If you don’t know who Brene Brown is, then you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest gifts.
So who is Brene Brown?
Well the best way I can describe her is as follows: A researcher, speaker, professor, writer, Texan, and most of all, one badass storyteller who, at times, can pass for a stand-up comedian.
I will never forget the day my therapist asked me if I knew who Brene Brown was. Truth be told, I thought she said ‘Renee Brown’, and my immediate response was – never heard of her. That’s when she recommended that I look her up and listen to her 2010 TEDxHouston talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.”
In two words, I was BLOWN AWAY….
…and so were 60 million other viewers, eventually making this talk one of the top five most watched TED talks ever. WOW!
Brene Brown, self-admittedly, had no idea that this talk would be the turning point in her career…and all it took was 20 incredibly powerful minutes.
In those 20 minutes, I learned more about my self-worth than I had in my 50 years of living. I remember opening up the notes app in my iPhone as I was listening and writing down so many of her compelling insights.
I want to share six of those insights. These key concepts in her talk reshaped the vision of my own future, prompting me to leave a successful career in the corporate world to start over. I believe that embracing Brene’s ‘One Word’ core value helped me celebrate this decision!
Let me start with:
Insight Number 1: CONNECTION
Brene made it clear that the ability to feel connected is how we’re wired neurobiologically.
“Connection is why we’re here. We are hard wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
Hearing this statement brought me back to the decision I had to make when my wife was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer – either continue the trajectory I was experiencing in my career or slow down and create the connection I wanted (and needed) to make with my children (ages 10 and 13 at the time) in the event I became a single parent. The challenge was how to establish this connection since my parents did not set the example for me growing up. My decision to start therapy helped me to live more intentionally by prioritizing my children over my career. As we celebrate my wife’s 10-year cancerversary May 13th, I feel like I won the lottery having my wife still with us AND a deeply connected relationship with my two children, Zachary and Samantha. I now fully appreciate that connection makes life more meaningful.
Insight Number 2: WORTHINESS
“People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection.”
Brene calls this concept whole-hearted living and it requires constant reflection and self-care. This validated what therapy taught me, that we form healthy relationships with others when we not only understand ourselves, but also feel good about who we are.
For me, this is now a daily practice of reminding myself that by actively taking care of my well-being, I’m building my self-worth so I can be the example that inspires the next generation to do the same.
Insight Number 3: COURAGE
Brene shared that the word courage comes from the Latin word, Cor, meaning heart. Essentially, courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
Simply put, it’s having the courage to be imperfect and still love yourself despite this.
I now understand the courage it took for me to admit to myself that my identity was being defined by all that I was doing – such as my Wharton MBA, Executive titles, awards and accolades – not by who I truly was at my core. This discovery was the CATALYST to walk away from all that success and start my SCORE entrepreneurial venture to help the next generation not make this same mistake.
Insight Number 4: COMPASSION
Brene shared that compassion is something we must first practice with ourselves before we can give it to other people. My therapist tried to pound this into my head for months after I quit my corporate career because I was beating myself up for making this impulsive decision without a future game plan. It took a few months to understand that I was having a hard time seeing past the pain and suffering of not knowing what was next for me. What I now know is that decision was a moment in time and practicing compassion helped me embrace my inner CATALYST. Owning my core value enabled me to move forward without a precise roadmap.
Insight Number 5: AUTHENTICITY
Brene held the mirror up to my face and hit me with the notion that connection comes as a result of authenticity, being willing to let go of who you thought you should be, in order to be who you truly are.
She shares the following when describing her research subjects:
“… They fully embraced VULNERABILITY. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about VULNERABILITY making them comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating.. They talked about it being necessary!”
For me, VULNERABILITY began the day I quit my career. I now know that was the moment I surrendered control and just let life happen. Three-plus years later, after walking away from a guaranteed salary, fancy title and financial security, I’ve never been happier!
Insight Number 6: IMPERFECTION
Why I needed Brene Brown to tell me that perfection doesn’t exist…I’ll never know!
Listeners, let’s get real here. Social media portrays people in such a way that implies perfection. Whether through academics, sports, romance, business or body image, we all yearn for that standard.
As a parent of two children, this fallacy hit home after Brene shared the following:
“We perfect our children. They’re hardwired for struggle when they get here. When you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say, ‘Look at her, she’s perfect. Our job is to look and say you know what, you’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging. That’s our job.”
After turning 50, letting go of perfection was when I allowed myself and my kids to start living.
I will never forget the day my son looked me right in the face as he was applying to college and said, “Dad, you need to let me write my own story.” In that moment I transitioned from parent to coach. Four years later, he’s graduating Cornell University and seeks my guidance and support on how to navigate this imperfect post-college world!
I’ll leave you with one of Brene’s final quotes that I have hanging up in my office.:
“Let ourselves be seen. Deeply seen. Vulnerably seen. To love with our whole hearts even though there’s no guarantee. Practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, where we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” Just to be able to stop and instead of catastrophizing what might happen to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”
It reminds me every day that VULNERABILITY is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself….but only if you want to truly feel alive
Brene taught me that VULNERABILITY is the willingness to show up and share your authentic self, while knowing that you have no control over the outcome of your interactions. This has given me the permission to accept that life is full of obstacles and pain is part of the human experience when seeking
So the next time you’re confronted with uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, go watch this life-changing TEDx talk and remember this:
VULNERABILITY is how Brene Brown SCORES!
Thank you Brene for giving me the kick in the ass I needed to internalize that “I’m enough”…and to my therapist for introducing me to this badass funny Texan!
I’m Rich Keller, the CATALYST, and see you next time on The CATALYST Effect.