I was so excited going into the evening… I’m gonna have a chance to hear her speak live, plus I’d be able to meet her in person.
Her talk was awesome. It was all about vulnerability, shame, and how we all connect. After a dozen years of research, she conceived a spectrum that depicts two opposing sides: on one end, there’s shame/fear, and on the other end of the spectrum, there’s vulnerability/courage (vulnerability and courage are inextricably linked).
And during her talk, I was thinking of a conversation I recently had with the CEO of a large software company. He was having difficulty explaining something that he believed was holding his sales organization back; something was handcuffing them. He said, “It just seems like our people live in fear. It’s like they’re scared or something, fearful of making mistakes, fearful of change.; fearful of going outside-the-box.” And he was going on and on, but he was really having a tough time articulating it — he couldn’t pinpoint it.
Shame, fear and courage
And then during Brene’s talk on Monday night, I had an aha moment: when she talked about the difference between fear and having the courage to be vulnerable – to step into the unknown – I knew exactly what this CEO was talking about. Brene Brown pinpointed it for me: its shame (fear) that hold us back vs. vulnerability (courage) to do something new, something with no guarantees.
Immediately after her talk, she and I met…we exchanged and signed each other’s books, talked a bit about why we both do what we do. And I’m convinced I came across as the biggest kook — I was like a nervous child. I’m sure I sounded like a weirdo, cause when I get nervous, weird, uncontrollable stuff flies out of my mouth. Its like these molecules take over my body, that I didn’t know existed. My wife was there, and actually said to Brene, “You’re the other woman in my husband’s life”, which was maybe the funniest thing she’s ever said.
But here’s the thing: during her talk, I got a flavor of why she’s so good: she’s a storyteller. Everything was story; even the Q & A portion: she answered every question through a personal story. No lecturing, no facts, no ‘what’s’ or even ‘how’s’. Just stories. And none of them were about her expertise: no chest pounding, no “here are the facts”, it was all about her stories… and 100% of her stories were dumbass stories about her screw-ups — extraordinarily revealing screw-ups.
And since the talk revolved around parenting: all she was doing was sharing her screw-ups as a parent. For one hour, 300 people were like: What’s next? What is she going to say next?
She simply had the courage to be vulnerable, and we all connected. 300 people in the audience were all buying what she was selling.
So for me, the biggest thing from her talk, was the reminder that its not just about “a” story that matters, but really, its about sharing our authentic stories from the heart; stories that reveal our imperfections, flaws, that we’re all human.
Most people have seen her Ted talk on Vulnerability. Here is her 2nd talk on shame: