Rising Strong Should Come With Warning Label

Brene Brown is the author of a trilogy of "Self Help" books that will rock your world.
Brene Brown is the author of a trilogy of “Self Help” books that will rock your world.

Brene Brown’s Rising Strong completes her trilogy of books on overcoming shame and living wholeheartedly. Each book builds on the next and is grounded in her research. Rising Strong is a powerful book; however, it should come with a warning label. “Shit storm will inevitably ensue as you read this book.”

If you read the book in any kind of earnest you will reaffirm your commitment to living wholeheartedly and as a result you will better define your boundaries and stay in touch with your emotions. Ultimately this will clash with someone else’s expectations or values in variance with yours. Someone you care about. Let me explain with my own story.

Rising StrongI received Rising Strong as a gift from my dear friend Mara V. Connolly who is an executive coach trained in the Daring Way. She knows I am a Brene Brown enthusiast and it was a delightful surprise to open an unexpected Amazon package and see her note. I was heading to Los Angeles so I tucked the book in my bag and began reading it almost immediately.

I was only a few chapters in when I found myself triggered and face down in the dirt. While still in the whirlpool of embarrassment and hurt, I sent an angry, hurt-you-back text to the person in my “Rumble” in the cab rushing from to the airport. I risked airsickness while I wrote what I called my “first story” in my journal on my Southwest flight home. The next morning I realized that I needed help and I reached out to Mara to process.

Over the next few days I figured out what triggered such a strong emotional reaction and the values that were stepped on. This helped me get clear about what new boundaries I needed to set with the friend in the Rumble. I wish I could report that my friend and I were able to be curious about each other’s triggers and clear. It did not go down that way and I have been processing the heartache that comes when a relationship is not what we hoped.

As I read the rest of the book I kept referencing my Rumble. It was such a powerful learning opportunity. I especially struggle with the question, “Are people in general doing the best they can?” This cracks open my own harsh self-judgement for the times when I stumbled and did not live up to my own standards. Was I doing the best I could in that moment when I sent the angry text? I do not think so.

The key to the question is “in general”. I am not asking: are people infallible? Instead I am choosing a more compassionate life philosophy. If I assume that people are in general doing the best they can in this moment, then I can extend grace and live life more wholeheartedly, that is a life defined by courage, engagement and clear sense of purpose.

This assumption that people are doing their best first came up when I was coaching with Marj Plumb. The CTI Co-Active Coaching curriculum says every client is creative, resourceful and whole. I remember really challenging this with Marj. What about the people who are mentally ill? And Marj encouraged me to continue to start from the assumption that people are doing their best. Like forgiveness, starting from this place of grace and compassion is as much for my own benefit as the other person’s.

If I assume that I am doing my best, I can be curious about my own triggers and extend grace to myself. This does not mean I never need to repair with someone for something I said thoughtlessly. It does mean I can lay down that incident as a lesson learned instead of continually using it as a lash to whip myself for my inadequacy. And get on with the business of leadership.

Perspective Matters!

Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems
Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems

One of my strengths as a leader is my lack of certainty. (You may recall it also one of my weaknesses.) For many years I reveled in my ability to make snap judgments and decisions. I believed that I was right 98 percent of the time. It led to much unhappiness. It also achieved results.

One of the CTI coaching workshops is called Perspective and it changed my life and leadership. The basic premise is you start with a statement that you feel fairly certain about, but one that is unsatisfactory. For example, “I am not an athlete and I am going to suffer on RAGBRAI (upcoming 7 day ride).” Then you move physically (as simple as standing up and turning around) and make an opposite statement (even if you do not believe it). For example, “I am an athlete and I am going to kick RAGBRAI’s butt.”  Then you take on other perspectives and make other statements, each time moving physically. Ultimately you will land on a perspective that resonates and is sometimes far from where you started.

This process enables me to find a perspective that serves my goals and is actually closer to the Truth. It also helps me hold my judgments more lightly and as a result I suffer less.

Today I found a children’s book by Mo Willems from the Elephant & Piggie series, Are You Ready to Play Outside?  Gerald the elephant asks Piggie if he is ready to play outside. Piggie can hardly wait to run and jump and play outside. Then it starts to rain and Piggie’s perspective is that it is the end of the world. He cannot play outside. Then he sees two worms playing in the rain and he gains a new perspective. Just as he begins to relish playing in the rain, the rain stops. Now Piggie is again upset. Then Gerald provides rain via his trunk and Piggie is happy again. It is a perfect illustration of how easily we can get stuck and unstuck in a perspective.

It sounds so obvious, yet in my experience it is hard to practice. With the work on the Delta projects, it is easy to adopt one way of looking at issues and to stop asking good questions and get stuck in a perspective even when it no longer serves my stake or most accurately reflects the Truth.

Try it and share your discoveries with me.