher, the admission was doubtless a gutsy one, but her message resonated far beyond the auditorium. The video of Brown’s talk on TED.com has been viewed nearly 6 million times, making it one of most popular talks in the organization’s history.
Following the talk, Brown expanded on her ideas in two books. In “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘Am I Good Enough?’ to ‘I Am Enough,'” she unraveled the struggle for perfection by showing that the people we love and admire (and often seek to emulate) are not flawless, but accepting of their shortcomings and honest about their weaknesses. In “The Gifts of Imperfection,” she focused on identity, positing that the rift between our real and ideal selves gives rise to feelings of shame and disconnectedness.
Now, in “Daring Greatly,” Brown presents the sum of her work on vulnerability and wholeheartedness that has made her both a magnetic figure in intellectual circles and a voice of reassurance for devoted fans and readers. The title of the new book, which hit stores last week, comes from a famous speech by Teddy Roosevelt in which he stated that “It is not the critic who counts…[but] the man in the arena…who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Opening ourselves up to the possibility of danger, criticism, failure and injury, Brown argues, is the only path to authenticity, creativity and love.
“Daring Greatly” has drawn warm responses from critics. Forbes calls the book “well-researched” and concurs with Brown that vulnerability leads to “very human benefits that make our lives meaningful.” The Fiscal Times points to the book’s relevance in “a culture of fraud and cover-ups prevalent in Washington and Wall Street,” remarking that the concept of vulnerability as an important workplace value “has struck a chord with many business leaders.” Katie Couric, who invited Brown onto her show Katie, draws attention to the staggering amount of research behind Brown’s deceptively simple idea. “This is not a lot of…touchy-feely stuff,” Couric says. “[Brown’s] findings are the result of…12 years of thousands of interviews with people…. This is hard behavioral science.” Publisher’s Weekly says “Brown’s theories—complete with personal and not always flattering examples from her own life—will draw readers in.” And Kirkus heartily testifies to the efficacy of the book’s advice, guaranteeing that “by accepting [Brown’s] directives, readers will be engaged, gain a sense of courage and learn how to create meaningful connections with their children or fellow workers.”