Unconventional Mentor no. 9 - Brené Brown

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”

59 Brene Brown quote

About 5 years ago I discovered coaching and as a result of that learnt that personal development was a thing. That I wasn’t limited by the skills, talents or circumstances I was in, but I could dream big, set myself goals and work to develop myself to achieve them. It was a complete revelation and looking back I can’t believe that I didn’t know this before. I have done so much in my career and in my personal life over the last 5 years, and I’m not sure that the person I was 5 years ago would be able to believe it.

One of the most inspiring people who has helped me on that journey is Brené Brown. I can’t remember where I found out about Brené Brown, but I do remember the first time I watched her TED talk. Her Texan accent is warm and inviting, she is proud of her academic work and doesn’t hide how much a part of her identity it is, and she is funny, funny about very intimate vulnerable moments in her life.

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul”

At the core of Brene’s work is the feelings of shame and vulnerability. I watched that TED talk and knew that I wanted to find out more about this woman. In the talk, Brené opens up about how the findings of her research, the vulnerability is central to living a whole-hearted life, caused her to have a breakdown and need to go for therapy to understand how this would impact her life.

“I woke up the morning after I gave that talk with the worst vulnerability hangover of my life”

In her second TED talk, Listening to Shame, Brene’ confesses that she woke up the day after giving her first talk and couldn’t believe what she had shared to 500 people. She goes on to say that she hadn’t got a plan for what would happen when it went on YouTube and got 4 million views. That was in 2012, since then the talk has reached 36.7M views.

Her books got me thinking about my career and my life in completely different ways. I started with Daring Greatly, which is about putting yourself into the world and taking risks, and very quickly followed that up with Rising Strong which is all about how to deal with failure and disappointment which, if we have dared greatly, is inevitable.

“We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly”

Her books have helped me to become a better manager and a better colleague in my work. I have learnt how to have compassion for other people and to see things from their point of view. I have also learnt to be kind to myself.

Her latest book Dare to Lead, has just been published and it takes all of the research from her books and turns it into a guide for how to lead in the workplace. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy

Mentor advice: “Vulnerability is not weakness”

The advice that I take from Brene’ Brown is to embrace vulnerability.

I have learnt that being vulnerable is where my best work happens. When I am not afraid to say I don’t know the answer, or to challenge a popular opinion or just stick to what I know to be true for me, even when everyone else around me wants to do things differently. That is when I do my best work and also feel like my best self while doing it. I have learnt that failure is not just ok, but it is a sign that I am trying really hard to break new ground and do big things. I got so much from reading Brene’ Brown 5 years ago, I had actually forgotten just how much I learnt. At this point in my career, when I am making a big transition which requires me to put myself out there and be vulnerable, I think I need to go back and re-read some of her work. Watching her TED talks to write this piece has really got my energised about what I can do in the next 5 years.

To find out more about Brene’ Brown visit her website or watch her TED talks here and here.

Laura Cloke