Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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May 15, 2019

Top 10 Success Tips from Brené Brown

by Jenny Hansen

Top 10 List

Over the last year or so, I've shared "Top 10" lists from several amazing people on the topics of writing and success. And, I've got to confess it: these last few months have been incredibly challenging for me and I'm not feeling very successful.

I don't know who you turn to when you need courage and a re-boot, but for me it's Brené Brown. When I'm feeling beat down by life, nothing perks me up like hearing from a gal who researches shame and vulnerability.

The millions of views on her TED talks tell me I'm not alone.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Brené Brown, on success and living a whole-hearted life:

1. Don't be a perfectionist.

"When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is the annoying backseat driver."

She believes we struggle with perfectionism in areas where we feel most vulnerable to shame. We give ourselves the subliminal message that, "If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule."

Think on this, y'all. The next time you push for perfection. Since it's born in fear, it is the direct opposite of creativity. Perfectionism keeps you from being seen. And we all want to be seen.

Have the courage to be imperfect.

2. Be brave. Show up.

"It's not about winning. It's not about losing. It's about showing up and being seen." The one sure thing about this, according to Brene, is "when you step into the arena of being creative, you will get your ass kicked."

We can write anything as long as we show up to the page. And often, we will get our asses kicked. Showing up is an act of great courage. Some days, showing up is the only courageous thing we do as writers.

Showing up is always the first step. If you're showing up, I am proud of you.

3. Connection is why we're here.

"In the absence of love and belonging, there is always suffering."

True belonging is not just about having a tribe, although that is important, it is also about belonging to yourself. YOU are enough, just the way you are.

4. Set boundaries.

What is okay and what is not okay? This is the simple view Brown takes on boundaries. When people allow behavior that is not okay, they are resentful. Resentful people aren't happy. Period.

She uses the acronym of B.I.G. - What Boundaries need to be in place for me to stay in my integrity and make the most generous assumptions about other people.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

She believes that creatives are the worst about boundaries because they are afraid to put value on their work. They are afraid to charge for it, because it is a piece of you and you are stating, "Me and my talent are worth it."

5. Believe in your self-worth.

"Stop walking through the world looking for evidence that you are not enough. Because you are going to find it! It's something that we need to carry internally in our own wild hearts."

Brown encourages every person to see their own value and love themselves first.

6. Discuss failure.

"Talk about your failures without apologizing."

Most people are terrified of failure. Their biggest terror is public failure. What could be more public than writing, at least if you plan to publish what you write?

Brown loves a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, often called the "Man in the Arena" quote:

“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 errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Dare greatly, my friends.

Do you remember that our own Laura Drake was rejected more than 400 times before she published? Jack London's Call of the Wild was rejected more than 900 times. Kathryn Stockett's book, The Help, was rejected 60 times before it finally sold millions and was turned into a movie.

Dare as greatly as you can.

7. Embrace vulnerability.

"The biggest myth about vulnerability is that it is weakness. People were raised to believe that to be vulnerable and exposed is to be weak." Brown argues that vulnerability is all about strength.

"Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage."

She believes vulnerability is the birthplace of so many positive emotions:

  • Love
  • Belonging
  • Joy
  • Empathy
  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Change

We have to yank emotions and ideas out of ourselves and ask others to look at them (and offer an opinion). What could be more vulnerable, and more courageous, than that?

8. Get rid of negativity.

The first person you must be positive about it yourself.

“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” Shame runs a couple of negative tracks in most people's heads: What are you doing and You are not worthy.

Get off that track! “When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.”

Brown believes we should also surround ourselves with people who are positive, about themselves and us.

“I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles.”

9. Offload shame.

You will never be able to be positive and kind about yourself until you offload shame. “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”

She wishes that, instead of telling kids to strive for perfection, we told them this: “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

10. Embrace your story.

“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.”

Own your story. Be authentic in its telling.

Brown believes: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Her books include: The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyRising StrongBraving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead. She believes you must walk through vulnerability to get to courage, therefore . . . embrace the suck.

Is there a quote above that stands out to you? Do you have another quote to share down in the comments? Who do you run to for inspiration when you're feeling battered by life?

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About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 20+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or here at Writers In The Storm.

23 comments on “Top 10 Success Tips from Brené Brown”

  1. Surrounding myself with positive people is so helpful. I have a critique group whose mantra is always "I believe in you." And we all treat each other's work as if we have holy scriptures in our hands. We share our stories and our lives. And we meet online every day that we can. Just to check in and be sure we're moving our stories forward.

  2. Thank you Jenny, your inspiring blog came at just the right time - on a down day, when nothing feels right about my writing. I love the Theodore Roosevelt quote and your advice to Dare as greatly as you can. Daring to be imperfect and daring to be vulnerable are big ones for me... and exactly what I needed to hear. I'm ready to step into the arena again... Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. Becky, I DESPISE those down days. They're hard to bounce back from some days, so I'm delighted we helped you get over that stumbling block. You made my day. 🙂

  3. My favorite quote is from Winston Churchill: "It is not always enough to do your best. Sometimes you must do what is required." I especially loved this when I was teaching, because it insists that everyone expand his capabilities. Without going beyond present boundaries, there is no growth, no improvement. And that's where daring comes in. And so does learning. I loved Brene Brown's comments. Wish she'd been teaching when I was at the U of H many many moons ago.

    1. I love that quote Jeanne! And I'll raise you one from Brene: "It's not about 'what can I accomplish?' but 'what do I want to accomplish?' Paradigm shift."

      Sometimes the going beyond our best isn't good for us. But I think daring is always good for us. And I'll bet she was a heck of a teacher.

  4. Oh my God, you have no idea how much I needed this right now, Jenny. Thank you. And thanks for not yelling at me at 3 am (my time) when I kicked you out of working on this post. Hope you got some sleep... Hugs, Babe.

    1. I wrote the post *I* needed to hear. I'm glad you got what you needed as well! I thought I did yell at you over text. I was on a roll in the wee hours of the morning. It's what us overcommitted mamas do. 🙂

  5. Love the one about failure! (Since Fear of Failure is basically my lifelong struggle. Sigh.) I think that's one reason I really like baseball—because having over a .300 batting average is considered REALLY good. And that means you only got a hit one-third of the time. If we readjusted our expectations of life to how baseball works, we might have a healthier view of ourselves!

    1. That is so so true, Julie! And it's nice to meet another gal that appreciates the drama and pathos of baseball. We are a rare breed, girl. 🙂 And Fear of Failure...it is just so..damn..EXHAUSTING.

  6. "The biggest myth about vulnerability is that it is weakness. People were raised to believe that to be vulnerable and exposed is to be weak." Brown argues that vulnerability is all about strength.


  7. Jenny, thank you for sharing this! I need the encouragement. We all do!

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