3 Lessons from Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I recently finished reading Brené Brown‘s latest, Rising Strong. I’m a huge fan of her work including her other two books Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly (and now Dare to Lead). I also use her two TED Talks in my social justice education and in my coaching.  Rising Strong was another wonderful addition that filled me with great insights and suggestions to manage failure, rejection, and tragedy wholeheartedly so that I can learn and grow. Here are three major lessons for me.


Rising Strong = Reckoning, Rumbling, & Revolution

The Rising Strong process includes three steps: Reckoning, Rumbling, and Revolution. Reckoning involves walking into our story by paying attention to our emotions and getting curious about them, rather than numbing or ignoring the discomfort. Rumbling involves owning our story by getting clear about the stories we’ve made up about the situation, other people, and ourselves and being willing to wholeheartedly check these stories and see if we can come to more accurate versions of what happened. The Revolution involves writing a new more courageous ending to the story by learning from our failures and getting back out there to apply that learning. This is essentially a summary of what a good coaching process looks like.


Boundaries are critical in helping us to be compassionate, minimize resentment, and be healthy. She describes that wholehearted people set lots of boundaries, communicate those boundaries, and hold people accountable when those boundaries are crossed. I started to notice that I try to be generous and giving by not setting boundaries and then feel resentment when I feel taken advantage of by others. This isn’t fair to me or to them. I also started to notice people around me who have lots of boundaries but don’t communicate them to others but then keep score and stockpile those violations for later. I also noticed people who have boundaries but don’t hold others accountable when they are crossed (which means you don’t really have boundaries). Similarly, there are those who have boundaries and then when they are crossed they use that to justify cutting people out of their lives (which isn’t accountability). This is one of the ways we hunker down, armor up, and protect ourselves from vulnerability, preventing ourselves from living wholeheartedly. It is important to know your boundaries, communicate them, and hold people accountable.

What If They Are Doing the Best They Can?

I was struck by Brown’s assertion that each of us is doing the best that they can. She argues that according to her research that this is indeed true of all of us. If we take into account oppression, past hurts, mom’s recent cancer diagnosis, financial trouble, depression and anxiety, chronic pain, bi-polar disorder, and more, perhaps each of us really is doing the best that we can. We often have great awareness of all that we are going through but assume others have it easy and don’t offer grace. Some of us are willing to offer grace to others but hardest on ourselves. For some of us, our best isn’t very good. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing our best. She even discusses violent sociopaths and terrorists. What if they are doing their best? Well, her explanation is that we should find out if we can help them do better and if not then they should be incarcerated for the protection of others.

I decided in reading the book is that I would rather live my life assuming that others are doing the best they can and be wrong about that occasionally than treat people like they are not doing the best they can and be right occasionally.

Imagine entering into a relationship conflict with your partner and pushing yourself to hold this as true? Disagreement with co-worker? The teenager who broke into our home? Syrian refugees? ISIS leaders? This doesn’t mean not hold people accountable, but holding them accountable in a wholehearted way, which may be the only way to reach them and invite growth, change, and transformation.

Rising Strong Trailer from Brené Brown on Vimeo.

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