If you don't feel worthy of love and belonging, if you feel lesser than other people; if you can't forgive yourself for your mistakes or your terrible moments or the stupid things you've done in life; if you can't accept your humanness; if you can't show your face or eyes to others due to shame; if you can't own up to your mistakes for fear of judgement; if you compare yourself to others; if you constantly strive to prove yourself to others but feel as if you never measure up; then this interview with Brene Brown is for you.
We're living in a culture of `never enough'. I'm certainly feeling it. Are you? I never work hard enough, I don't help others enough, I'm not successful enough, I don't eat healthy enough... and on and on.
I have been struggling with the shame, vulnerability, perfectionism, anxiety and the feeling of 'not enough' my entire life.
Most of us live our lives hiding in our armor and trying to protect ourselves.
Are you living with shame? Do you always feel an underlying itch of `never enough'? Do you find yourself disconnecting from people you love? If any of these questions ring true then I hope you'll check out this interview. Even if they don’t ring true to you, you will get a ton out of this amazing conversation.
These thoughts of `never enough' turn into feelings of shame and fear. How do we combat shame and fear? By being vulnerable and expressing gratitude, according to Brené Brown.
This shame, this culture of never enough, can only ever truly only dissipate by allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability leads to happiness, or as Brene Brown calls it, "wholeheartedness".
This interview did an amazing job helping me understand the difference between sharing vulnerability in ways that lead to connection and over-sharing in ways intended to manipulate others - and why that kind of oversharing has always led to disconnection.
As Brown explains, we're drawn to other's vulnerability but repelled by our own.
This interview opened my eyes. It gave me a new perspective to my problems. Brene not only says why and how these issues arises but also share specific tools you can start using right now to overcome fear and shame, to live a courageous life, and to be happy.
After listening to this interview, something in me changed. I feel calmer now, I started to forgive/love myself more, tell myself its ok to be vulnerable/imperfect and that I am enough.
In this episode we welcome legendary researcher Dr Brené Brown to the Science of Success. We discuss vulnerability and learn that vulnerability is not weakness, it’s not oversharing, it’s not soft. We learn that even brave and courageous people are scared all the time. We discuss the incredible power of learning to get back up when you’re down, how you can stop caring about what other people think about you, and much more in this in depth interview.
Dr Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. She is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and her latest book, Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership. Brené’s TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 35 million views. She is also the first researcher to have a filmed talk on Netflix, “The Call to Courage” which debuted in April 2019.
We discuss with her:
The teacher appears when the student is ready
Life is about the willingness to show up, to put yourself out there, to be all in, when you can’t control the outcome
It’s not the critic who counts - it’s easy to spend your life in the cheap seats and hurl judgement at people who are trying and failing
Feedback is required for mastery of anything.
Why are people so afraid to show up?
Our society doesn’t teach people how to get back up when the fall.
Everyone spends their whole life tiptoeing around to ensure they never fall, but the more important skill is to build the skill of GETTING BACK UP.
In our social and emotional lives we spend our entire lives tip-toeing around and being terrified of ever falling down.
The importance of experiencing adversity. There’s a line between adversity and trauma, we need to experience.
It’s not about being perfect at walking, it’s about LEARNING THE SKILL SET OF GETTING BACK UP AGAIN AND AGAIN
Courage is learnable, teachable, and measurable - and there are 4 key skill sets
Rumbling with vulnerability
Knowing your values and how to live into them
Learning to get back up
Courage is essentially the same thing as vulnerability. The Willingness to show up, put yourself out there, and be seen when you can’t control the outcome.
Vulnerability is not weakness, it’s not oversharing, it’s not soft.
Vulnerability, at its core, is about Uncertainty, Risk, and Emotional Exposure
“There is no courage without vulnerability”
Courage spans the spectrum from everyday moments in your life, to the most epicly heroic experiences of your life.
Vulnerability is the opposite of weakness, it's the MOST accurate scientific measure of courage.
Vulnerability is not as hard, scary, or dangerous as getting to the end of your life and asking “what if I would have shown up?"
You want to look back and know without question that you contributed and put yourself out there.
One of the most defining lessons of Brene’s seven year study on leadership is the importance of courageous leadership.
Even brave and courageous people are scared all the time.
It’s not fear that gets in the way of us being brave or vulnerable, it’s armor.
“You can’t do any of this without self awareness?"
What is your go to armor? How do you self protect when you feel emotionally at risk or exposed?
The Knower, more important to be right than get it right
Blustery posturing tough guy
The armor weighs 100lbs, but the resentment weighs 1000lbs
What myths about vulnerability do you still believe?
When you’re in your twenties and early thirties, you still believe that your armor serves you
None of the drinking, the partying, the achieving, will take away the PAIN that the armor causes you.
How do you start to take off the armor? Loving kindness and self compassion.
Self exploration is a key starting point to taking your armor off.
To get rid of your armor - ask yourself:
How did your armor serve you?
How did it help you get what you wanted or needed or felt you deserved?
What’s the COST of the armor?
What am I afraid of if I stop doing it?
When you work so hard to keep the peace on the outside, you wage a war internally. It’s not your job to make sure you don’t disappoint anyone.
“I do not calculate my value based on what other people think of me"
People pleasing is the bright side of manipulation.
“Am I doing this because I really want it, or because it’s for someone else?"
How do you stop caring what other people think about you?
“I’m like a turtle without all the shells, but I’m in a briar patch”
No one wants to burn out but they are living like they’re on fire.
“The mirror perspective"
Who are you around? Who are you hanging out with? Do they reflect your values and who you want to be?
You can replace the armor with something that helps you - CURIOSITY
Courageous people are usually DEEPLY CURIOUS
Get curious about how you’re showing up, is it serving you? Are you self protecting in a way that’s keeping you small?
Armor prevents you from growing.
If you’re in your 20’s and you haven’t figured everything out yet in your life, that’s OK.
"Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive. What the world needs is more people who’ve come alive."
How do you get back up when you’ve fallen down?
Your brain is wired for survival. When something hard happens the brain is wired for survival - it focuses on protection - your brain goes into survival mode.
Your brain thinks in stories - it builds and creates stories to explain the world around you - even if those stories are wrong.
A lot of the time we create stories that don’t reflect reality in any way.
Your brain rewards you for creating stories, the more salacious and dramatic the better, even if the stories are completely wrong.
One sentence that can completely change your life.
Why you should start using “The story I'm telling myself…” or “The story I’m making up right now is…"
The stories we tell ourselves are what keep us down and completely predict your level of resilience.
Are you aware of the stories you tell yourself? Are you brave enough to check them out? IS there a recurrent theme to those narratives?
Homework: Take the daring leader survey.
Homework: Educate yourself. Watch her TED talk, her Netflix special, read her books. Creating a shared vocabulary is the root of change.
Thank you so much for listening!
Please SUBSCRIBE and LEAVE US A REVIEW on iTunes! (Click here for instructions on how to do that).
Love Brené Brown?! Here’s Our Show Notes, Links, & TONs of Extra Awesome Content By & About Brené!
[Article] Mental Floss - Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" By Erin McCarthy
[Article] Wiki Article - Brene Brown
[Article] The Cut - “How I Get It Done: Brené Brown, Author and Research Professor at the University of Houston” By Gabriella Paiella
[Article] Calvin Ayre - “Op-ed: what poker can learn from Brené Brown’s ‘Braving the Wilderness’” by Lee Davy
[Article] Forbes - “Why You Need to Watch The New Brene Brown Netflix Special Immediately” by Danielle Brooker
[Article] Vanity Fair - “Brené Brown Wants to Change Your Life” by Sonia Saraiya
[Article] Washington Examiner - “In ‘The Call to Courage,’ Brené Brown has the best rule for dealing with people on social media” by Madeline Fry
[Article] LA Magazine - “Vulnerability Guru Brené Brown Is About to Become the Marie Kondo of Emotions” By Merle Ginsberg
[Article] CEO Magazine - “Exclusive interview with Brené Brown: “Failure is part of the ride.”” by Ruth Devine
[Article] USA Today - “5 takeaways on vulnerability from Brené Brown's 'The Call To Courage'” by Erin Jensen
[Article] Refinery29 - “Brené Brown On Scammers, Astrology & Influencer Culture” by Cory Stieg
[Article] Oprah Magazine - “Brené Brown's New Netflix Special Will Teach You How to Live Your Best Life” By Michelle Darrisaw
[Podcast] On Air with Ryan Seacrest - Brené Brown Breaks Down Why Being Vulnerable Is Crucial In Life
[Podcast] 10% Happier with Dan Harris: #185: Brené Brown, Vulnerability: The Key to Courage
[Podcast] Lewis Howes - Ep. 536: Brené Brown - Create True Belonging and Heal The World
[Podcast] Finding Mastery: Ep 146 - Dr. Brene Brown, Research Professor and Author
Netflix Original - Brené Brown: The Call to Courage
Marie Forleo - Brené Brown Shows You How To "Brave the Wilderness”
The RSA - Brené Brown on Empathy
The RSA - Brené Brown on Blame
Good Life Project - Brene Brown on The Power of Being Vulnerable
[Amazon Author Page] Brené Brown
[Book] Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
[Book] Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
[Audiobook] The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brené Brown PhD
[Audiobook] The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection by Brené Brown PhD
[Audiobook] Men, Women and Worthiness: The Experience of Shame and the Power of Being Enough by Brené Brown PhD
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:04.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:11] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success, the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than 3 million downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries.
In this episode, we welcome legendary researcher, Dr. Brene Brown, to the Science of Success. We discuss vulnerability and learn that vulnerability is not weakness. It’s not oversharing and it’s not soft. We learned that even brave and courageous people are scared all of the time. We discuss the incredible power of learning to get back up when you’ve been knocked down. How you can stop caring about what other people think about you, and much, much more in this in-depth interview.
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In our previous episode, we discussed how to hack your brain to finally create the results you want in life. We took a hard look at what really drives results and the reality that knowledge and skill aren’t what make you successful. The subconscious drives your behavior. That’s it. You don’t need any more tools to achieve your goals. You just need to change your beliefs and your subconscious set points for success, happiness and achievement. Action is the ultimate arbiter of your success. We asked; are you taking enough of it, and how can you take more? We discussed all of these and much more with our previous guest, John Assaraf. If you need a breakthrough to finally get where you want to be, listen to our previous episode.
Now, for our interview with Brené.
Please note, this episode contains profanity.
[00:03:24] MB: Today, we have another legendary guest on the show, Dr. Brené Brown. Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation Brené Endowed Chair at the Graduate School of Social Work. She’s the author of five number one New York Times bestsellers; The Gift of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and her latest book, Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a 7-year study on courage and leadership.
Brené’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top-five most viewed TED Talks in the world with 35 million views, and she’s also the first researcher to have a filmed Netflix talk, called The Call to Courage, which debuted in April 2019.
Brené, welcome to the Science of Success.
[00:04:06] BB: Thank you. I’m excited to talk to you.
[00:04:08] MB: Well, we’re super excited to have you on the show today. We’re huge, huge fans of you and your work and we can’t wait to really dig into it.
To start out, I just wanted to say I love that you reprised and brought back the Teddy Roosevelt arena quote in the introduction to Dare to Lead, because it’s such a great quote. It’s so simply encapsulates your message and this notion that this powerful idea that it’s at the root of vulnerability. It’s not about whether you’re winning or losing, but it’s whether you’re showing up and whether you’re in the game.
[00:04:41] BB: Yeah. I wish I could take back every single instance where I said something that was like hyperbole, so that when I said this people knew it was really serious. But that quote, it changed my life. There was my life before that quote and my life after that quote literally in a five-minute span, because I was – I guess the teacher appears when you’re ready, right? But I think I was so desperate. It was right after the TED Talk had gone kind of viral and I was so desperate for some kind of filing system to understand the vulnerability, the fear. What do I do with the support? Which was great and overwhelming, but what do I do with that 5% or 3% of criticism that’s so painful? I needed it so bad. So when I came across it that day, I just was like, “Oh! This is a complete framework for how I want to life.”
[00:05:38] MB: It’s such a great way to encapsulate a lot of your work, because at the core, it shows what so many people struggle with, and I want to dig into this, because you know so much about it much more than we do. But about why people are afraid to show up, to take action, to get out there in the world and do things, because it’s so easy to be criticized, to be shamed, to have people say negative things about you and it stops a lot of people from ever really showing and starting to really be themselves and to live their lives.
[00:06:10] BB: Yeah, I mean just the first two stanzas. It’s the critique who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong person stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who’s actually in the arena, whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood, who strives violently, who airs, who comes up short again and again and again. Just those stanzas, to me, are life. It’s about the willingness to show up and put yourself out there and be all-in when you can’t control the outcome. That is everything, from work, to love, to sports, to parenting. I mean, to innovation and creativity. It’s the whole – It’s not the critique who counts. It’s so easy to spend our lives in the cheap seats and like hurl criticism and shame and judgment at people who are trying and falling and failing.
It’s so funny that one thing that has been so clear to me in the last 10 years, the kind of feedback you get from people who are in the arena in their lives is very different than the kind of feedback you get from people who have made a fulltime career out of cheap seating.
[00:07:25] MB: What is the difference in that feedback?
[00:07:27] BB: Not all of us who are trying to live a brave life are skilled feedback givers. So I don’t want to give that impression. But, when I see someone who’s kind of skinned up, bruised knee, stretch marks on the heart telling me, “Hey, I think you really screwed this up. Did you think about this?” I listen, because I see it as a person who’s also trying, but the cheap seat stuff is often delivered with paying no attention to how hard it is to put yourself out there today. I can’t do the sideline coaching. I’m not open to it. I really am not.
I love feedback, because one of the big parts of my work is I believe feedback is required for mastery of anything. I’ve developed – And the organization that I run here in Houston, a really vulnerable, honest, courageous feedback culture. We give feedback all the time right away on the spot in a kind, respectful way, but we are very much a feedback culture. So I am a big believer in feedback, but I do believe you have to be very thoughtful about who you accept it from.
[00:08:37] MB: I totally agree. Coming back to the people, the perspective of the people who are in the arena versus the people who are in, as you put it, the cheap seats. It’s funny because I have so many young people who are listeners of this show and I have nieces and nephews who are in high school and college and they are so scared sometimes to just take the first step. They’re so scared, as you put it, to show up. Why are people so afraid?
[00:09:02] BB: I think there are a lot of reasons, and I think some of them are demographic. I think some of them are informed by race and class and gender. I mean, I think it’s complex. But here’s what I would say. When you think about young people, and this is my 22 years of teaching graduate students. We don’t teach people how to get back up after they fall. Because we don’t teach people how to rise, they never take the leap.
Can you imagine if you didn’t know – If you physically fell and you didn’t know how to get back up? You’d spend your whole life tiptoeing around. You’d spend your whole life like bracing your palms on the hood of a car when you step off the curve, then you would follow the car with your hand until you open the door. Then you’d hold on to the oh shit handle as you try to get into the seat. You would never let go of everything and just walk, because you’re deaf ear would, “If I fall, I don’t know how to get back up.”
The same thing is true in our socio-emotional world. If we don’t know how to get back up after failure, disappointment, or setback, we will spend an enormous amount of energy making sure we never have to get back up.
So, for me, I have a lot of bounce. I have a lot of bounce. So, I’m willing to take chances, because I’m very secure in my ability to get back up. I think even if you think about going back really to young, young folks. Even if you think about letting kids experience adversity.
So, one of the conversations my husband and I had very early on when we were brand new parents is we both come from like divorce parents. A lot of really hard, hard shit. Stuff that we would never want to subject our kids to. At the same time, we both really respect our own and each other’s resilience. Did I just say he’s a pediatrician? He’s a pediatrician. So we have a lot of parenting conversations.
So, the big finding we came to was we need to let – There’s a line between adversity and trauma and we need to let our kids experience adversity, not so much trauma. That kind of sets us back. So, I think having experiences with adversity and knowing how to get back up makes people braver, because they’re willing to take a chance.
[00:11:26] MB: Such a powerful analogy and really shines light on this notion. I love the example of walking around with a fear of never being able to get back up. Because it’s so clearly highlights the idea that the truly important skillset is not whether you’re prefect at walking, but it’s just learning how to get up over and over again.
[00:11:47] BB: I mean, that’s it. I don’t even know who said the quote, but someone has a great quote that says, “The most important number is not the number of times that you fall, but the number of times you get back up.” That is so – I know it’s like cheesy, like queue the rocky music or whatever. But it’s just true.
So, what we know – I mean, for me, to be honest, Matt, if I think about all of my work over the last 20 something years, I don’t think that I’m more proud of anything that the research that we did on courage and the fact that courage is teachable, observable and measurable. It’s four skillsets.
But one of the key four skillsets is learning how to get back up. The first big skillset is the ability to vulnerability. We call it rumbling with vulnerability. The second one is really knowing what your values are and how to live into them, because people who are not super clear and just very gray clear about their values and what those behaviors look like are not as brave. They don’t risk the fall.
The next one is braving trust, learning how to trust yourself and other people appropriately. Then the last one is learning to get back up. So we can teach these things. But I got to tell you. As I step back and think about the way that we parent today. Not everybody, but a growing part of parenting, I think, unfortunately. The way schools are set up. We’re not teaching courage skills.
[00:13:22] MB: I couldn’t agree more, and in many ways that the root of that idea is what underpins our entire project with the Science of Success as well. I want to dig in to all of these different ideas. So let’s start at a high-level with courage. What is courage? When you say that, when you talk about it, how do you think about how we define courage?
[00:13:44] BB: It’s interesting, because I don’t have a definition for courage that’s any different than data-driven definition for vulnerability. We define vulnerability as the willingness to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome. The definition of vulnerability as a construct itself is it’s the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
I spent like probably, I don’t know, maybe 5 years, because I spent 90% of my time in organizations, big, fortune 10, big Silicon Valley companies, teaching courageous leadership skills. So, I spent so many years trying to convince people of a relationship between courage and vulnerability. Then it got very clear to me one day when I was at Fort Bragg working with Special Forces, and I asked a really simple question, which was – Because everyone thinks vulnerability is weakness. Everyone thinks that it’s oversharing. Everything is soft.
So I asked this question, “If vulnerability is uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, give me a single example of courage in your life on the field, off the field, other troops, other soldiers. Give me a single example of courage that you’ve witnessed or experienced yourself that didn’t involve vulnerability, that didn’t involve uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”
It was kind of just silence and you could see these troops, they were just shifting in their seats and uncomfortable and a couple of them started putting their heads in their hands. Then finally one guy stood up and said, “Ma’am, there is no courage without vulnerability.” Three tours, there is no courage without vulnerability.
So, I think any conversation that we start around what is courage is it’s the willingness to put yourself out there when you can’t control how it’s going to go. If you’re putting yourself out there and you can kind of control or predict the outcome, you’re not being that brave. You’re probably doing good stuff, maybe, but you’re not being courageous.
[00:15:46] MB: I just got goose bumps when you said that. Such a powerful definition, and it’s something that’s so important. It’s such a needed message in today’s world, today’s society. I feel like so many people stick to what’s comfortable and what’s safe and they’re so afraid to step into uncertainty and to step into risk.
[00:16:11] BB: Yeah, I mean, it’s the Special Forces soldier. But it’s also the guy sitting across from the person he loves and thinking, “Shit, man! I want to say I love you. Should I wait to say it? Maybe I should wait for her to say it first. Okay, you know what? I’m going to be brave. I love you.” That’s also courage and vulnerability.
[00:16:33] MB: Yeah, that’s a great point. It spans the spectrum, right? It’s these every day moments of life and it goes all the way back out to these heroic achievements in the military and beyond.
[00:16:46] BB: Yeah. I mean, it’s the CEO of the startup looking for funding and being turned down 50 times. It’s the 51st time. That’s brave. That’s courageous. That’s vulnerable. So, this mythology that vulnerability is weakness, we just cross the 400,000 pieces of data mark, which was a big mark for us. There is zero evidence, zero, that vulnerability is weakness. It is by far our most accurate measure of courage.
In fact, we have a daring leader assessment. We put together an assessment for courageous leadership, and we worked with MBA and EMBA students at Wharton, at UPenn, Kelog, at Northwestern, and the Jones School at Rice. We spent three years putting together this instrument. Make sure it’s valid, reliable. Basically, it’s as simple as this. I can tell you how brave you are by measuring your capacity for vulnerability.
[00:17:52] MB: It makes perfect sense, because if you’re afraid to be vulnerable. By definition, you’re coming at that from a place of fear and scarcity.
[00:18:01] BB: Yeah. I mean, I love the fact that you just said every day scenarios, everyday situations. Yeah, I didn’t know how this podcast was going to go. I don’t know that I’m going to get on it and give it a shot. If I screwed up, it’s going to be out to tons of people, but it’s saying something to your roommate like, “Hey! Dude, you can’t keep leaving your shit everywhere. It’s not working.” It’s sitting down with your boss and saying, “Hey, I understand I messed that up, but the way you’re giving me feedback, I can’t hear what you’re saying. So I want to learn from you, but when you’re yelling and screaming and pounding your first, that doesn’t work.”
[00:18:38] MB: One of my favorite quotes of yours, and I’m paraphrasing this a little bit, but it’s this idea that vulnerability is not as hard or scary or dangerous as getting to the end of your life and asking yourself what if I had shown up?
[00:18:54] BB: For me and for the people I’ve interviewed that are late in life, I cannot imagine a more terrifying thing. I do not want to look back. There are two things that are really important to me when I look back on my life and my career. The first one is I do not want to look back and wonder what if. What if I would have said yes? What if I would have tried that? What if I would have said I love you first?
The other thing is I want to be able to look back and know without question that I contributed more than I criticized, because criticism is so easy. It’s not vulnerable. It’s not brave. Contribution, super brave and hard. Because everyone will have comments and thoughts about what it is. There’s very minimal risk of failure and criticizing.
That’s why the Teddy Roosevelt, it’s not the critique who counts. For me, it’s really not the critique who counts. So if you leave some kind of really shitty tweet and your avatar is an egg or like the little icon or some movie star and your handle isn’t your real name, useless to me. Block or mute forever, whichever is easiest for me.
But if you leave a really hard thing for me to hear, but it’s respectful and your name is there and your picture is there, there’s a 95% chance, if I see it, I’m going to come back and say, “Tell me more. I’m curious. Why do you think that? I’m interested. Can we dig in?” I might DM you and say, “This is a really interesting point.”
I mean, someone made a point about something that I said in Braving the Wilderness. I was talking about Black Lives Matter and why it’s important and I was talking about the dehumanization of people. A woman said, “There's something about the way you framed this sentence that felt privileged and tone deaf to me.” At first I kind of recoiled and I’m like, “Oh my God! I’m out here supporting this stuff that like I’m taking a lot of heat for, and then yet I'm still tone deaf.” But I was like, “Tell me more.”
We had this long conversation on our DM's on Twitter and I called my agent and said, “Stop the process. Is that a real thing? If need to change something. I wrote something that was in a privileged blind spot for me. I need to change it. I can make it better.” They stopped him and changed it. Random House did. So, feedback, even hard feedback, constructive feedback, difficult feedback, is not the same as being a critic your whole life and never risking vulnerability. It’s just not brave.
[00:21:32] MB: So, how do we start to step into vulnerability, or as you called it, rumble, with vulnerability?
[00:21:38] BB: The answer is pretty counterintuitive, because here's – When I spent the last seven years studying leadership, and I mean talking to everyone, leaders from everyone from Pixar, to Special Forces, from oil and gas companies in Singapore to people who work for the White House, like across-the-board. Talking to Fortune 10 CEOs, really asking what is the future of leadership.
So, it was the first time I had ever done a study where the answer saturated cross. There was not a single participant who said something different than, “Oh my God! The future of leadership is courageous leadership. We've got to have braver people and braver cultures.” We are facing too many geopolitical, environmental, just technology, everything is shifting so fast that if we don't have courageous people leading, companies won't make it. Organizations won't make it. Governments won't make it.
So was interesting is my hypothesis was wrong. So I assumed that the greatest barrier to what I call daring leadership or courageous leadership was fear. So as we started moving into this what we call selective coding, I went back to some of these leaders and said, “Wow! Okay, we're hearing it's brave leadership. We hear the only people who will be standing in the next five years and really meaningful leadership capacities are courageous people, building courageous cultures. How do you stay out of fear?”
These people looked at me like I was crazy. They were like, “What?” I said, “You’re a daring leader, how do you stay brave all the time?” They’re like, “I'm afraid all the time. I don't know what you're talking about.” I was like, “What?” But you’re a brave leader.” They’re like, “Well, you can put me on whatever list you want to, but I’m scared all the time.”
So, as we started digging in and digging deeper into the data and interviewing more people about that, what I learned was it's not fear that gets in the way of us being brave. It's armor. Armor gets in the way of us being brave. Armor gets in the way of us being vulnerable.
So, the difference is, let’s say, you and I are both leaders, and we're both on a scale from 1 to 10 thought – We’re both scared five. So, Matt’s a five scared leader, and I’m a five scared leader. But as a daring leader, Matt, you're aware of your armor and you choose to be vulnerable and show up and take it off even though it's really seductive to put it on. I, on the other hand, am not aware about how I use armor to show up. So, I stay in my armor.
So, the first thing we have to do is understand – I mean, you can’t do any of these without self-awareness. So the first thing is understand what is your go-to-armor. How do you self-protect when you're in uncertainty risk and feel emotionally exposed?
For me, it's perfectionism. I get emotionally intense and can talk over people. This is not mine particularly, but some people, they use cynicism as armor. Some people – And this is not mine either, but – I mean, trust me. I have a shit ton of it, but these just happens to not be mine. A lot of people have to be the knower. So when they’re vulnerable and feel exposed, they become the knower, and it's more important for them to be right than get it right.
So, we have to figure – I’m a pleaser. That's definitely mine, and I know when I'm wearing my pleasing, good girl, make everyone around me happy armor, because the armor weighs 100 pounds, but the resentment weighs 1,000 pounds. I become a really resentful, angry person.
So, where we start with learning how to rumble with vulnerability is examining what myths were we raised believing. Were we raised believing it's weakness? Were we raised believing that it's over-sharing? How were we raised?
Then the second question is what armor do I use to self-protect. Am I the blustery, posturing tough guy? Am I the knower? Am I the cynic? It's all bullshit. None of it matters. What is our armor? Does that make sense?
[00:25:34] MB: That totally makes sense. I love the little quip about how the armor weighs 100 pounds, but the resentment weighs 1000 pounds.
[00:25:41] BB: I mean, this is the thing. Even if the people listening are between 25 and 35, there is a difference between a 25-year-old and a 35-year-old, and the difference is when you're 25 – I have a 20-year-old daughter and I’m like, “Man! If you can get this now, I don't even know what you'll be able to accomplish.”
The difference is when we’re in our 20s and even our early 30s, we are still convinced that the armor serves us. We’re still fresh off adolescence. I mean, they moved adolescence to like 24 now or something, around brain development. We still believe the armor serves us. But by the time you get to 35, 38, 40, for sure. Then you're in kind of midlife and then that's when the universe is like – The armor, it's killing you, and the drink-in and the work-in and the achieving and acquiring. None of it will ever take away the pain that that armor causes you.
So, I think, really, if you look at kind of the people that we’re talking to probably today, this is such an opportunity in your life to figure out the armor and to really start using some loving kindness and some self-compassion to talk to yourself about how it's not serving you anymore.
[00:27:04] MB: Hey, I’m here real quick with confidence expert, Dr. Aziz Gozipura, to share a lightning round insight with you.
Dr. Aziz, how do you become more confident and what do people get wrong about confidence?
[00:27:18] AG: I love this question. So, my life mission is to inform people this one thing, that you can learn confidence. Because the biggest thing that people don't realize is that confidence is a skill. They think confidence is something that you're just born with, that the people that look confident just somehow have some ability that you don't have, and that’s what I thought for many years until I discovered that actually this is something we can learn.
So, what most people get wrong about this other than thinking that they can't, so they don’t even try, is think it’s going to be this huge undertaking and it’s scary and they try to just push through and do this thing that I hate to phrase, but it's so common, which is fake it till you make it. What they don't realize is that there is a much easier way, a simpler way and ultimately a faster way and a gentler way. That is to treat it like any other skill, like the guitar. You want to learn how to play the guitar. You want to break it down into its individual elements, like notes, chords, progression, scales. If you learn each individual thing, all of a sudden, you could play a beautiful song.
Confidence is absolutely no different than that, and you can break confidence down into its little individual elements, like body language, starting a conversation. How to be assertive? All these things can be broken down in sub skills, and if you just learn those sub skills one after another, take action on what you learn and practice it just like an instrument, all of a sudden, in a pattern, in a period of months – You could be stuck for decades, but in a period of months, you can have more confidence than you've ever had in your entire life. That's what I’m dedicated to doing. That's what I teach. That's what I create all my programs around, and that's really the message that I want to get out there to everyone listening and everyone in the world.
[00:28:54] MB: Do you want to be more confident and stop suffering from social anxiety and self-doubt? Check out successpodcast.com/confidence to hear more about Dr. Aziz and his work and become more confident.
[00:29:11] MB: You touched on this a little bit, but what does it look like when you start to take the armor off? And I think this might be a good place specifically to look at this, because people pleasing and that kind of stuff is also something that I really struggle and deal with as well. So, maybe since that’s something we both struggle with, how would you think about starting to take that armor off?
[00:29:31] BB: I think it's some self-exploration, for sure, and I think it's about always understanding, especially when we were young. I would say young as like five or six to probably early 20s. How did it serve us? We were both people pleaser. So, are we both use people pleasing as armor? I wouldn’t tie it to my identity or your identity, but I'd say it's armor for both of us, as you tell me.
How did it serve us? What did we gain by it? How did it help us get what we want or need or think we deserved? What has been the cost of it? What is the cost for that armor? What is the cost of not saying what's really on our mind? What’s the cost of taking care of everyone around us at our own expense?
I saw this quote in the feed. We do a bunch of training for this group of African-American therapist called Black Therapist Rock, and they had this quote in their feed the other day which is like – I could barely read it. I showed it to sisters and we are all like, “Ugh!” because I said, “When you work so hard to make everyone comfortable and keep the peace on the outside, you wage a war internally within yourself.”
I just thought, “God! That's so true.” Like, it’s not my job to make sure everyone is getting along here. It’s not my job to make sure no one is disappointed with me. On my 50th birthday, Oprah Winfrey gave me this incredible advice. She said, “If you think you're going to do what you love and do work that makes a difference and never piss off or disappoint someone, you don't understand.”
So, I think for me taking the armor off for me was about really getting to the place where I do not calculate my value based on what other people think of me. My people pleasing is kind of the bright side of manipulation, and I would much rather be not liked and respected and trusted to be truthful than I would to be liked. That just doesn’t serve me anymore.
So, every time I make a decision, still, I have to think, “Am I doing this because it’s what I really –” First of all, I just spent five years figuring what it was that I really wanted. Even now, like I wasn’t even sure, because I was so used to saying yes to make sure everyone was happy and thought I patted me on the head. So, I think the thing was what it is – I think where you start is how has that been serving me? What's the cost, and what am I afraid of? What’s my fear if I stop doing this?
[00:32:04] MB: Yeah. I think those are some great really, really powerful questions and a really excellent framework to start to take that armor off.
I'm curious, how did you come to a place – Because I think many people would like to feel or say or think that they don't calculate their value based on what others think of them. But the reality is that often times we do. How did you personally, or how do we, as me, the audience, etc., move past that or move beyond better or breakthrough that?
[00:32:39] BB: I mean, I had a therapist and a big ass breakdown. That would be the moving through your plan. It’s not good. I mean, if you think you can do this work on your own, you don't understand the nature of the work. We’re not neurobiologically hardwired to figure this stuff out by ourselves.
So, whether it's a therapist, a group, a men's group, friends that you can talk to. You have to think through this stuff aloud around people you trust where there's a lot of psychological safety, and you have to think through. You have to think through – I mean, it's really hard, because – I wrote an article on my website about I just celebrated 23 years of sobriety in May. I wrote about an exchange that I had with my therapist. I think I saw her for a couple of years, maybe two years, three years, and I remember one day going into her and saying, “Man, I need something for the anxiety. I need something. The people pleasing is out of control. The anxiety if out of control.” I’d been sober at that point I think for 10 years. I just given up flour and sugar.
So I was like, “I got a have something. I got no fall back here, no beer, no muffin. I'm trying not to work 60 hours a week. I got nothing.” She's like, “What do you want me to give you?” I said, “Something for anxiety or something,” and she said, “Say more.” I said, “I’m like a turtle, a turtle without a shell. I’ve taken off all the shells. I’m vulnerable turtle, but I'm in a briar-patch. Everything hurt. Everywhere I move pokes me and hurts me.”
She's like, “Maybe we should just talk about getting out the briar-patch instead of like trying to find a new shell.” I was like, “Get out the fucking briar-patch. That’s your advice to me? That's all you got?” Then I remember like that was such an important metaphor for me to share, because I think no one wants to burn out, but everyone's living like their own fire. No one wants to hurt or have to carry around the armor or the shell, but everyone's living in a briar-patch. I think this process involves really reflecting on who am I around. I always call that like the mirror perspective. Look at who you're hanging out with. Do those people reflect your values? Who you want to be? How you want to show up in the world? Are those people brave with their lives? You got to assess like who you're hanging out with. You got to assess what it is you want from life. Are you clear about what you want? If you're not clear about what you want – First of all, if you’re clear about what you want, you’re 25. That's weird to me.
Then I think the big thing that tell even leaders, again across, the globe is you can replace the armor with something that helps you, and that's curiosity. The one thing that really deeply brave people share in common is insatiable curiosity. They're curious about themselves. They’re curious about the world they live in. They’re curious about the people around. They’re curious about how to be better.
So, curiosity. So, I think for the people listening, it’s get curious about how am I showing up. Is it serving me? Am I myself protecting in a way that's keeping me small? I mean, that's the thing about armor, is it prevents you from growing into your gifts.
[00:36:02] MB: Some really great points, and one thing that you kind of casually tossed out that I thought was really important was, even this notion that you're in your 20s, if you're younger and you're not clear about what you want to do with your life, how you wanted to find and live your life. That's okay.
[00:36:19] BB: Yes.
[00:36:20] MB: I feel like there’s so much pressure in our society today to have everything sorted out. But the reality is that's not really the case, and it's all right to be figuring things out.
[00:36:30] BB: Yes! I finished bachelor’s degree when I was 29. 29. I spent the time until I was 29 doing a myriad of things, from bartending and waiting tables for six years. Taking customer service calls in Spanish. Hitchhiking through Europe, and I learned more about empathy and vulnerability and shame and the things if I study in those periods of time as I did in doctoral classes. Studying multivariate analysis of emotional variables. Nothing is wasted.
I told my daughter when she went to school and said, “If you already know what you want to be, I'm not paying for college, because we’ll find some kind of vocational training or something.” She's like, “Oh my God, mom! You're killing me. It's so cringe worthy to not know what you want to be when it's too awkward.” During freshman orientation, knows what they want to be. I’m like, “What is everyone want to be?” “Well, everyone wants like a doctor, or a lawyer, an engineer.” I’m like, “Yeah, those are some of the most miserable 30-year-olds I’ve ever interviewed in my life. I'm giving you the opportunity to study Latina feminism in the middle – Whatever, Middle Ages.” I don’t know if there was such a thing, but probably. “I'm giving you a chance to take STEM classes and liberal arts classes and take classes that may make no sense,” because it's this Howard Thurman quote that I live by, and Howard Thurman was like a Civil Rights activist, a theologian, and he said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is more people who’ve come alive.” Nothing is wasted, and it's the gifts that you can give us are an order of magnitude bigger if you were in your power doing what you love.
[00:38:18] MB: A great quote and a really important message and something that the listeners sometimes I think need to hear, because it's so easy to get caught up and the belief that everything has to be perfect and defined and we have to be on this trajectory, especially in today's world at such a young age.
But I want to change or really come back to something that we talked about at the very beginning, because I want to get one or two concrete strategies for developing this skillset as well, which is the ability to get back up. We talked about how important that is. How that's 100 times more important than learning how to walk.
What are some of the tools or strategies that you've uncovered for helping get back up when you fall down?
[00:39:01] BB: Yeah, there’s a lot of raw material to getting back up, but there's one piece of gold. One piece that you could listen to right now, and it could change your life over five minutes. That is understanding the neurobiology of falling. That when something hard happens, when we experience setback, disappointment, heartache, our brain is wired for one thing above all else, and that’s survival.
When something hard happens, the brain goes really limbic and it's like, “Oh my God! How do I protect you? How do I protect you?” and it's not just like – It's not like a bear is attacking you. I mean, like, it's like you and I work together and I come out of a meeting and you’re my boss. I’m like, “Hey, good meeting, Matt,” and you look at me like, “That sucked!” and you just keep walking in your office. That’s going to trigger something in our mind to go into survival mode, like, “Oh my God! My boss just said that sucked and shrugged his shoulders and walked into his office.”
So what happens is because the brain is wired that, we know now that the brain completely read story. I mean, like a computer reading an old punch card. The brain read story. It understands the narrative pattern of beginning, middle and end, and it craves a story to understand when something hard is happening.
What is happening? I don't know how to protect you. So if we give the brain a story, we get a chemical reward of, a calm reward, an, “Okay. I understand what's happening reward.” It's very seductive and necessary and helpful for us.
The problem is that the brain rewards us for a story regardless of the accuracy of the story, and the brain loves a story that if I said to myself, “I wonder what's wrong with Matt. He looks pretty pissed off. I guess maybe's having a hard day or maybe – I don't know.” The brain is like, “That's a shit story. You get nothing.”
But if I'm like, “Oh my God! Matt hates me. I knew he hated me. He’s trusted me. He's never liked me. I’ve have done something in that meeting that pissed him off. Oh my God! I'm in trouble. Oh my God! I’m going to get fired.” Then the brain is like, “Got it! Matt, dangerous, bad, against us, not safe.”
So, what the most resilient research that we found have in common and the significant change your life really is the story I'm telling myself. That when we fall, when we’re hurt, when we’re pissed, when we lose something or we’re disappointed, we fail at something at work. If we can challenge the narrative, the narratives that we make up and I can go to you and knock on your door and be like, “Hey, Matt. Do you have a second?” “Yeah, what's up?” I said, “I have a good day, and you looked really pissed and you were like, “That's sucked.” The story I'm telling myself right now is something happened in that meeting that you and I need to clean up. That you’re pissed off at me about something.” You look at me and you go, “No, man! No. No. No. No. No. Not at all. I’m just like I cannot believe these 9 o'clock meetings, instead of being done at 10, are over at 11 and 12. I mean, it just sucks. It's ridiculous. I have spin class every day at 10:30. I’m missing my spin class third time in a row.” I’m like, “Oh! What about the part where you hate me and are going to –”
The stories we tell ourselves are what keep us flat on the arena ground, mired in blood and sweat and dust. It's the narrative. Here's how that works. I use it every time Steve and I have a fight. The story I'm telling myself. I use it with the people at work all the time. I had just had a conversation with our CFO recently were I was like, “Oh my God! We were trying to negotiate this – A big partnership, and I said they’re going pull out of the deal.” He’s like, “What did you hear?”
I said, “I didn’t hear anything, but that the story I'm making up is they’ve had the redline now and they're not getting back to us with the contract redline.” He’s like, “They had the redline for 30 minutes at 60 pages.” He’s like, “Why are you making up stories?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I guess I’m in some fear and scarcity about this.” He’s like, “Okay. Well, keep checking out the stories with me, because that's a crazy ass story.” I was like, “Okay. Got it. Steve, my husband. Look, the story I'm making up right now is that you really do want to go. You're just pissed off because you don’t think I want to go.” He goes, “No. To be honest with you, I don't want to –Here's a great day. Hey, Brené, I have got a meeting at the hospital tonight. It's a dinner and a CEU continuing education. You can bring partners. But you don't really have to go.” Then I would get, “Fine. I don’t want to go.” He’s like, “Why are you being like that? I'm just saying, I know you’ve got a lot going on.” “No. It's fine. If you don't want me to go, I'm not – Whatever.”
Now it's like, “Hey, there's a thing tonight, and do you want to go? Partners are invited. When you say you don't want to go, I’m making up a story that you don't want me to go.” “No, I just know you’re busy.” “Okay great.”
This is the stories we make up and our ability reality check them completely predict our level of bounce and resilience. Are we even aware of them? Are we brave enough to check them, and can we find a narrative pattern? All of my stories that I make up always come back to I'm not enough and I'm disappointing people, which is like the bane of my existence. That's my work for this lifetime. So, if people could start thinking in this story I'm telling myself, the story I'm making up right now, we can probably use it 100 times a day in this office.
[00:44:46] MB: That’s a great tool and something that you can start implementing right away.
[00:44:51] BB: Yes. It’s so powerful.
[00:44:54] MB: Yeah, that’s amazing. For listeners, and this might actually be the answer to the question, but for listeners who’ve been listening to this who want to start somewhere, who want to begin implementing. We talk about so many important themes and ideas in this conversation. What would be one action item or step that they could take right away to start being more vulnerable, or to start getting back up, or to start implementing some of the themes that we’ve talked about today?
[00:45:21] BB: I mean, I think you could go – The Daring Leadership Assessments is free online. You could go to brenebrown.com. It’s in our dare to lead hub. You could take that. It gives you a pretty lengthy printout of the four skillsets of courage, vulnerability, rising skills, trusty skills and value skills and kind of tells you where your strengths are, where your opportunities for growth are. It's a very quick kind of thing to do.
I think a lot of this work that I do is very psycho-educational. The psychology part is you got to do some self-examination and some self-work, but the education piece is you've got to learn more. I think one of the biggest compliments I get after I give a talk is I already knew everything you said. But I didn't have any other words for it.
So, I think educating ourselves on what is vulnerability, what isn't vulnerability. I think if you're trying to get braver at work, I think dare to lead is a really great place to start. If it's about personal and work, the first place I try to especially start to explore shame, vulnerability encourage in both men and women is daring to lead.
So, I think – I mean, when we go into a place to do culture change work, we always start with book reads, our TED Talks, are something that ground people in language that they can use to talk about what they're experiencing and shared language is the root of change. So, if you're with your partner or a friends and you watch the TED Talk or the Netflix Special together and say, “I thought this was really good. I thought this part was kind of bullshit. Here are some language that was really helpful.” I think that’s how we see change happening. But language is absolutely a prerequisite for change.
[00:47:18] MB: Love the point about shared vocabulary. It's so important to have a common framework of words and ideas that you can use, because it really helps shape conversations.
For listeners who want to find out more about you, the TED Talk, the Netflix Special, the books, all of the amazing things that you're working on, what is the best place for them to do that online?
[00:47:40] BB: Yeah. I think the best place to find everything is brenebrown.com. It's just B-R-E-N-E B-R-O-W-N.com. One thing I will point out is after we finished the research for Dare to Lead, we decided this is important with give everything away.
So, there's a Dare to Lead hub that has a downloadable free companion workbook, the Daring Leader Assessment, a glossary, cards that you can download for when you're giving and receiving hard feedback that just have five or six language tips to use and don't use, a daring feedback checklist. We just made everything free and downloadable. So, have at it.
[00:48:19] MB: Awesome. Well, we’ll make sure to include all of those resources in the show notes at successpodcast.com. Brené, thank you so much for coming on the show. You're truly an inspiration. We are huge fans of you and your work, and this is a phenomenal conversation. So many powerful ideas. I laughed. I got goose bumps. It was awesome. I really, really enjoyed having you on here.
[00:48:39] BB: Thank you so much, Matt. I'm a big fan. So, it was really fun to talk to you and have, do this in person, or at least by computer.
[00:48:47] MB: Thank you so much for listening to the Science of Success. We created this show to help you, our listeners, master evidence-based growth. I love hearing from listeners. If you want to reach out, share your story, or just say hi, shoot me an e-mail. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s M-A-T-T@successpodcast.com. I’d love to hear from you and I read and respond to every single listener e-mail.
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