Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work.
She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and her latest book, Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership.
Brené’s TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 35 million views. She is also the first researcher to have a filmed talk on Netflix. The Call to Courage special debuted on the streaming service on April 19, 2019.
Brené lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Steve. They have two children, Ellen and Charlie.
“You Can Approach Life with Both Fierceness and Grace”: An Interview with Brené Brown
By Susan Cain
I had the good fortune to meet Brené Brown in March of 2012 when we both spoke at TED, and she instantly became one of my favorite people. She is warm and wise and very, very funny. (Check out her two TED talks, and see what I mean.) For now, I can’t wait to read her book, Daring Greatly (which debuted at #2 on The New York Times Bestseller list!). In the meantime, here’s an interview with Brené:
1. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do other people see you?
Most people find it hard to believe, but I’m an introvert. I’m comfortable speaking to 2,000 people about my work, but drop me into a cocktail party with 50 people, and I’m lost. My restorative time is alone time or time with my family and a couple of close friends. I don’t function well without serious doses of solitude.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up, and why?
I went through stages. There was a period when I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, and that was followed by a short period when I dreamed of driving an 18-wheeler. I was really good on the CB radio—we all had our own handles, and my dad taught us how to ask truckers where the “smokies” were hiding. A Texas childhood, no doubt. At some point in middle school, I focused on being a cruise director (a la Love Boat). Everything changed when I did a project on Eleanor Roosevelt. It changed me. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I was inspired to make a difference.
3. Tell us about someone you admire.
Right now, I’m drawing the most inspiration from my children. Watching my 13-year-old daughter Ellen navigate middle school is a constant reminder that you can approach life with both fierceness and grace. Charlie, my 1st-grader, is pure love and curiosity. I want to be as unapologetically playful and open as he is.
4. What do you do when you feel afraid?
I pray. Faith is the organizing principle in my life. I also try to stay very mindful of my values. Courage is a value that is very important to me. It ranks right up there with honesty and respect.
5. Quirky or mainstream–which adjective suits you better, and why?
I think I’m both. In many ways I’m very quirky and “out there,” but I also love tradition. I’ll push the envelope and do things that may not be considered “mainstream,” but I’m also big on things like manners and following the rules (even when I’m working to change the rules).
6. What is your absolute favorite way of spending time (other than with your family)?
Being outside near water, taking and editing photographs, working on my Project Life albums, listening to music, reading, watching smart television, and analyzing data.
7. Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” If you could shake the world gently, what would you do? (Please don’t feel the need to say something like “End world hunger” or “Create lasting peace.” We’re more interested in your own signature contribution to the world.)
Thirteen years ago, during a long walk around our neighborhood, I told my husband that my professional life goal was to start a national conversation about shame and vulnerability. I don’t want or need people to sign on to my beliefs—I just want a conversation about the importance of showing up and letting ourselves be seen. I think a collective sense of worthiness could shake the world.
*The above post previously appeared on Susan Cain’s former blog, The Power of Introverts.
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