I’m going to admit: whenever someone is mainstream enough that Oprah endorses them, it usually prompts me to turn and run in the other direction. It’s not that I don’t like Oprah – it’s that I prefer to carve my own path and avoid things that seem trendy.
As a result, although I loved Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability when I saw it (around 2010), the fact that she got drafted as an Oprah darling in 2013 was a signal to me that she had potentially jumped the shark, so I’ve avoided her for the last six years. (Yes, there’s a lesson in here for me about bias!)
How fortunate for me that one of my clients was reading “Braving the Wilderness” and kept referencing it in our work together. I picked it up so I could better understand what was resonating for her – and in the process discovered that Brené Brown has managed to put words on the page for much of what I’ve experienced in recent years.
In a nutshell, she uses “braving the wilderness” as a metaphor for belonging so fiercely to yourself that you’re willing to be vulnerable, take brave stances and go it alone when necessary to honor your inner truth. In addition to sharing a “checklist” that conveniently is the acronym BRAVING (boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity. non-judgment and generosity), she outlines four seemingly paradoxical practices for braving the wilderness:
- People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
- Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.
- Hold hands. With strangers.
- Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.
This book is beyond an individual self-help book centered on the idea of belonging first to ourselves; it’s a good guide for we can get back to a place of civil discourse and greater appreciation of what it is for us to all belong to the collective humanity on this planet. It might not be an explicit “how-to” for leaders, but I would argue that it’s hard to lead others well without first belonging to yourself.
And yes, now that I’ve overcome my initial prejudice, I’ll happily dig into her other books to see what else my bias has denied me!