I try to do a round-up of my favorite books at the end of each year, but for obvious reasons (namely that cutie in the pictures below!) I didn’t get around to it this year.
One of my favorite things is to share with others a book that transformed my life in some way. Not all of the books on my Best of 2015 list (coming in a future post!) were published last year – that’s just when I happened to read them. However, my absolute favorite book that I read was published in 2015, and if you know me, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was Brene Brown’s latest: Rising Strong.
Favorite Book of 2015: Rising Strong by Brene Brown
I have fond memories of reading Rising Strong, sitting by lake with my friend Anna. We were both pregnant, due about a month apart, and enjoying a week in North Carolina together. After the trip, I had John read the book, and he found it just as transformative as I did.
One particular takeaway that we continue to use in marriage and as we parent together is Brene Brown’s concept of making up narratives. She explains how when we don’t understand something, we make up stories to help the situation make sense. However, these stories are oftentimes not true and/or destructive. For instance, Brown recollects swimming in a lake with her husband and assuming that his cold demeanor was him thinking, “Man, she’s getting old… and doesn’t rock a Speedo like she did twenty-five years ago.” By the end of the swim, she was fuming. Yet when she stopped and confronted him by using the language, “The story that I’m making up is…” they realized that he was actually making up a separate story about his lack of ability as a father. Neither of these narratives were accurate or what the other person was thinking at all. Using the phrase “the story that I’m making up” has become a tool for John and me to start conversations that otherwise would have made the other person defensive. As a result, we can go deeper emotionally and be more vulnerable as we connect.
If you’ve read any of Brene Brown’s other books before (if not, start with Daring Greatly), you know that vulnerability is a huge theme to her work. As a grounded theory researcher, she has found that “vulnerability – the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of the outcome – is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall” – which is what Rising Strong is all about.
I often ask my coaching clients, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It can be a freeing question that strips away obligation and fear to release hidden dreams.
However, after reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic, (which I actually ending up enjoying after getting past some of her mysticism that was a little too hippie-ish for me) I’ve started rephrasing the question with what Gilbert calls “the fiercest question of all… What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”
That’s the real question – what are you feeling so called to, so compelled to do that you have to give it a shot even if you fail? In Rising Strong, Brene Brown explains:
“If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; this is the physics of vulnerability. When we commit to showing up and risking falling, we are actually committing to falling. Daring is not saying, ‘I’m willing to risk failure.’ Daring is saying, ‘I know I will eventually fail and I’m still all in.’”
While this vulnerability could sound hopeless (I’m destined to fail at some point?!), it is actually freeing. Everyone who has gone “all in” on a dream has experienced setback at some point. The real success is “having the courage to show up” because according to Brown’s research, this is what transforms us.
Similarly, in Big Magic, Gilbert says, “You must be willing to take risks if you want to live a creative existence… What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” She goes on to explain that most people quit “the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.” And as a result, “they miss the good part, the wild part, the transformative part – the part when you push past the difficult” and discover unexplored territories.
There’s been a lot of recent research discovering that determination, or grit, is the number one factor to success. Grit is a topic that I’ve written about several times, and I believe it is important to keep showing up each day, working toward your goals. However, in a podcast interview that Elizabeth Gilbert does with Brene Brown, she (Brown) discusses that going back to work on Day 2 – after a failed Day 1 – isn’t about discipline and hustle but about compassion, forgiveness, and empathy toward oneself – something I’ve discussed on the blog in my transition to motherhood.
Discipline can be grueling, exhausting, and in limited supply. From my viewpoint and experience, when I instead give myself compassion for setbacks, it is this empathy that then fuels my discipline – which is much more energizing, lighter, and accessible, ultimately bringing more hustle to my goal. Whereas discipline will at some point run out, when it is fueled by abundant empathy, it is replenished over and over.
- So first, What would be worth doing even if you failed?
- And then, How will you respond when you experience setbacks?
…stay tuned for the rest of my Best Books of 2015 list!