Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown

A Review. Nay, a Recommendation.

By my accounting, there are five kinds of books in this world:

  1. Those you do, in fact, judge by the cover and dismiss as books you would never read.
  2. Those you start but never finish, even though you have some kind of nagging voice telling you it’s not okay to stop reading in the middle.
  3. Those you read and finish.
  4. Those you read, finish and recommend to others who you might share your interest in the book’s conjectures and conclusions.
  5. Those you read, finish, and want everyone to read. You become a nagging voice who recommends them to everyone, threatening to stop liking anyone that won’t read them, and disliking anyone for sure if they read these books, but don’t love them.

I recognize this book taxonomy may be mine alone.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown, is a level 5 book. I began seeing quotes from the book show up here and there on Twitter. Each quote I saw left me either stirred or intrigued, so I investigated a little further and landed on the first of Brene Brown’s TED talks. (It seems to be quite popular, so you may already be one of the 8 million views it has received.) After finishing the video, 20 minutes and 19 seconds later, the book was finding its way through the nodes of the world to the storage on my iPad Mini.

Brown begins the book explaining the origin of the title:

The phrase Daring Greatly is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic.” The speech, sometimes referred to as “The Man in the Arena,” was delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910. This is the passage that made the speech famous: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.…”

A vibrant quote the resounds in my being. It echoes to me me I want to be something more, to engage in the pursuit of who I am created to be. This quote sets a appropriate tone for the book, ushering in seven chapters of invitation after invitation to be fully present to one’s self and calling.

My experience reading the book was not one of seeing things in a way I had never seen them before. It was of seeing truths I had intuitively known, truths about human connection, vulnerability, courage, and engagement. Reading the the book, however pulled these truths together in a way I could not, allowing me to claim them for my own life.

Would reading this book be as a rich of an experience for you as it was for me? Maybe not, but as much as I want to take hold of what Brown writes and live it for my own, I also want to be around others who also dare to live in such a way.


As I often do when posting about books I’ve enjoyed, here are a few quotes to give you a feel for the contents:

The surest thing I took away from my BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. in social work is this: Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.

The perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

It’s crazy how much energy we spend trying to avoid these hard topics when they’re really the only ones that can set us free.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them—we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.

I’ve come to believe that a leader is anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes.

Hope is a function of struggle.

Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.

4 comments
scottemery
scottemery

Thanks for this. Love the taxonomy; it rings true for me. I am one of the 8 million and have seen the book cover here and there. It is officially added to my Wishlist.

byjohnchandler
byjohnchandler

Golly, I hope you like it after reading. Otherwise we would be off to a rocky start.