Daring Greatly – by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly – by Brene Brown

‘How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead’


This book is about having courage and being vulnerable. It is inspired by the below quote from a Theodore Rooseveldt speech, known as ‘The Man in The Arena’. Our interpretation: don’t be a little bitch, get out there and have a crack.

See the quote and hear the episode here:

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.


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Here is a dot point summary of the book!


How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead


The phrase ‘Daring Greatly’ is from Theodore Roosevelts speech “Citizenship in a Republic” or better known as “The Man in the Arena”


“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 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, he fails daring greatly”



Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging, it’s being all in


Vulnerability is not weakness and the emotional exposure we face every day are not optional.

Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to engage with our vulnerability determines our depth of courage and the clarity of purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection



When we spend our lives waiting until we are bullet proof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice our relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn back on our gifts, those contributions that only we can make

Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.


We must walk in the arena, what ever that may be. A new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, a familiarity conversation, with courage and willingness to engage


Rather than sitting on the sideline and hurling judgement and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.


From other book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’:
Guideposts for wholehearted living

  1. Cultivating Authenticity (letting go of what others think)
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion (letting go of perfectionism)
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit (letting go of numbing and powerlessness)
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy (letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark)
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith (letting go of the need for certainty)
  6. Cultivating Creativity (letting go of comparison)
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest (letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth)
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness (letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle)
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work (letting go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to’)
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance (letting go of being cool and ‘always in control’)


Wholehearted Living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating courage, compassion and connection

[page 10-11 on def. of wholehearted living]



Ch1 Scarcity

Looking inside our culture of “never enough”


Have we turned into a culture of self-absorbed grandiose people who are only interested in power, success, beauty, and being special?

  • We normally have the same reaction.. These egomaniacs need to get over themselves, they’re not entitled to jack
  • Shame is the cause of these behaviours is not the cure


Looking at narcissism through the lens of vulnerability finds the shame based fear of being ordinary

Kids are growing up with the diet of celebrity culture, television, unsupervised social media and thinking “I am only as good as the number of likes I get on FB or IG.


We get scarcity because we live it


For many we go

  • First waking thought it “I Didn’t get enough sleep”
  • I don’t have enough time
  • The thought of not enough occurs automatically before we think to question or examine it


  • What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-defeating is that we often compare our lives, our marriages, our families, our communities to unattainable media driven versions of perfection


Source of scarcity

  • This didn’t come over night
  • There is enough people struggling with the issue of worthiness that it is shaping our culture
  • Worrying about scarcity is our cultures version of post traumatic stress. It happens when weve been through too much, rather than coming together to heal



Reason for scarcity [pg 28]:





The larger culture is always aplying pressure, unless we’re willing to push back and fight for what we believe, the default becomes a state of scarcity. We’re called to Dare Greatly every time we make that challenge the social climate of scarcity


Wholeheartedness – at its core is vulnerability and worthiness: facing uncertainty, exposure and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough



Ch2 – Debunking the vulnerability myths


Myth 1 – vulnerability is weakness

  • Our rejection from vulnerability often stems from our associations with dark emotions like fear, shame, grief, sadness and disappointment


E.g l

  • loving someone who may not love you back –
  • Sharing an unpopular opinion
  • Saying no
  • Starting a business
  • Initiating sex
  • Getting pregnant after 3 miscarriages


Is stepping up to the plate after striking out a sign of weakness? NO. Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage



  • Like being naked onstage hoping for applause when everyone is laughing
  • Is being naked when everyone else is fully clothed
  • Naked at the airport


Walk into the arena and give it your best shot


Vulnerability is lifes great dare. It’s life asking “Are you all in?”


Myth 2 – I don’t do vulnerability

  • We all do, no getting out of it


Myth 3 – Vulnerability is letting it all hang out

  • It is not oversharing
  • Trust is built one marble at a time


Myth 4 – We can go it alone

  • We need a hand to help pull us up off the ground when we get kicked in the arena. If we live a courageous life, then that will happen



Ch3 – Understanding and combating shame

Shame resilience is the key to embracing our vulnerability

Often “I am not good at vulnerability, means we’re damn good at shame”



Sharing something that you’ve created is a vulnerable but essential part of engaged and Wholehearted living. It’s the epitome of daring greatly


  1. Once you think your self worth is hitched to what you have created, its unlikely that you’ll share it. Too much on the line
  2. If you do share it, in its most creative form and reception doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re crushed. Your offering is no good and you’re no good. The chances of soliciting feedback and going back to the drawing board is slim. You shut down. Shame tells you, you shouldn’t even tried. Shame tells you that you’re not good enough and that you should have known better


If you attach your self worth to what you have created and it is successful, then you are even more trouble



Shame keeps us resentful, small, and afraid


The secret killer of innovation is shame

  • You can’t measure it, but its there. Every time someone holds back an idea, fails to give their manager the much needed feedback and is afraid to speak up in front of a client you can be sure shame played a part.
  • That deep fear we all have of being wrong, of being belittled and of feeling less than, is what stops us taking the very risks required to move our companies forward
  • Shame leads to fear. Fear leads to risk aversion. Risk aversion kills innovation


Difference between shame and guilt

Guilt – I did something bad

Shame – I am bad


Shame Resilience – battling shame

The ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values, and to come out the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it.

Own your story – don’t be ashamed of it

  1. Recognise shame and understand it’s triggers
  2. Practicing critical awareness
  3. Reaching Out
  4. Speaking Shame


Guilt = I did something bad

Shame = I am bad


“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”


Shame is hard to talk about because

  1. We all have it
  2. We’re all afraid to talk about shame
  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over us


Women and the Shame Web

Women are constantly asked by other women – why don’t you have a boyfriend, when are you getting married, when are you having a child, why havne’t you had another child yet


How men experience shame

Shame is failure – At work, on the football field, in your marriage, in bed, with money, with your children. Shame is failure.

Men live under the pressure of one unrelenting message don’t be weak – DON’T BE A PUSSY

Men either become pissed off or shut down

Sisters, mothers GFs, wives criticise men for not being open and vulnerable and intimate, while they are standing in front of that cramped wizard closet that men are huddled inside

When we are young, we learn initiating sex is the responsibility of the man, and sexual rejection becomes the hallmark of masculine shame



Ch4 – the vulnerability Armory

Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you


At about 11 or 12 the vulnerability is easier to see than adults

Once we have worn it long enough it molds our shape and is ultimately undetectable, like a second skin


Well it appears believing we’re enough is the way out of the armour. It gives us permission to take off the mask. With that sense of “enough” comes an embrace of worthiness, boundaries and engagement



  • If the opposite of scarcity is enough, then practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we are enough


The shield: Foreboding Joy

When we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. When we’re younger we greet joy with unalloyed delight, but slowly we become joy starved.


  1. Hoy comes to us in moments (ordinary moments) – we risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary
  2. Be grateful for what you have
  3. Don’t squander joy



The shield: perfectionism

Perfection is a defensive move, it’s a belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid pain of blame, judgement and shame

  • Perfectionism is not self improvement, at its core it is about trying to earn approval
  • Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis or missed opportunities


If we want freedom from perfectionism, we need to make the journey from “what will people think” to “I am enough”




“The perfect book that never leaves the computer is not as good as the imperfect book that gets published”

“Perfection is the enemy of done”



The shield: Numbing

Most numbing strategy is what people call “crazy busy”

  • We are a culture who has bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us



  1. Learn how to actually feel your feelings
  2. Stay mindful about numbing behaviours
  3. Learn how to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions




Victim =a sucker or a loser who’s always being taken advantage of and can’t hold their own

Viking = someone who sees the threat of being victimised as a constant, so you stay in control, you dominate, you exert power over things, and you never show vulnerability






Floodlighting = sharing everything

Smash and Grab = put something wild out there and try and get as much attention as you can in one hit, regardless of quality


DARING GREATLY: Clarifying intentions, setting boundaries, and cultivating connection & Questioning Intentions



Always trying to dodge vulnerability rather than facing it head on

DARING GREATLY: Being Present, Paying Attention, Moving Forward




The Shield: Cynicism, criticism, cool and cruelty

“If you decide to walk into the arena and dare greatly, you’re going to get kicked around

You are going to be on the end of some cynicism and criticism before it’s all over


Only accept and pay attention to feedback from people who are also in the arena. 


Ch6 – Disruptive engagement – Daring to rehumanize education and wok


Most people and most organizations can’t stand the uncertainty and the risk of real innovation. Learning and creating are inherently vulnerable.


If leaders expect real learning, critical thinking, and change, then discomfort should be normalized. “We believe growth and learning are uncomfortable so its going to happen here – you’re going to feel that way


For leaders vulnerability often looks and feels like discomfort. In Seth Godins Tribes:

Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead. This scarcity makes leadership valuable. It’s uncomfortable to

  • Stand up in front of stranges
  • To propose an idea that might fail
  • To challenge the status quo
  • To resist the urge to settle
  • When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found a place where a leader is needed. If you’re not uncomfortable as your work as a leader, it’s almost certain that you are not reaching your potential as a leader


At school

“There are times when you ask questions or challenge ideas, but if you’ve got a teacher who doesn’t like that or the kids make fun of the people who do that, that’s bad. I think most of learn that its best to just keep your head down, your mouth shut and your grades high”


How do we create a space safe for vulnerability and growth when we are not feeling open? I don’t know a single person who can be open to accepting feedback or owning responsibility for something when they’re being hammered. Our hardwiring takes over and we self protect


Ch 7 – wholehearted parenting

Hope is a function of struggle

  • If we want our children to develop high levels of hopefulness.  We have to let them struggle
  • Step back and let them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves and have the opportunity to fail
  • Don’t follow them into the arena, let them in on their own




1900 words


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