Review: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Format read: ebook from NetGalley
Formats available: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Self-help, Psychology
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Gotham
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown offers a powerful new vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.

“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 at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

This is a difficult book to review, because it doesn’t tell a narrative. Instead it deals with tough concepts like shame and vulnerability, and the need that all humans have to be connected to each other. About how easy it seems to disconnect, and how much it hurts us when we do.

Of course, reviewing could be said to count as “criticism” in that famous “Man in the Arena” speech from Theodore Roosevelt that Dr. Brown quotes from above and throughout the book. Except that by putting my name on my reviews, by being “out there”  and owning the writing of them, it counts as being “in the arena”. I set myself for being criticized in turn.  Reading the passages in the book about the self-talk that can weigh you down before starting any new venture sounded pretty darn familiar.

I was amazed that Brown managed to link that “Man in the Arena” speech to the even more famous (to me, at least) quote from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit about “What is REAL?” (here’s the full quote, it’s worth a read) and make it work, because that negative self-talk isn’t real, and learning to get past it and get out there and “Dare Greatly” is part of Brown’s premise.

Another point that Brown was making was that our pursuit of perfection and overabundance is just another way of keeping us from connecting with the people around us, because we’re too busy comparing ourselves to others (and always falling short) to connect with them. Instead of feeling shame at what we don’t have or haven’t achieved, we should be seeking wholeness, or wholeheartedness to use her term. It reminded me of a little story on the net, “I wish you enough.”

Reality Rating B+: Daring Greatly will make you think. For a book of this type, that may be the most important thing. Many of the points the author made are still rattling around in my head, and all too many of the stories had resonance. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.

If you’re interested in the social consequences of disconnectedness, you might want to take a look at Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. It may be a little dated, but it still has some important things to say in its conclusions. Brown deals more with the individual and Putnam with society, but I think the two complement each other.






***Disclaimer: I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.