Dr. Brené Brown | What If You Dared to Be You? [Best of]

What if daring to be open and real unlocked not just your greatest potential, but also everything good in every relationship or experience you could ever have? 

What if the thing so many of us fear most, that others will discover how flawed and human we are, is actually the gateway to the life we so desperately want to live?

What if choosing courage over comfort opened doors you never imagined?

These are just some of the questions I dive into with Brené Brown. Brene has spent the last two decades studying the transformational power of vulnerability. Author of six #1 New York Times bestsellers, Brené’s inspiring research on courage, worthiness, and shame has enlightened millions worldwide.

A research professor at the University of Houston, she is a leading voice on topics like empathy, resilience, and living a “wholehearted life.” Her groundbreaking TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” has now been viewed over 60 million times.

I love Brené’s ability to translate complicated academic concepts into accessible language and stories. And speaking of stories, she’s a deeply compelling storyteller who’ll draw you in, then open your heart, in no smal part by sharing hers with you first. 

In fact, the conversation that unfolded between us moved us both to tears at various points. Brene was so beautifully real, raw, candid and wise. As Best Of episode, every part of this conversation is as relevant today, maybe more so given the current climate, than it was the day we talked.

As Brené notes, “There is incredible power in the willingness to be seen; in owning our stories we can own our lives.” A willingness to face uncertainty, vulnerability and emotional exposure together is what allows communities to truly connect. 

So listen in as Brené and I explore the courage and compassion that emerge when we dare to be open, real and seen. The conversation that unfolded left me changed and perhaps it will inspire you to pursue an idea you’ve kept to yourself for too long.

You can find Brené at: Website | Instagram

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Episode Transcript:

Dr. Brené Brown (00:00:00) – The greatest pain I’d ever seen in my work is from people who spent their lives on the outside of the arena wondering what would have happened had I shown up.

Jonathan Fields (00:00:12) – So what if daring to be open and real unlocked, not just your greatest potential, but also pretty much everything good in every relationship or experience you could ever have? What if the thing that so many of us fear most that others will discover how flawed and human and real we are is actually the gateway to the life we so desperately want to live. And what if choosing courage over comfort opened the doors to a world and a life you never imagined? These are just some of the questions that I dive into with Brené Brown. So Brené has spent the last two decades studying the transformational power of vulnerability. Author of six Number one New York Times bestsellers. Bernie’s really inspiring research on Courage, Worthiness and Shame has enlightened millions worldwide, and a research professor at University of Houston, she’s a leading voice on topics like empathy, resilience and living a wholehearted life.

Jonathan Fields (00:01:07) – Her groundbreaking TEDx talk on the power of vulnerability has now been viewed over 60 million times, and I really love Bernie’s ability to translate complicated academic concepts into just accessible language and stories. And speaking of stories, he is a deeply compelling storyteller who will draw you in, then open your heart in no small part by sharing hers with you first. In fact, the conversation that unfolded between us moved both of us to tears at various points. Bernie was so beautifully real, raw, candid and wise. And as a best of episode, every part of this conversation is as relevant today, maybe more so given the current climate than it was the day we talked. As Brené notes, there is incredible power in the willingness to be seen in owning our stories. We can own our lives. A willingness to face uncertainty of vulnerability and emotional exposure together is what allows communities to truly connect. So listen in. As Brené and I explored the courage and compassion that emerge when we dare to be open, real and seen the conversation that unfold that really did leave me changed.

Jonathan Fields (00:02:11) – And perhaps it will inspire you to pursue an idea you’ve kept to yourself for too long. So excited to share this best of conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. I want to go through a whole bunch of different things with you and I want to get into the current sort of like topic that you’re exploring. But one of my fascination is with you. You present. So like when I first saw your Ted talks, I was blown away, as were millions and billions of people present as this radiant, wise, snarky, funny presence. And I’m always curious when I see that somebody, somebody who’s so strong and so powerful and so full of life. Is this something that you sort of like stepped into later in life, or were you the kid who sort of manifested this also?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:03:00) – No, I was not a I definitely I was not the kid, you know, a shame and vulnerability researcher. So we teach what comes from somewhere, right? I mean, it’s like you don’t have to be Freud to know that there’s I think no, I think I stepped into it much later in life.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:03:16) – And I think what I stepped into was understanding that the weird introverted pattern seen person that I was what I stepped into is a sense of I like that person and I want to be that person. And but I think I dreaded being that person growing up. I think I thought, Oh, something’s off base because it’s not like, you know, I grew up watching you. I went to Greece 25 times when it came out, you know, like I wanted to be that person. I wanted to be Olivia Newton-John with a cigarette in a catsuit, you know, winning over John Travolta. Like, I didn’t think, you know, I’m awesome. I’m 13. I’m going to be a qualitative researcher and study thing, Scare the shit out of people. Right on. You know, I thought like, I want a date with a quarterback. Yeah. Because that’s how I was raised. And so the things that about me that I love now that were painful probably then like I’ve always seen things in patterns and I didn’t know that there was like a job, like that’s what qualitative researchers do.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:04:23) – So I just thought maybe I was a part of the underworld or something or something. And I thought it was like I thought it was weird and I didn’t fit in really having a sense of belonging.

Jonathan Fields (00:04:33) – Which is probably a more common experience than most people own up to.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:04:37) – Yeah, I think that makes me in the majority for sure. Yeah. I just. Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:04:42) – So at what point do you start to realize in your life that in fact that does make you in the majority?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:04:47) – When I started doing this work, I mean, I think that’s the gift of doing this work, is that I know no matter how bleak the feeling, how desperate the feeling, how weird the experience or smell or idea that none of us are alone. I did a radio show on Wisconsin Public Radio a couple of days ago and a caller called in and shared a techno Han quote with me that just brought me to my knees. It said a purpose, and I’m kind of probably going to butcher it a little bit.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:05:17) – But our sole purpose here is to get over the the illusion of our separateness, you know? And I think that’s what my work is like. We’re all in this together. And I had no idea that the things that made me feel so much on the outside were the things that would ultimately, when I stepped into some self-worth, be the things that connected me the strongest to other people. Does that make sense?

Jonathan Fields (00:05:41) – Yeah. I mean, I think it does. I’m curious also whether it was an evolutionary experience for you to realize this or whether there were moments, you know, were there sort of like decisive moments or experiences with people or things that made you say, okay, I’m starting to get that. There’s there’s a different way to live in the world and I want to be a part of figuring that out.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:06:02) – Now, there was a decisive moment, so there were, yeah, I’m not like a slow unraveling kind of person. As much as I would like to be. No, there was a moment.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:06:10) – I mean, I can picture I know what I was wearing like it was in November of 2006. I was at my at a wooden red painted breakfast room table. I was sitting at the table. I was coding a bunch of new data, asking this new question for the first time, going back into the shame data and then saying, Well, okay, I understand what shame is and I understand how that operates in our lives, but what about these men and women who are living wholeheartedly like who are really all in what did they have in common? And I had giant, you know, those Post-it notes that are poster sized. I had them all over my kitchen and my living room, and I was writing down words. And basically what emerged from that process were two lists like, here are the behaviors that the wholehearted folks are engaging in, and here’s what they are trying to let go of. Here is what they’re trying to move away from in their lives and then move away from list was it was as if someone described me on a list like I was every I called it the shit list.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:07:07) – I was everything on that list. Judgmental, perfectionistic, all work. Not only no play, no rest, but kind of disregard for play and rest and people who thought it was important.

Jonathan Fields (00:07:19) – So you’re coming at it from this, like, science mind. Like, let me just figure this out. And then you’re looking this. You’re like. Oh, my. This is personal.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:07:27) – Oh, I was devastated. I couldn’t believe it. I just remember folding my hands up on the top of the table and putting my head down and just thinking because, you know, I think up until that moment and then the work that followed, I trusted my professional self immensely but didn’t trust my personal self as much. So I knew that I know I’m a good researcher, and so I knew if these words were emerging that these qualities were important, these choices, doing something creative, you know, like that’s a great example, like creativity emerge is so important. Comparison emerged as the shame counterpoint to that. And I was in those comparative person you could I mean, I was always comparing myself to other people and I was scoffing at creativity.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:08:10) – Like people would say, Hey, do you want to go to a painting class with me or do you want a scrapbook? And up until that moment, I would say no. I thought I was flaky and self indulgent, and I’m not to really do that kind of crap. I’m busy working. So, yeah, it was there was a moment that gifted.

Jonathan Fields (00:08:28) – I want to kind of go a little bit deeper there. But before that for you used the word whole heartedness a lot. Talk to me about that. What is it? What do you mean? When you use that that phrase.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:08:38) – I was trying to figure out a word. One of the I’m a grounded theory researcher, which means we develop theory from people’s lived experiences. And then our primary job is to language it in a way that resonates with people. And so I was trying to figure out what’s a word for people that I would describe as all end, who were just really living and loving entirely and wholehearted is language in actually in the Book of Common Prayer that in the Episcopal Church that we use.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:09:09) – And there’s this line that says, I have not loved you with my whole heart. And that was always very powerful for me when I said it. And so the word that came to mind was wholehearted.

Jonathan Fields (00:09:21) – So it was just kind of fascinating right there, too, because you’re you’re taking some a term which comes from a place which is very non-scientific. It’s very faith based, super faith. And then you’re bringing it into your world, which is like totally linear, like, prove it. Or, you know, it doesn’t matter, you know, what happens. Know like, how do you measure that?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:09:40) – No, it’s true. And I received I got a lot of flak from it, too.

Jonathan Fields (00:09:44) – From. From the academic community, huh? Yeah, just for the use of the term. Yeah.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:09:50) – You shouldn’t name construct things that are immeasurable. And so that was hard for me because, you know, one of the things I talk about in the TEDx talk is that I, I had a little sign in my office when I was a doctoral student in teaching that said, if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:10:08) – Right. And I loved thinking that we could live in that world. Now I have a sign above my study that says, if you can measure it, it’s probably not that important. Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:10:16) – I love it.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:10:18) – Well, it’s like the shadow side and it the shadow side. And so I think I didn’t care at that point. I just felt like I was onto something that was super important for me personally and it resonated with me. And you know, what else would you call it? Social adaptability. That’s not what I was looking for. I was looking for whole heartedness.

Jonathan Fields (00:10:37) – Yeah. And it’s something that the common person. Yeah, I mean, I’m sure there’s enough ambiguity so that people can kind of like, say, like, this is how I feel cold hearted applies in my world, in my life. But there’s enough universality to the term that I think people just kind of get what it’s about.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:10:52) – Yeah. And I think that’s my job as a researcher. Like one of the things I’ve never really talked about this before, but I think you’re an interesting you’d be as, as the uncertainty person, you’d be a great person to talk to you about this, that there is one of the greatest losses I think that is happening in our world today is that academics are shamed for accessibility.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:11:14) – Mm. I mean, it makes me teary eyed because it makes me think how much great information we’re losing. Even whether you buy into it or if it’s real or not real elite that we’re losing the debate and the discourse because to be accessible is some kind of really like albatross. It’s like if you’re accessible and people understand your work, that means you’re not very smart.

Jonathan Fields (00:11:35) – So basically you’re writing only for people that are in rarefied air. And if the average person on the street can understand that there’s something wrong with what you’re doing.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:11:43) – Right. And there’s I mean, and really, there’s like interesting journal articles that say the average academic journal article, the average one, not the one that makes it into times or something is read by ten people. And then I think eight of them were probably just checking to see if they’re referenced in it, you know? And so to me, I had no interest in that for this reason. It’s an interesting back story when I did the same research because I’m a qualitative researcher, I would sit down like we’re sitting down and collect data and talk to people about their stories.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:12:09) – It was the first time I’d ever done research. When people, when we were done with the interview, looked at me pleadingly and said, When you figure this out, you’re going to tell me, right? And my answer in the beginning was, No, I’m going to publish it in something that you’ll never have access to. Ouch. Right. That was my I didn’t say that, but that’s what I thought. And then I thought, you know what? I’m not going to do that anymore. You know, I don’t want to I don’t want to spend my time I mean, I still have to do it and I probably should do it more. But I don’t want to spend my time doing something that’s not, in my opinion, moving people forward. And if I can’t pick it up and read it in, my friends can’t pick it up and read it and I have to look up words in a thesaurus to sound smart. I’m not doing it anymore. It’s not why I’m here. It’s not in service of my work.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:12:59) – And my faith is really an organizing principle in my life. And. And it pushes up against that value. Mm hmm. So that’s kind of how wholehearted I was scared at first.

Jonathan Fields (00:13:11) – That I would imagine it would be. Yeah. I mean, because you’re really bringing two worlds together in a way where each world probably has substantial doubt about surely the validity of the other one. And also, like you said, especially because you operate in your own, you’re living like in an academic setting. So, you know, that’s got to bring on a lot of fear. It’s like, you know, am I going to be drawn that in my profession and am I going to like, just get am I going to be still there? But I’ll be the laughing stock of my profession for the rest of my career, you know, versus is this work so powerful that it needs It’s the work that I can’t not do and it must get out.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:13:45) – Yeah, and I think it’s interesting because grounded theory in itself is very controversial, I think, in a lot of academic places because because you don’t start with existing theories and proven disprove them.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:13:56) – You start from people’s lived experiences. You often come up with conclusions that bump up hard against what’s already established literature. So and I love it because Glaser and Strauss, who developed the I think they were like spirited in terms of my approach. They said use names that. Resonate with people. And so one of the ways we measure the accuracy of our theories is resonance fit. Do people see themselves in their lives and their stories in the narratives that you’re creating with your data? And I love that because if it doesn’t ring true.

Jonathan Fields (00:14:27) – Which kind of fascinating for me also because the entrepreneur in me and the writer may looks at that model and that’s actually that’s the model that actually builds the most successful businesses. But it’s the exact opposite model that most entrepreneurs start with. Most entrepreneurs get an idea for product or service or solution, and then they go looking for a market, right? And then they’re like, okay, who are the people that we can sell this to? And whereas, you know, rather than saying, okay, let me just reach out to a community that I feel like I want to be in service of and have really deep, intense conversations with them, and maybe I’m part of that community.

Jonathan Fields (00:15:00) – Very likely I am. You know, so let me start with my own experience and then what the experience of people in this community and find out what are they feeling? What are they not feeling? What’s the conversation that’s already going on in their head? And can I build messaging and solutions around that in a way that can be make me a further service to them and in doing so, create a living, a career, a business that builds around that. And in my experience, I.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:15:26) – Love.

Jonathan Fields (00:15:27) – That those are the people where not only individually do you really come alive, but those are the businesses that have profound impact in the world and that kind of catch fire because you’re not trying to sell something to anybody. You’re simply caring about them so deeply that you take the time to understand what they need and then just giving it to them. And so many times people don’t do that. And so really so from the business side, it’s this it’s this interesting overlay with what you’re saying, the approach to how you research.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:15:56) – I have never thought about that until this exact second, but I love that. And I think it’s exactly grounded theory because what’s interesting, I never thought of entrepreneurship. I think of I’ve got a really cool thing. Right, Exactly.

Jonathan Fields (00:16:09) – I mean, go find somebody who wants it.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:16:11) – Yeah. But in grounded theory, the whole thing is it’s called trust. And emergence is the axiom trust in what emerges from the data, trust in people’s lived experiences and their perception of those experiences. But what you do is you the goal of grounded theory is to find out what is the main concern of a group of people you want to know about, know more about, and then your theory should explain how they’re trying to continually resolve that concern. Okay, so it’s very much in line. Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:16:42) – I mean, it’s it’s.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:16:43) – Kind of like entrepreneurship. I like.

Jonathan Fields (00:16:45) – It. No, it is. I mean, like the really good entrepreneurs know that, you know, you come in and you’re probably going to start out, you know, there’s we’re human beings, so there’s no way we can start the process without certain assumptions, right? You know, like they’re just going to be there.

Jonathan Fields (00:16:58) – But the most successful people will always be the ones that are open to serendipity or open to the market, proving them wrong and then listening to what the market says is right and then deciding whether they actually want to create that or not. Exact same. Yeah. So it’s got now I want to learn more about like sort of like their whole methodology.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:17:14) – Now I’ll give you something because it’s exactly the same. And in fact you evaluate a theory that’s a grounded theory. One of the, one of the the codes we live by is and it’s so much in line with entrepreneurship now that you point this incredible thing out, a theory can never be as good, is only as good as its ability to work new data. So like a business would only be as good as its ability to address the evolving and changing needs of the market. Right.

Jonathan Fields (00:17:45) – Which is why a lot of big companies, bigger companies getting huge trouble because they started and maybe they were actually really they understood the pain points, the needs of a market when they started, and they serve that beautifully.

Jonathan Fields (00:17:56) – But markets aren’t stationary like things. They’re living, breathing beasts that move and change and morph. Especially the last 4 or 5 years. We’ve seen that in a profound way. And I’ve talked to so many people who are who are what you probably consider classic entrepreneur like real big established businesses and their businesses are shrinking fast and they’re just thinking we’re going under, you know, rather than. Well, no, actually all the assumptions that we built around are no longer valid. So we actually we don’t have to just keep trying to, you know, like work on that same model. We can actually look for where the pain points in the conversations have moved to and see if we can adapt the what we do and how we do it to those those new needs. A lot of people don’t want to do that. They’re so vested in the way things work, right? And they they are terrified. And this is so curious what you think about this. Also, most people who start businesses, they start them and they accept that a certain amount of uncertainty and risk and fear and anxiety and all this stuff and failure and very often it’s because part of the dynamic is they don’t have a whole lot to lose in the beginning, right? Then they build something substantial.

Jonathan Fields (00:19:07) – Now they do have a lot to lose. So when I was talking about like that business that now has to adapt to. A whole different thing now that they’re in a place where they don’t have. There’s a lot to lose if they sort of like guess wrong or they don’t. They become incredibly fearful in a way that they didn’t or they’re not able to move through the fear and the change in the uncertainty in a way that they were much more able to when they started a business really ties in, I think, with a lot of your exploration of vulnerability.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:19:37) – Yeah, you’re going to be hard pressed to get me shaking loose this parallel between business and I’m so obsessed with the now. It’s so fascinating because, you know, the axiom again, of trust in the emergence is, I think what I’ve seen in my experience talking to businesses and talking to not just entrepreneurs, but big corporations, is they don’t they don’t trust in the process that brought them success. Yeah, they start to trust in the product of the process.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:20:08) – Right. And they lose their trust for the process, which is trust and emergence. Trust the people you’re serving. And so the same is true with researchers. Like for me, the minute I say I don’t care what emerges from this interview with Jonathan, I’ve already got our theory out there in the academic literature. This has got to hold up. And the minute I shift, my work is dead and no longer rings true. It’s not innovative, it’s not exciting. But, you know, Barney Glaser, one of the founders of Grounded Theory, calls it the Douglass trip. You have to have a real comfort with uncertainty and vulnerability to do the kind of research I do. You lose a lot. Like I mentor a lot of doctoral students and sit on a lot of dissertations for grounded theory folks who get halfway through and think, this is too uncertain. I want to go back to the take an existing theory, prove or disprove it with data, Write it up, be done. I don’t want to do I don’t want to trust an emergence and let something new and that we haven’t talked about yet emerge.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:21:03) – I don’t have the stomach for it, but you know, and so so for me, the vulnerability piece and I get that because I was that person, we’re all that person. We’re all that person. Yeah. And that’s important.

Jonathan Fields (00:21:16) – Because. Right. It’s not like, you know. I mean, maybe there are these freakish people, you know, this really thin slice of humanity that just doesn’t feel it or their brains are soft wired from the beginning to process it differently. But most of us, it hurts.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:21:30) – It does hurt. And, you know, and to say I wasn’t one of those people is exactly against like, I have the four myths of vulnerability and daring greatly. And the first one is that it’s weakness. Yeah. You know, and I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. And so I think one of the reasons we lose tolerance for it or we don’t we can’t sit with the processes because we’ve been raised to believe that being vulnerable and walking into a meeting with, you know, funders or whomever or whatever your situation is and saying, I don’t know.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:22:07) – I mean, some of the most incredible examples that I read and include in the book are about business people who stand up in front of their leadership and say, I don’t know what to do next. And you may know more than I do. I need your help. That’s powerful.

Jonathan Fields (00:22:25) – Yeah. And that is the single most terrifying thing that I think any leader. Do, but also that like the maybe the most powerful thing they could do simultaneously. It’s really interesting. But think like you were saying, though, it people think it’s it’s all if I do that, I’m weak. Right.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:22:46) – Pete Foody, who is he’s a researcher in Australia and Sydney and he studies transformative leadership and he has long case studies over five and six years studying leadership and how it transforms within an organisation. And he has this great article that was in Harvard Business Review where he uses metaphors to talk about what transformative leaders share in common. And one of them is the snowball. And he’s and he tells the story of a of a CEO, a new CEO, who kind of came on board and was very directive, very instructive, and things really started unraveling.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:23:22) – And he decided to kind of risk vulnerability and stood up in front of all this leaders together and said, I’m getting feedback that my style, the way I communicate and give you feedback is is pushing innovation down. I need your help. I need to know how to be better at this. I need to know how to work with you. And what Pete found in his research, not only in this case, but across the the cultures he was studying, is that it created this huge snowball effect. If those leaders in turn felt permission to stand with their teams and say, I can’t do this without you and those people. And then it created this thing that took off through the culture. And what it shook loose was it got so big and fast, the momentum of it that it shook loose all the drag that people that were not willing to say, I need help, I don’t know. I’m in over my head couldn’t hold on anymore in the culture.

Jonathan Fields (00:24:18) – That that’s amazing and it also really speaks to the top down you know like idea that it all comes from the people that are at the very tip top.

Jonathan Fields (00:24:27) – You know, like if that one person, you know, like if you don’t have a CEO and and she or he doesn’t actually say, okay, I’m owning this myself, nobody else in the organization will own it. And the reverse is true. Typically like saying snowball effect. If that person steps up and says, Yeah, I don’t know which way is up right now, but we’re all really smart, but see if we can figure this out together. I mean, and it’s so funny too, because I’ve had so many conversations. I’m sure you have also the sort of management teams, leadership people, and they’re like, Well, how do we get the people under us to buy this or to act in this way or to create in this way? And like the first question, well, are you behaving in that way or acting in that way? Like, no, no, no, no. This isn’t about.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:25:09) – Me, right?

Jonathan Fields (00:25:10) – It’s like, actually it is, right? You know, you everything that you say and this is as a parent, you know this, right?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:25:16) – I mean, that’s like, hello?

Jonathan Fields (00:25:17) – You know, like you can’t say do this if, like, then you’re doing something completely different.

Jonathan Fields (00:25:21) – Your kid’s going to like you and be like.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:25:23) – Right.

Jonathan Fields (00:25:24) – So same thing in organizations, it’s the same dynamic, but people don’t see that.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:25:28) – No, I think one of the things that I say that maybe pisses people off more than anything else I say, whether it’s leaders, parents, is that we cannot give people what we don’t have and we can’t ask people to do what we’re not doing. And that makes people crazy. And I get it as a parent, especially because, you know, when I tell parents you can’t raise a child with a greater sense of resilience than your own, you can’trillionaise a child with more self compassion than what you have. They’re like, they get twitchy, they get crunchy, and you’re that. When I tell people I’m not sure that you can love a child more than you love yourself, people get hostile.

Jonathan Fields (00:26:10) – You know, And that.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:26:12) – Because people want to say, you know, that’s crazy. I love my kids way more than I love myself. And it’s often the parents of very young children who say that.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:26:21) – What’s interesting to me is it’s the parents of teens who say, Oh, God, I get that, because what happens is fourth, fifth grade, certainly middle school, beginning of high school, when our kids start to become us, in some ways are we see our partners the things that bug the crap out of us about our partners emerge in our kids are the things that bug us about us. But that self-compassion of that compassion turns to judgment. Like, what do you mean you didn’t have anyone to sit with at lunch? And rather than saying, Oh God, I remember that. Let’s talk about that, you say, Well, pull your hair back and wear some of those cute outfits I bought you, and then maybe your friends will want to sit with you and that’s your stuff.

Jonathan Fields (00:27:06) – Yeah. And I think we’ve all it’s like, you know, as you’re saying this, I’m like, scanning right now. I’m like, okay, I like myself. I’m pretty really compassionate, you know, like, open guy.

Jonathan Fields (00:27:18) – And I’m like, I’m sure there have been so many things where I’ve just reacted without even realizing that I’m reacting because of a cap on my own capability to deal with my own stuff. And it’s manifesting in my response to other people. I, you know, which is it’s not easy to own that.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:27:34) – Now and I’m done it. I mean, you know, it’s people say, well, we can’t all be, you know, shame free all the time like you. And I’m I think to myself I’ve never been. Apparent and not being ashamed. Researcher I mean, I started just around the time my daughter was born right before, and I’ve done it because. We’re human. And I think that’s why I think, you know, I talk a lot about the gifts of imperfect parenting. I think it’s those moments where, I mean, I remember telling Ellen one time she she was doing this whole thing about she wore a side ponytail. She came home with a different ponytail. I said, Hey, what happened to your side? Ponytail? She said, Oh, I took it out because my friends thought it looks terrible.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:28:18) – And I said, But I thought you left it. And she said, Yeah, but you know, they gave me a hard time. And so I went into the hole like, you have to do what you love, not what other people think. And then five minutes later, I’m telling Steve, you’ve got to pull the Christmas lights out of the yard. What are my neighbors going to think? And Ellen’s five feet away from me, you know, and she said, I don’t understand. I said, I understand what she does. The ponytail. The lights, huh? You know, I’m like, just.

Jonathan Fields (00:28:46) – Keep in your honor.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:28:47) – I’m like, oh, you’re right. You know, if I tell my daughter, your body is beautiful, you know, our value would probably be to say something like, This is the body that God gave you, and it’s strong and wonderful and, you know, and then she walks in and I’m using a lot of hateful self-talk about my jeans not fitting.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:29:06) – Which one do you think matters the most then? But it’s the same with leaders. You know, if leaders say to teams, you know, hey, we want innovation so we’ll expect failure fail often fail quick, clean it up and move on. But they see a leader scared to death, of feeling scared of trying, scared of being uncertain or vulnerable. Then the message is that other stuff is lip service. This is about perfection, and even if it stifles creativity, we can’t be wrong.

Jonathan Fields (00:29:42) – Right. So. So one of the big things is that people perceive vulnerability as a weakness and seems like the answer is you got to own the change and you basically have to say, okay, yeah, but I mean, how do you do that? I mean, if you’re somebody were let’s say you’re a leader, you’re a parent, you’re just a career, you’re an artist, you know, and you want to do something and and you’re terrified of being vulnerable. You’re a human being living in the world who’s terrified of of opening up and revealing who you are, like going into the uncertainty of that risk.

Jonathan Fields (00:30:16) – Yeah. How do you make that jump?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:30:20) – Well, I think I think the first place is I mean, it may be different whether you’re a cognitive person or a feel your way through person. But I think for those of us who think first and feel second, which would be me, um, I think getting clear on what vulnerability is and isn’t is really important for this reason. 12 years of research, I cannot find a single example of courage, of moral courage, spiritual courage, leadership, courage. I cannot find a single example in our data of courage that was not based on sheer vulnerability. And so I think one of the things we have to do, first of all, is dispel these myths, I mean, and get clear in our values. I mean, for me, I don’t it doesn’t hurt less when I get criticized when I put myself out there or when you put yourself out there, people who are trying to, you know, daring greatly from the Roosevelt quote, you know.

Jonathan Fields (00:31:15) – One of my favorite quotes, by the way, as soon as I saw this, I saw that I was like, I know where that’s wrong. You two. Totally.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:31:21) – I love that. Yeah. It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who pointed as strongly and as he stumbles or how the pointed out how the doer deeds could have done them better. The credit goes to those of us who are in the arena who, I mean, to totally paraphrase, getting their asses kicked, sometimes falling on our faces, failing, sometimes victorious. But at least when we’re failing, we’re daring greatly. I think when I talk to people who’ve made the transition from I really want to put these homemade journals on Etsy, but I’m really afraid to do that. I really want to ask my boss for this promotion or this raise. I really want to share this idea at the PTO meeting next week. What I asked people, Where did you muster up the courage? How did you screw up the courage to do this? The answer was always, I got very clear that being courageous was more important to me as a value than succeeding.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:32:22) – And so to me, it comes down to an area of your work that I think is so important, really serious intention setting and very clear values alignment, you know, and I think it it is very necessary to have people in our lives who, when we dare greatly, when we’re vulnerable, when we try something new and it doesn’t work out and we come up short, who are willing to look at us and say, but you were brave.

Jonathan Fields (00:32:54) – Yeah, I think those people having those people around you or and that’s I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. I’ve had so many conversations with people where they said, I don’t have those people. Yeah, what do I do? Because every time I do this, like, everybody around me flies up and says, I told you so. You’re an idiot. You know, like I knew you were going to fail. And which is which is kind of interesting because to me, one of the potential great equalizers there is the potential to use technology to flatten the world and find people like that.

Jonathan Fields (00:33:24) – And it’s not the same thing as the people who live in your neighborhood. You can hug and kiss and like just have a cup of coffee with it’s not the same. I would love to say it is because, you know, like I live and breathe in that world a lot. That’s not. But I think it helps to have access to a small group of people who may be indicted, you know, five different countries. But they’re deeply committed to each other and to share the same value said to me, I’ve seen that how people who live in a small town somewhere and are in a family where they were, that approach to life is completely rejected. But I think I think it’s a very it’s a tough problem. One of the things that. That I look at is I think a lot of times it’s part of it is what we tell ourselves. But I think a lot of it is the questions we ask ourselves also around our ability to sort of unlock action in the face of perceived weakness in our ability.

Jonathan Fields (00:34:13) – I think so many of us always focus on is what if I fail, right? Rather than what if I succeed, right? And what if I do nothing? Which is very often the most terrifying answer of three?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:34:25) – No, there’s no doubt. And I mean something you said about people who are surrounded by communities who are critical. I told you so. You were so stupid to do that. One thing that I think it’s really important and I feel ethically bound to say to people a lot of times about the work is be clear that when you start to differ greatly, when you start to be vulnerable and take chances, you are going to be holding a very uncomfortable mirror up for people. And a lot of times if you’re surrounded by people who say, I told you so or who are critical, it’s because daring greatly to watch someone be vulnerable and risk to watch someone walk headlong into uncertainty is so uncomfortable for people who are not willing to do that, that they’re dying to see failure and to pointed out as confirmation that my way of living is okay and the whole dotted around like I think there was a group of women we call ourselves the Love Bombers.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:35:23) – There’s a group of women. They are artists, photographers, writers. I got a call one day from them probably five, six years ago. They said, You don’t know us. We know you from online. I think you read our blogs, You we read yours. We’re going to gather together on the Oregon coast. Would you like to join us? And I was like, oh, hell no. And like, that’s not, you know, like I was voted like least likely to show up with a group of hippie girls smoking cloves like and doing art. Like, I was like, no, my husband was like, I think you might read this. It’s like, are you kidding me? He said, I think you should go. And it really changed my life because, again, it was technology. And I totally agree with what you said. What I’m throwing up and sick. These are not the people who hold my hair back. They’re not the people who bring the casseroles over during hard times, but they are a group of people who were we made agreement that we would be vulnerable and brave together and that we would create a space for each other where we never had to shrink.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:36:22) – So we were really proud of what we were doing, our successes and we never have to puff up when we were feeling small and ashamed that we were all going to be brave together and take our licks and, you know. And so I think that’s really important. And it was life changing for me. And so I think if you are in a small town, I think World Domination Summit.

Jonathan Fields (00:36:43) – Yeah, great example. I think a lot of people go to that just because they fly from all over the world, because they can’t find those people. And it’s like there one time every year where they can like be on the ground with like minded people and then they take that with them. I think a lot of things can start out digitally. Yeah. And then it stays in sort of this ethereal kind of supportive level. Yeah. But then you can meet somebody to spend three days with them and then when you leave, it’s a very different dynamic.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:37:10) – It’s a totally different. Yeah. I mean, and I think, yeah, like I would have never, I don’t think I’ve ever done I know before or sense anything like my talk at Pearl domination.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:37:21) – Like I would never have tried something so crazy and out there had I not been, you know, around people who are there to explore, how brave am I willing to be, Right? You know? And so I do think there’s something about that. One of the other myths about vulnerability that you pointed that you touched on was the idea that we can go it alone. Yeah. You know, that’s still even even in a world where people are pretty awake and conscious about connection. It’s still a very highly regarded ideal. Hmm. You know, this is where I quote Whitesnake in the book. You know, like right here I go again on my like, we all want to.

Jonathan Fields (00:38:05) – I love your taste in music as like an old brush and, you know, like. Yeah, an addict.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:38:10) – Yeah. I’m a rush fanatic, too. And so that’s one thing that’s so fun about the book. People are like, most of the guys are like, Dude, you quoted rush lines like.

Jonathan Fields (00:38:20) – The ultimate philosophers and.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:38:22) – Neil Peart, you know, world peace I think he could bring home.

Jonathan Fields (00:38:26) – I think so.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:38:27) – But no, I think this idea that we can go it alone and that I think we need people not only to support us, but I think we need people like to try on vulnerability with to try it on and say, hey, John, that’s pretty and I think I want to do this. I did that with Chris going back to World Domination Summit, like the night of rehearsal. I was there or, you know, I said, I’m seriously thinking about closing by doing a duet with you from the early version of a Journey song. And he was like, I know. And his wife was like, Yeah, there’s no way he’s ever going to do that. And I’m like, okay. Then I thought, okay, good. I was like, okay. So I just kind of moved away from it. And then I hear him like from the backstage go, But you are writing a book called Daring Greatly.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:39:08) – So I was like, Are you going to do it or not? And he’s like, I’ll do it if you do it. And but that’s what I mean by trying it on, because there was no doubt. I was seriously afraid. I thought I put it at best 5050, but anyone else would sing along. And I thought, Are you going to be okay if it’s just you and me the whole time? And Chris goes, It’s going to be a long song if that happens. And I’m like, Well, I’ll tell the guys 80 guys to fade out. But it was a thousand people.

Jonathan Fields (00:39:38) – Uh huh.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:39:39) – Doing other chairs, you know, in the aisles, playing air guitar. It was fun. And so.

Jonathan Fields (00:39:43) – And it turned into an extraordinary moment.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:39:47) – Turns out it was one of the best moments of my life. I mean, it was.

Jonathan Fields (00:39:52) – And I think I mean, that’s part of the message, right, is that that’s what you miss out on when you’re not willing to go to that place.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:39:59) – It is. And I read know everyone, you know, because I still get, you know, comments from people that were like, don’t stop believing or suck it, you know, like, I still get those. But every now and then there’ll be a comment like, That’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard of. And. It doesn’t. I feel total neutrality about that. Not even the need to defend it or anything, because my thought was you weren’t there because it was from people who weren’t there. You didn’t share that with us. And that’s okay, right? Because if you were there, it was fun, you know, And we sang together like we were 13 in the back of a car sneaking out on a Friday night. Yeah. So? So. But I think you have to have a tribe to try on that stuff with.

Jonathan Fields (00:40:47) – Yeah, I totally agree. It makes it’s. It’s almost impossible for a lot of it. Not everybody. I think some people are kind of wired, you know? I think so, too.

Jonathan Fields (00:40:56) – Yeah. But I don’t think there’s most people.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:40:58) – I don’t. And I you know, I think the other thing that’s important about that tribe that has really shifted in for me in the last year is I no longer really even I had no intake at all of any feedback or criticism from anyone who’s not in the arena. And so unless you are in your own capacity and your own world and your own life, getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in what you have to share with me about my work.

Jonathan Fields (00:41:29) – What? Flip that switch.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:41:33) – A profound respect. For myself and other people who are out there trying to do work and trying to walk into uncertainty and vulnerability and are really risking because it is so easy to make a life in a career out of sitting in the bleachers and making fun of people and putting them down. And so I think a profound respect for those of us who are out there. And what I realized, too, in my own life is the people who are doing that or in their own arena, I don’t care what it is.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:42:11) – You don’t have to be a writer or speaking in public. I don’t care if you’re a teacher, you know, like my sisters or teachers, you know, in my opinion, they walk in the arena every morning at 730. Right. And so what I have found, not only as my personal life, but professionally is the people who are in the arena and who are showing up and letting themselves be seen and give feedback that is far more constructive and far more helpful and mindful about what people can hear and not hear. And I mean, and I love I mean, I’m an academic at heart, so I love debating discourse. I love it when people email me and say, saw your talk, parts of it. I liked that you were completely remiss in not mentioning these three areas of the literature. How can you talk about vulnerability without quoting so-and-so about closeness or something? I love that. That makes me better and makes my work better. And people who make fun of me, I make fun of other people or say hateful things.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:43:11) – People who say, I feel sorry for your kids. You know, people who say, if I looked like you, I’d embrace imperfection, too, that those kind of comments that you get, you know. I just. I hate to get binary because it’s not. It’s who I’m trying not to be, but I’m still that person in some ways. And I really do believe you’re either making the world a better place or you’re making it a worse place. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of neutrality, and that’s probably a little hard ass line to take. I don’t want to sound like you’re either with us or against us. Not my favorite quote or, you know, perspective. But I do feel like every day our choices have a huge impact on people and. Someone told me this could be urban legend. I don’t know. Maybe, you know, But I heard that Oprah Winfrey has this quote on her door, but it’s a quote that I love and it says, You’re responsible for the energy you bring into this room.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:44:20) – And I think people are responsible for the energy they put in the world and a fake avatar and a fake name. And leaving a comment somewhere is not benign. Because I’ll keep putting my work out there and you will probably keep putting your work out there. And several people we know will probably keep. But there are people who have amazing gifts who can make the world an incredibly better place, who won’t put their work out there for that reason that. And that’s a loss. And whether we know what that work was or not, we miss it and grieve it every day. There are songs that we need to hear, their stories that need to be heard. There’s work that needs to be seen. There’s ideas that need to be implemented that will never see or know because there’s so many people out there who are so reflexively cynical and critical and mean spirited. I like it. Do you like it?

Jonathan Fields (00:45:20) – You know, it’s something that I deal with every single day in my life. First thing I do when I wake up in the morning is I roll out of bed and I sit and I meditate for 25 minutes.

Jonathan Fields (00:45:28) – And part of that is because it helps me enter every day with that sense of equanimity and the ability to, when needed, zoom the lens out more and look down on myself and and get a better sense for when I’m reacting or responding with deliberation and intelligence. It’s still a really hard thing for me to do because I’m an emotional person and behind because I operate so much of the time as a writer and behind the veil of anonymity that a lot of people had that you were describing the online world, I get attacked. And I just say I’m always thinking myself. Would this person stand in front of me in a room with my kid next to me and say the same thing? Right. And and I’ve got to believe that the answer would be no. I want to believe the answer would be no, because I want to have that level of faith in humanity. But sometimes I but it’s not easy. And I know to your point, I know I’ve had so many conversations with people who do not bring their art and their soul and their heart to the world because they know that there are people out there who will attack them in a very, very mean, vindictive, spiteful ways.

Jonathan Fields (00:46:45) – And part of I guess my exploration has been to the point that you were making before. I’ve always been fascinated with the phenomenon of people who are even within your close inner circle, your family or closest friends, either publicly or secretly rallying to see you fail. Yeah. And I think a lot of what so I try and reframe. I try to understand, you know. I once heard a you know, maybe it was something that I read or an interview that I saw with the Dalai Lama where they asked him what his greatest fear was and his greatest fear was losing compassion for the Chinese. Blew my mind, you know, And I’m just singing to myself, if if I can if I can try and practice compassion, meditate and compassion on a daily level and in a way that tries to allow me to step in the shoes of that person who is being this way towards me or towards someone I love, Maybe that’s the beginning for me, but it doesn’t make me okay with it. I would love to say it does.

Jonathan Fields (00:47:46) – I would love to say I just I’m good. I meditate, I do my mindfulness and I experience it and then I let it go. But but I don’t. I’m human, you know, And it hurts. But far better that they’re living in the great twilight that knows neither victory nor success.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:48:05) – So I think that’s the thing. I think I’ve seen the pain and talk to people about the pain of having the anonymous critic, but also having the family who’s rallying for failure, to have the partner who’s just chomping on the bit to say, I told you so. To have the children who are looking at you with disappointment. You know, the greatest pain I’ve ever seen in my work is from people who have spent their lives on the outside of the arena wondering what would have happened had I shown up. That’s a pain. That to me. Maybe it’s because I’m I’m 46 has become a far greater fear of mine then having to dodge some hurt, you know, some hurt feelings sometimes. And, um.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:49:00) – Yeah, the what? What if I would have shown up and been saying, Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:49:04) – And I’m in the same place and same age, by the way.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:49:07) – I love it.

Jonathan Fields (00:49:08) – Yeah, me too. I would ask for.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:49:10) – Love or money.

Jonathan Fields (00:49:11) – One final question as you wrap this up. So the name of this project is called The Good Life Project. And so when I when you hear that phrase and or if I ask you the question to you, what does it mean to live a good life? What comes up?

Dr. Brené Brown (00:49:24) – Gratitude. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I think for me. A good life happens when you stop and are grateful for the ordinary moment that so many of us just steamroll over to try to find those extraordinary moments. And so, to me, my good life is soccer practice and carpool line and tuck ins and date night. And that’s the good life for me. I mean, and knowing that it’s good and analogy and stopping that it’s good and saying, this is good.

Jonathan Fields (00:50:05) – Yeah, I love that.

Dr. Brené Brown (00:50:06) – Yeah.

Jonathan Fields (00:50:07) – Thanks for hanging out. Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode safe, but you’ll also love the conversation we had with Elizabeth Gilbert about bringing your whole self to your life. You’ll find a link to Liz’s episode in the show notes and of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it maybe on social or by text or by email. Even just with one person. Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action.

Jonathan Fields (00:51:03) – That’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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