Brené Brown: The Call to Courage (2019) - full transcript

She spent 20 years studying courage,

vulnerability, shame, and empathy,

wrote five New York Times
number one best sellers,

and her TED Talk is one
of the most watched in the world.

Please welcome Brené Brown.

[audience cheering and applauding]

[Brené] Hey!



Oh, my God. Hi!

Hi, everybody.


-[audience] Hi!

How-- How's it going?

[audience cheers]

It was so funny.
I'm backstage. They're like,

"Can we take your purse?" I'm like, "No."

-[audience laughs]
-It's, like, totally a Texas thing

where I always have to have my purse
and an exit plan.

Uh, like, I'm not sure until I walk
out here that I'm actually going to do it.

[audience laughs]

Uh, but I am so happy
to be with y'all tonight.

And I have to say, honestly,

the older I get, the more I realize
that time is the big, precious,

unrenewable resource.

Um, yes or no?

-[audience applauds]

So, thank you
for spending it with me tonight.

I really appreciate it.

I think we're gonna have some fun,

talk about some hard stuff,
laugh a little bit,

and hopefully learn something
from each other.

I'm always laughing
when I'm listening to the bio.

That, you know, "She studies shame,

empathy, courage, and vulnerability."

You have no idea how handy
that comes in my life. So...

Really, not just in my work,
but in my life

because how many of you know...

I recognize some of y'all,
so I know you know me,

but how many of you know
that I'm super introverted?

-[woman whoops]
-Like, yeah.

-Where are all the introverts? Like...
-[audience members whoop]

It's super handy when I'm traveling
because I'll be sitting next to someone,

and sometimes I'm in the mood to chat,
and sometimes I'm not.

So they'll say, "So, what do you do?"

And if I'm not in the mood to chat,
I'll be like,

-"I study shame. What do you do?"
-[audience laughs]

[Brené] And they're just--
They're just like...

-[imitates window whirring]
-[audience laughs]


And then recently, it was really funny,
'cause I was like,

"Oh, I study courage and vulnerability,"
and the guy was like,

"Oh, opposite ends

of the spectrum."

[audience laughs]

And there's that minute where you're like,
"Do I engage or do I not engage?"

I was like, "No, actually,
they're the same.

You know, courage-- You can't really--

You can't really be brave
without vulnerability."

And he's like, "Ha! Yeah.
No, the opposite ends."

[audience laughs]

Now, I can understand why it's complicated
for some people to get that.

It took me 20 years of trying to disprove
that I had to be vulnerable,

um, to be brave,

but I really--

This came to life for me

when we started looking
at covers for Daring Greatly,

which was the first book where I wrote
about courage and vulnerability, right?

So I say to them,

"Let's make sure
we really capture the spirit...

of vulnerability and courage,

that we really have to put ourselves
out there."

And they're like, "We've got it.

Do you need to see the cover?"

And I was like, "Uh, yeah.
I need to see the cover."

So they sent me the cover.

[audience laughs]

I've named that piece
"White Guy on a Wire."

[audience laughs]

[laughing] I was like,

"I would never buy that book."

[audience laughs]

Had I known what was coming next,

this would have been the cover
of Daring Greatly,

I guarantee it, because...

I go back and I'm like,
"That's not gonna work.

I don't want a white dude
on the front of the book, period."

Uh, especially with,
like, a 1980s briefcase.

[laughing] Uh... And so then,
I get an email that says...

"This is it. We all love it."

And I'm like, "Oh, man. Dude.

Don't use your invisible army with me.

Like, I'm a shame researcher.

Like, you can't do
the "we all love it" thing with me.

Like, I will drill you down
till you are crying.

And, who is the "we"?

Unless you've got a mouse in your pocket,
that is chickenshit, like...

No "we." Just like, "I love it."

So I'm looking at it like,
"Oh, God. We all love it.

We all think this is it.
We're all excited.

We're all behind it."

So you know, right? [scoffs]

I'm gonna test...

your empathic powers here.

[audience chuckles]

If you're really highly empathic,

there'll be no laughter.

[audience laughs]

I was like, "What?"

I-- Okay, so here's the thing.

Like every woman born in this country,

I've had to do my share
of body image work.

[audience laughs]

[Brené] And I have.

To the point where I am dangerous,
I like myself so much.

Like, I-- I'm good with everything.
Right? Yeah.

-[audience cheers]
-[Brené] Pretty good.


But the chance...

of my name being under an elephant ass

on the front of a book is zero.

That-- Zero. There is zero opportunity
for that to happen.

So it seems, like, crazy, right?

You're like, "These are early concepts,
and people are trying to--"

But let me show you.

This book has been translated
into, like, 32 languages.

Let me show you
some of the actual covers

of how people have conceptualized

the relationship between courage
and vulnerability.

This is the Korean.
This is the real, actual--

The funniest thing about this

is it was on my-- my kitchen table
in my house

when my daughter and her friends
got home from high school one day,

and her friend was like,

"Oh, my God.
Does your mom know Johnny Depp?"

[audience laughs]

[Brené] Which I do not.


I totally love the Swedes, I really do.
Like, I just love them.

But they got the saddest cover
in the whole world.

[audience] Aw!

[Brené] Okay.

Why did you do that involuntarily?

Because this is a sign, internationally,
for, like, abuse and neglect.

[audience laughs]

[Brené] And then... [chuckling]

...we have the cover

that completely jacked
with my kayaking game

because I love to kayak.

I'm a water person, right?

So when I saw this Lithuanian cover,

I couldn't get in a kayak for six months.

[audience laughs]

Yeah. Yeah.

This is not what I had in mind,
but this is what people think. Okay.

Here's where Daring Greatly
actually comes from.

Teddy Roosevelt.

So the day the book came out,

my husband put pictures
of Teddy Roosevelt all over our house

because the epigraph,

the quote that kind of is the spine
of Daring Greatly,

comes from Teddy Roosevelt.

So I woke up in the morning.

I was like, "Oh, my God. That's so sweet."
And my kids were like...

-"Is that Opa? Is that Grandpa?" Um...
-[audience laughs]

So here's the story.

How many of you have seen the TED Talk
on vulnerability?

-[audience cheers]
-[Brené] Okay.

I wish I could take credit.

It was me.
It's not that I can't take credit for it,

but it was a complete accident.

So here's what happened.

The curators of TEDx Houston--

this is the first people
to get the license in Houston--

call and say,
"Hey, we got the TEDx license.

Would you like to open up TEDx Houston?"

And I was like, "Yes!
My God, yes. Thank you!

What do you want me to talk about?"

'Cause normally,
when you spend your career

talking about things like shame
and fear, and scarcity,

people get super prescriptive

about what they want you to say
and what they don't want you to say.

And this guy was like, "You know what?

Whatever you want.
You have fun. Just crush it.

Just have fun and just--
Whatever you want."

-I was like...
-[audience laughs]

"All right. I'll crush it, dude.
I'll do that. Okay."

So I'm on a flight
the day before TEDx Houston,

coming home from Maui,
where I had spent

four days with CEOs from Silicon Valley

talking about the importance
of vulnerability.

Talking about courage
and putting yourself out there.

And I turned to Steve,
my husband, on the flight.

My kids are passed out. They went with us.

And I said, "I'm not going to do
my normal talk tomorrow at TEDx Houston."

And he's like, "What?"

And I said, "I'm not gonna do
my normal talk

on variables
mitigating self-conscious affect."

And he's like, "Why not?"

And I said, "I'm gonna be vulnerable
and talk about vulnerability.

I'm just gonna put my whole self
out there." And he's like,

"Why? Why would you do that?"

[audience laughs]

Which I think was a legitimate question.

And I said, "Because I just spent
four days with these people

trying to convince them to be vulnerable
and put themselves out there,

and then I'm gonna walk on the stage
in my academic armor, you know, like,

'This is the variable that, you know.'
Um, because that's my training."

And so, I was like, 
"I'm not gonna do that.

I'm gonna just be vulnerable."

So I got up there and,
as many of you know, I was vulnerable.

I talked about how I'm scared
of vulnerability, how I hate it,

how when it emerged from my data

as the key
to wholehearted living and loving,

I totally had a breakdown.

I went to a therapist
with an Excel spreadsheet

and said, "Here's what I need to work on.

I have six weeks."
It took, like, eight years. Uh...

[audience laughs]

You know, and I did that.

And so when I drove home
after giving the talk,

I just remember thinking,

"That was the worst 20 minutes
of my life."

I had the worst vulnerability hangover

that you can imagine.

I thought,
"Thank God it was just 500 people

at the University of Houston,
where I've taught.

I know a hundred of them.

Um, thank God that's over.

I'm going back to the variables
mitigating self-conscious affect.

That other's bullshit."
Like, "I'm not doing it."

So then I find out it's on YouTube,

and I'm thinking,
"Did I sign a clearance for that?"

Like, I'm like--
I'm trying to get out of it.

Then they put it on the big TED,

and I go to my husband. I'm, like, crying,

"We gotta stop this. What's happening?"
And he goes,

"What are people gonna google?
'Brené Brown, vulnerability'?"

[audience laughs, cheers]

[Brené] Yeah.

And, of course,
I'm just embarrassed at that point

that I would be like,
"They're gonna find me!" [whines]

I was like, "You're right.
No one's gonna watch."

So I watch it, and it's like,
three people, four people,

five million, six million...

-[man whoops]
-[Brené] And there's this day--

Like, yeah.
You're like, "Whoo!" And I'm like, "Shit!"

-[audience laughs]
-Um, that's the difference.

And so, I'm like...

"What is happening?"

And so, one day, every news outlet, like,

in the world was covering this story.

"Who is Bernie Brown,
and why is vulnerability important?"

So I'm like, "Oh, my God."

So, Steve-- My kids are at school.

Steve leaves for work,
and he's like, "Hey, listen.

Don't get online.
Don't read the comments."

And I'm like,

"I've done a lot of my own work.
I'm not gonna be reading the comments."

And I'm, like, waiting for him
to back out of the driveway,

and then I'm like...

Oh, my God.

You can study shame,
yet you are never prepared

for... the...

terrible stuff online. Right?

It's the cesspool of humanity
on these things.

So I start reading the comments,

and the best way to describe shame,
to me,

is shame is this--
the feeling that you would get

if you walked out of a room
that was filled with people who know you,

and they start saying
such hurtful things about you

that you don't know
that you could ever walk back in

-and face them again in your life.
-[woman] Wow.

That's what shame is.

And for me,

the fear of shame,

the fear of criticism was so great
in my life up until that point--

I mean, just paralyzing--

that I engineered smallness in my life.

I did not take chances.
I did not put myself out there.

I mean, I just didn't.
If I was gonna write an op-ed,

I sent it to the Chronicle,
not the New York Times.

Like, I didn't-- It wasn't worth it to me

to step into my power and play big

because I didn't know

if I could literally,
physically withstand the criticism.

And so, I pull up these comments,

and there is everything I have feared
my entire life.

First comment says,
"Less research, more Botox."

The next comment says,
"Of course she embraces imperfection.

What choice would you have
if you look like her?"

The next comment says,

"She should wait and talk about worthiness
when she loses 15 pounds."

"I feel sorry for her husband
and her children."

"I hope someone kills her."
"She's what's wrong with the world today."

And I was vacillating between...


"God, just let me die right now.
Just suck me up, Earth,"

and "I am prepared for this.

I have three degrees in social work.
I am prepared for this crisis."

-Like, "I am trained for this moment."
-[audience cheers, laughs]

And finally, I was just like,
"I am trained for this moment.

I am trained for this moment.

You're in a shame storm.
You're in a shame shitstorm.

You're trained for this moment."

And then I was like,
"Okay, you know what to do.

-Peanut butter and Downton Abbey."
-[audience laughs]

-[Brené] Yeah!
-[all cheer]

So I get my "serving size"
of peanut butter. Arbitrary.

[audience laughs]

It just says how much you can fit
on the spoon

and nothing about the size of the spoon.

And so...

And I turn on Downton Abbey.
It's like a hundred degrees in Houston,

and I have the thermostat on, like, 58,

and I've got on Uggs and a hoodie
and Woobies and I'm, like, sad,

and I'm watching Downton Abbey.
For seven hours I watch it, just...

How many of you have ever numbed
with TV or a movie?

-[scattered applause]
-[Brené] Yeah.

-You're my people. Um...
-[audience laughs]

But how many of you have ever done this?
It's a lot of you,

but fewer of you will confess
because it seems crazy.

When it's over and you don't want
to go back to the real world,

like, you get out your laptop
and then you start googling, like,

"Where is the abbey?"
"Who plays this person?"

-Like, yes or no? Yes or no?
-[audience laughs and applauds]

Yes, I know. Don't lie.

"Do you fly into Heathrow?
How much does it cost?" Like...

And so then, I'm like,

"Yeah, who was president
of the United States

during this Downton Abbey thing?"

And so I was like,
"Theodore Roosevelt, 1910."

Then I had a total God moment.

There is no other way.
This was God, like, descending

in my living room in full regalia.

I pull it up.

The first thing on Google is a speech
that Theodore Roosevelt gave in 1910.

And I start reading it
because, again, I'm doing anything I can

to not go back to Houston, Texas,
and my life with the haters.

So I start reading it, and it says,

"It's not the critic who counts.

It's not the man who points out
how the strong man stumbles

or where the doer of deeds
could have done it different.

The credit belongs to the person
who's actually in the arena,

whose face is marred
with dust and sweat and blood,

who strives valiantly,

who errs,

who comes up short
again and again and again,

and who, in the end,

while he may know the triumph
of high achievement,

at least when he fails,
he does so daring greatly."

[audience cheers]

There is my life before that quote
and my life after that quote,

like, in really one minute.

And three things became very clear to me

that were really life altering.

One, I'm gonna live in the arena.

I'm gonna be brave with my life.
I'm gonna show up.

I'm gonna take chances.

And here's a thing I can tell you:

20 years of doing this research,
we just crossed 400,000 pieces of data.

Here's what I can tell you for sure:
If you're brave with your life,

you choose to live in the arena,
you're going to get your ass kicked.

[audience chuckles]

You are going to fall.
You are going to fail.

You are going to know heartbreak.

It's a choice.
It's a choice that I make every day.

These are the words I say
before my feet hit the floor every day.

"Today I'll choose courage over comfort.

I can't make commitments for tomorrow,
but today I'm gonna choose to be brave,

and I know what that means."

And it's so funny
because I do all of this work

with leaders and in organizations today,
and they'll always say to me,

"I hear you, and I'm gonna be brave,
and I'm willing to risk failing."

And I'm like, "You're-- You don't hear me.
You're not hearing me."

Somewhere between what I'm saying
and what you're hearing,

you're-- you're taking out
the "you're going to fail."

Not "you're going to risk failure."

"You're going to know failure
if you're brave with your life."

The second thing...

that became very clear to me

is that quote was everything
I've learned about vulnerability.

Vulnerability's not about winning.
It's not about losing.

It's having the courage to show up

when you can't control the outcome.

And we have asked thousands of people
over the last couple of decades,

"What is vulnerability to you?"

And the answers range from:

Vulnerability is the first date
after my divorce.

Trying to get pregnant
after my second miscarriage.

Sitting with my wife
who has stage four breast cancer

making plans for our toddlers.

Getting fired. Firing someone.

Coming out to my Christian parents.

Saying "I love you" first.

There's this great story that--

It's probably seven
or eight years ago now. I was in LA,

and I was doing a talk
for a couple of thousand educators,

and a young man
walked up to me afterwards, and he said,

"Hey, do you have a minute?
I want to tell you a story."

And I said, "Sure," and he goes,

"Your work changed my life."

And I said, "Thank you,"
and he said, "No, really.

My parents sent me your TED Talks,
and they completely changed my life."

And I said, "Wow, thank you,"
and he said, "In fact,

they inspired me
to tell the woman that I'm dating

that I love her."

And I was like,
[quietly] "Oh, God. Okay...

That's amazing.
It's so good to meet you."

He was like, "No, let me tell you
what happened." And I was like...

-[audience laughs]

[audience laughs]

And he said, "We went out to dinner,
and I was gonna wait until dessert,

because we get this, like,
chocolate lava cake.

I was gonna tell her when the chocolate
lava cake came, but I couldn't wait,

so I just looked at her
halfway through dinner and I said,

'I love you.'

And she looked back at me,
and she said,

'I think you're awesome.

[audience groans and chuckles]

And I think we should date other people.'

[audience groans]

And then she left and got a ride home."

He said, "So, I just got in my car...

and drove home,
and, just, the whole way home,

I just kept saying, over and over,

'Fuck Brené Brown.
Fuck Brené Brown.'"

[audience laughs]

[Brené] And I was like...

I was like,

"This is the worst mm-ing story ever!"

And he said, "Then I got home,

and I just, you know,
barged into my apartment.

Both my roommates
were sitting on the couch,

and they were on their laptops,

and they were like,
'Dude, what's wrong?'" And he's like,

"I told her I loved her...

and she broke up with me."

And his roommate goes, "That was so lame.

You can't go after them.

When you head toward them, they move away.

When you're always moving away,
they move toward them.

This is the way it works."

And he was like, "I told them.
I was like, 'Oh, what? No!

Man, that's not who I want to be.

I was daring greatly.'"

And he said both of them just got
really misty-eyed and went,

-"Right on, man! Right on!"
-[audience cheers]

So number one,

if you're gonna be in the arena, join me.
It's really great.

When you're down on the ground,
blood, sweat, tear--

You know, it's an interesting view.

You can see other people
who are brave too.

Um, two, vulnerability is not weakness.
In fact, it's--

You know,
vulnerability is our most accurate way

to measure courage,
and we literally do that as researchers.

We can measure how brave you are
by how vulnerable you're willing to be.

The last thing I learned that day

in my God moment with Theodore Roosevelt

was this:

If you are not in the arena

getting your ass kicked on occasion
because you were being brave,

I am not interested in
or open to your feedback about my work.


-[audience applauds]
-[Brené] Just period.

And there's a really, really,
I think, easy...

way to think about it, and it's this:

There are millions
of cheap seats in the world today

filled with people
who will never once step foot

in that arena.

They will never once
put themselves out there,

but they will make it a full-time job

to hurl criticism and judgment
and really hateful things toward us.

And we have got to get out of the habit
of catching them

and dissecting and, you know,
holding them close to our hearts.

We've gotta let them drop on the floor.

Don't grab that hurtful stuff
from the cheap seats and pull it close.

Don't pull it anywhere near your heart.

Just let it fall to the ground.
You don't have to stomp it or kick it.

You just gotta step over it
and keep going.

You can't take criticism and feedback

from people who are not being brave
with their lives.

It just will crush you.

You know, I've been teaching
graduate school for 22 years,

and here's what's interesting.

To kind of deal with this huge,

crushing mountain
of negativity and vitriol everywhere,

especially social media,

there's this kind of wholesale adoption
of "I don't give a shit

what anyone thinks."

How many of you have heard this?
How many of you have said it?

-[audience murmurs]
-Right. Yes, you do.

-[audience chuckles]
-You totally care.

Like, you're neurobiologically hardwired
to care what people think.

You have not hacked that.

We care what people think.

The deal is
that you have to be very specific

about people whose opinions of you matter.

It's not that you don't give a shit
what anyone thinks.

Just don't give a shit
what some people think.

-[audience chuckles]
-And then really solicit feedback

from the people
that do... give you good feedback.

And you know who makes that list?

I'll tell you who should make the list.

People who love you, not despite
your imperfection and vulnerability,

but because of your imperfection
and vulnerability. Their feedback matters.

Not the "yes" people,
but the people who say, "Yeah,

that kind of sucked,

and you were really out of line,
and you need to clean that shit up,

and I'll be here cheering you on,
but that was not okay."

So, for me, this moment,

this daring greatly moment
with Theodore Roosevelt

changed everything,
and it really helped me understand

what vulnerability is
and what it means to be in the arena--

to show up and be brave.

I want to tell a story

that gives some color and context
to what it means to be vulnerable.

So this is Lake Travis in Austin.

-[audience whoops]
-Any Longhorns in the audience? Hook 'em!

I knew I liked you
right from the beginning.


So this is my magic lake. This--

I spent every summer of my childhood
on this lake in Austin.

Um, it's where I learned how to, like,

do all the things that, you know,
Texas girls learn how to do.

Fish, run a trotline for catfish,

um... shoot BB guns, swim.

I mean, this was my life.

So a couple of years ago,
Steve and I decide

that we're gonna pool our vacation
for the year

and take one long vacation,

rent a house on Lake Travis, and go.

And I am so excited.
So, like, two and a half weeks.

So we rent this big house,
we reach out to our families and say,

"We've rented this house.
This is where we're gonna be.

If you want to come visit us, do it,

but schedule it on your own."

'Cause my parents are divorced
and remarried,

his parents are divorced and remarried.

It's like NASA-level coordinating
on stuff like this.

So just, "We're gonna be here."

So it's great. So we're packing,
and we always have these--

Do y'all have these,
or are we the only people?

Like, we call them the CTJs.

The vacation CTJ,
the vacation come-to-Jesus talk,

before we leave.

-[audience laughs]
-Do y'all have these in your lives?

Where you have to level set expectation.
Like, I'll give you an example.

This is not this, but this is more recent.

We were going to Disney,
and I was packing, and he said,

"I think we need to have our,
like, CTJ on Disney."

And I was like,

"Why?" And he said,

"You've got five books, man.
What are you doing with these?"

And he-- I'm like,
"I'm taking them to vacation.

Do you know how long it's been
since I've read good fiction?"

He goes, "You ain't reading nothing
for the next four days

but 'too tall to ride,'
'too short to ride.'"

-[audience laughs]
-I was like, "What?"

And he was like,
"You won't be in the hotel reading.

We're taking, like, five kids to Disney."

So this was our CTJ for Lake Travis.

We're like, "Two and a half weeks.
How do you do a vacation that long?"

We'd never been on a long vacation.
He's like, "First of all,

there's gotta be rules for the kids."

If we just, like,
go crazy on normal vacation,

and let them do screen time
and stay up late,

they'll be feral by the time we get back.

So we gotta have,
like, limited screen time, early bedtime.

And then I started to get the bug,
and I'm like,

"We're gonna do a healthy vacation.

We're gonna do, like,
a healthy family vacation.

And we're gonna cook,
and we're not gonna eat a lot of crap,

and we're gonna work out every day.

[audience laughs]

And he's like, "I love it."

So we decide to swim every day.

We're gonna swim this cove every day.
And so,

we met coaching swimming.
We're both ex-competitive swimmers.

He still swims competitively.

I'm a shame researcher.

[audience laughs]

And so, I was like, "But I can do it."
Like, I can do this. Right?


you know, I dig in the back of my drawer
for the old Speedo.

I'm like, hm.



So I get it, the goggles, my cap.

So one morning, we head to the lake,

and it is beautiful outside,
and it's early.

The sun's coming up.
Gorgeous rock, turquoise water.

We dive in.
The kids are upstairs sleeping.

My sisters are there.
Their kids are upstairs sleeping.

We start swimming, and I'm just like,

"Oh, my God. This is like if-- if you die
and you're good your whole life,

this is where you go, right here.
Lake Travis with your man.

Like, this is it."

[audience chuckles]

And we stop about halfway across
'cause, you know, open water swimming,

you're looking for boats,
you're looking for those things.

And all of a sudden, I catch Steve's eye.
Now I'm gonna have to, like--

Can I use you as my person?

Yes? Great. Tell me your name.

-[man] Samuel.

So we're about-- Raise your hand, Samuel,
for the people in the back.


So we're about this far apart,
and I'm like...

"I'm just gonna-- Steve?"
And he goes, "Yeah?"

And I said, "I feel so connected to you.

I'm so glad that we're spending
this time together doing this."

And he looks back at me, and he goes,
"Yeah, water's good,"

and he keeps swimming.

[audience laughs]

Yeah. [chuckles softly]

Oh, boy! So...

my first thought, literally, is this.

I'm embarrassed to share it with you,
but I will.

-"He is so overwhelmed with love for me."
-[audience laughs]

That is my first thought,
that he is not functioning.

Like, he is--

Like, I'm actually thinking to myself,

"I hope he's safe
in this deep water with this feeling."

'Cause it was like
he couldn't process it, and--

And I have to be honest with you.
He is a very courageous guy,

and he is much more likely
to say that in our relationship

than I am to say that.

He's much more likely to go there
and be that connecting,

and I'm not.

I mean, I'm nice,
but I'm not, you know, I'm not like that.

And it was a big reach for me,
so I thought, "That overwhelmed him."

He was like,
"Man, I gotta keep swimming." Um...

So we get to the other end,
and it's not like, it's like--

You're not gonna do a flip turn.
It's just like mossy and stuff.

And so, you just kinda turn around.

And we start swimming back,

and now all of a sudden,

we're about this far from each other.

Raise your hand, Samuel,
for the people in the back.

Okay, so we're close now.

And I think to myself,

"Should I go back in?

Should I try it again?"

And this is really funny
because I tell this story--

When I tell this story
on the East Coast...

It's rhetorical, this question.
Like, "Should I go back in?"

I'm telling you what I was thinking.
I was thinking, "Should I go back in?"

But for some reason, in New York, Boston,

these people feel compelled
to be like, "No! No!

-No, ma'am!
-[audience laughs]

No! That's bullshit. Do not go back there.


But then...

I'm gonna tell you what's worse.

In California,

people do this...

Almost every time I do this in California,
someone goes...

[audience laughs]


That shit makes me uncomfortable.
No, it does.

It makes me uncomfortable,
and it makes me charge extra

to come to California.

Like, I don't like that.

But on this particular day,

'cause Samuel and I are so connected,

I said, "I'm gonna get my California on,
and I'm gonna go back in."

So we're this far apart,

and I'm like, "Hey!" And he's like...

And I said, "I feel really close to you.

This is a really...
This is a really special moment.

Like, I love doing this with you."

And he looks at me, and he goes,
"Water's good," and he keeps swimming.

[audience laughs]

I'm pissed off now.

Like, I am so mad.

So the thing about midlife
that's so great--

For those of you in your 30s, don't fear.

-[audience laughs]
-The thing about midlife that's so great

is you can actually,
in situations like this,

play the tape to the end.

Like, you know what's gonna happen.

Like, you can play the movie
all the way to the end

and make changes accordingly.

So I know how this is gonna end.

Like, let me ask this.
There's a lot of men here tonight.

How many men in the audience
are familiar with the term "payback"?

[audience laughs]

Let's see a show of hands.

What's your familiarity? Yeah.

This guy's like-- I see you.

You're not raising your hand,
but you're thinking, "Yeah, I know it."

-Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

So here's I know how it's gonna end.

So I will, like--

I will go into complete pissed-off mode.

I will beat him back to the dock,
fueled by nothing but rage and fury.

We will get upstairs. We'll be drying off.
We'll be in the kitchen, and he'll go,

"Hey, babe. What's for breakfast?"

And I'll say, "I don't know, babe.

Let me ask the breakfast fairy.
Breakfast fairy!

[audience laughs]

Hey, breakfast fairy.

It's Brené.

What's for breakfast?

Oh, I'm sorry, Steve.
I forgot how vacation works.

I'm in charge of breakfast

and lunch, and dinner,
and packing, and unpacking,

and laundry, and sunscreen, and towels,

and bug spray."

Look, these--

[audience laughs]

I'm gonna hang out with this whole crew
after this is over.

The crew going like this. "Mm-hmm."

That's how vacation works. Yes or no?

-[audience] Yes!
-[Brené] Yeah.

And the worst thing is,
halfway during this,

Steve will go like this...

[audience laughs]

"Did something happen?"

And so... [laughing]

I'm like, "I know this story.
I've lived it a thousand times.

This shit is not happening
at my magic lake."

And so, I actually do beat him
to the dock,

again, fueled by fury,

and when he gets to the dock,

I look at him,
and I'm in 30 feet deep at this thing.

Like, so we're, like,
treading water, right?

And I said, "What's going on?

I'm trying to reach out
and connect with you,

and you're blowing me off.
Like, what is happening?"

And he kind of turns around,

and then he turns back toward me,
and he goes,

"I don't want to do this with you."

And, of course, I'm like...

-[roars slowly]
-[audience laughs]

[Brené] 'Cause I'm thinking, like...

Actually, you wanna know actually
what I'm thinking?

I'm thinking,

"If I find out we're getting a divorce
in a swimsuit,

I'm gonna frickin' kill somebody,"

is what I'm thinking.
That's what I'm actually thinking.

Um, I'm like, "What do you mean,
you don't want to do this?"

And he goes, "I don't want to have
this conversation with you now."

I'm like, "Oh, tough shit."

I'm like, "Okay. We gotta do this, Steve."

And he starts to get out of the water.
I'm like, "Can you please get back in?"

So he gets back in the water,
and I'm like,

"I don't understand what's happening."

And he's just not looking at me,
and it's weird.

And then I go to this place...

You know, when all else fails,
I go back to the data.

I keep thinking about this sentence

that's been in my research
for, like, 15 years.

It never saturated--
like, that's our kinda code word

for "it didn't come up enough
to write about it"--

until I wrote Rising Strong.

And when we were interviewing
to understand resilience,

the most resilient participants
that we've met across all these years

had this sentence in common.

They all used some form of this sentence.

And it has become--
I'm telling you, this is a magic sentence.

It's a simple sentence.
It's just the story I'm telling myself.

Because when something hard happens,

our brain, which is wired to protect us
above all else, wants a story.

It understands story
and narrative pattern,

and it says, "Give me a story
so I can understand how to protect you."

And it doesn't want a story that's like,
"Well, I'm not sure. And..."

You know, that's not useful.

It wants, like, bad guy, good guy,
safe, dangerous, against you, for you.

And so we make up these stories.

How many of you get the three dots on text

and then it goes away,

and then you make up a story?

[audience laughs, applauds]

[Brené] Right. Yeah. Right.

So I look at Steve, and I said,

"The story I'm making up right now
is one of two things just happened."

And--- And in all fairness,
you're gonna want to laugh,

but before I tell you,
I'm gonna ask you not to laugh.

'Cause I'm gonna ask you
to take a deep breath...

[audience inhales]

...and think about this:

When you make an emotional bid
for connection with someone,

and you're pushed away,

what is the thing that you feel?

[audience] Rejection.

Rejection, shame, fear, loneliness.

Like, I am hurting when I say this.

So I look at Steve, and I say, "Look...
the story I'm making up right now

is either you looked over at me
while we were swimming and thought,


where's the girl I married 25 years ago?

Like, you're old. You don't even know
how to swim anymore.'

Or you looked over at me and thought,

'Jeez, man. She does not rock a Speedo

like she did two decades
and two kids ago.'

Like, that's
what I'm telling myself right now, Steve.

Like, so what's going on?"

And he looks at me, and he said,

"Look, I don't mind taking care
of the kids, Brené."

And I was like, "What?"

He said, "I don't mind taking care
of the kids.

I know the kids want to spend all day

back and forth across this cove

because the pirate's treasure
is on the other side.

I'll take all six of them back and forth.

I don't mind."

And, like, my first thought is,
"There's been a neurological event."

[audience laughs]

Which explains a lot of what's happening.

So I'm like...

I'm-- [chuckles] I'm scared a little bit.
And I'm like,

-"Say more. Um..."
-[audience laughs]

Resisting to go into, like, "Can you count
backwards from by sevens?"

Like-- Like-- Going into, like...

a full-on intake process.

Um, and I was like,
"Say more," and he said,

"Look, I don't mind taking them. I get it.

Like, you get to spend time
with your sisters.

The other dads are not great swimmers.

I don't mind taking them across."
And I'm, like, "Okay.

I am freaking out right now.
What is going on?"

And he said, "Brené, I don't know.

I don't know what you were saying to me
in the water.

I was just fending off a panic attack

and counting strokes."

And I said, "What?" And he goes,
"I was just counting strokes, Brené.

I was just counting strokes.
Fending off a panic attack.

I don't know what you were saying to me
in the water."

And so, all of a sudden--
I'm starting to try to process everything.

Any competitive swimmers here,
ex-competitive swimmers?

You know how when you learn--

You know, when you're a swimmer,
and you're in a pool,

and then all of a sudden you're in a lake,
it's anxiety-producing

because you-- It's not like a pool
with a black stripe, and you see which--

It's like, release the Kraken.
Like, you don't know what's in there.

You lose your sense of control.

When you have anxiety
and you're swimming,

you usually just count strokes
or count breaths.

So I'm like,

"Why-- Why are you counting strokes?
Why-- What's the panic attack about?"

And he said, "I had a dream last night
that I had all six of the kids,

we were halfway across the cove,
and a ski boat came,

and I waved it off,
and it didn't slow down,

and I waved it off,
and it didn't slow down again,

and it was coming straight at me
and the kids,

so I grabbed all the kids,
and I went as deep as I could go,

and I stayed there and stayed there,
waiting for that boat to pass

'cause I knew it would kill us
if it hit us.

And I just was waiting,
and then I looked at Charlie,

our son, and knew that if we stayed
two seconds longer, he would drown.

And so I don't know
what you were saying to me.

I was just fighting off a panic attack."

And so this made complete sense to me

because we had arrived at the lake
on a Monday,

and this was our first weekend
at the lake.

And we had gone to bed that night

talking about, "Hey, let's not tube
or do anything like that.

Let's stay off the lake
'cause the boating and drinking is so bad.

And let's just stay close."

And we had gone to sleep talking
about that, so that made sense to me.

So I looked at him, and I was like,

"Oh, my God. I'm so glad
you shared that with me. Thank you."

And he goes, "Bullshit."

-[audience laughs]
-[Brené] And I was like, "What?"

And he said, "Bullshit.

And don't start quoting your research
on men and shame to me, either.

That's bullshit. Here's what you want.

You want the guy
that, when the speedboat comes,

he takes all six of the kids,

throws them,
then swims so fast, catches them,

sets them down on the rock

and then looks across the lake
at you and goes,

'Don't worry,  little lady.
I've got this.'"

He's like, "That's what you want."

And I was like, "Oh, my God." I mean...

We're in the perfect shame dance now,

So when you think about feminine norms,

what's the number one shame trigger
around feminine norms?

-[audience members speak indistinctly]
-Body image. Appearance and body image.

And for masculine norms,
it's don't be perceived as what?

-[audience] Weak.
-[Brené] Right.

So here we are, in this complete...

shame lockdown, right?

And so I look at him--

And, you know,
I often say about these situations,

"You show me a woman
who can sit with a man

in real shame and fear and vulnerability

and just be with him,

I'll show you a woman who's done her work

and doesn't derive her status or power
from that guy.

-You show me a guy--
-[man] Whoo!


-That's a whoo, right? Yes.
-[man] Yeah.

-[audience laughs]
-[Brené] It is a whoo. It's whoo-worthy.

Yeah, I like it.

You show me a guy
who can sit with a woman

who's in real shame
and fear and vulnerability

and not fix anything

but just listen.

I'll show you a guy...

who's done his work
and doesn't derive his power and status

from being Oz, the fixer of all things.

You know? We got work to do, right?

So I looked at Steve,
and this was the hard part,

'cause I knew I had to be honest,
and I said, "Look, ten years ago,

I would have said the right thing
based on the research.

And then, one or two days later,
when you were not suspecting it,

you would have said, 'Hey,
I'm taking the kids tubing.'

And I would have said,
'Are you sure you're feeling up to it?'"

Which is crushing, right?

We usually reserve
using people's vulnerability against them

for the people we love the most.

Why? Because...

I mean, to be honest with you,

I wasn't raised with a father who modeled
what vulnerability looked like in guys,

and it scares me.

And that's why. We're scared
when we see vulnerability in other people.

To be honest with you, we're just scared.

And I said,
"I would have done that to you,

and God, if I start making amends now,
and we're together for another 30 years,

it'll probably take me that long.

And, I guess, the most meaningful thing
I can do is not do that.

Five years ago,
I would've said the right thing,

and I think I would've maybe done
the right thing, but today, Steve,

you are the most important thing
in my life.

And to be able to see you and know you
is the greatest privilege of my life,

and to be seen by you
is the most important thing in my life.

We are all we have."

How many of you want more love,

in your lives? Joy?

You can't have that

if you don't let yourself be seen.

How can you let yourself be loved
if you can't be seen?

-Does that make sense?
-[audience] Yes.

Vulnerability is the path
back to each other,

but we're so afraid to get on it.

You know,
and we end up hurting each other a lot,

and for me, that day changed everything
in our marriage.

For one,
I don't think we've had a fight

since that day where we don't say,
"The story I'm telling myself,"

even if it's like,
[angrily] "The story I'm telling myself."

-[audience laughs]
-[Brené] Um...

For me, it was a great story

'cause, it ended up,
then we went upstairs,

he popped me on the butt with a towel.

He said, "I love you. I see you.

You still rock the Speedo," which is love.

-[audience laughs]

It's total love.

We want it so bad, but we're so afraid

to let ourselves be seen,

and we're so afraid to see people.

But again, it's the only way back.

So let's look at some of the real,
concrete issues around vulnerability.

So the thing that we tell ourselves is,

"Why do you want me to be vulnerable?

Vulnerability is like the gooey center
of hard emotion.

Shame, fear, grief, scarcity.
Why should I do that? Why should I--

Why should I feel them,

and why should I let
other people see them? Like,

I don't want to vulnerable.
I want to armor up.

I want to stay protected."

Here's the problem with the armor.

The problem with the armor
is that vulnerability,

yeah, is totally the center of these,

but it's also the birthplace of these...

How many of you love someone?


Are you 100% sure...

that person will always love you back?
Will never leave? Will never get sick?

How many of you have ever buried
someone you love?

How many of you have lost
someone you love?

To love is to be vulnerable.
To give someone your heart and say,

"I know this could hurt so bad,
but I'm willing to do it.

I'm willing to be vulnerable
and love you."

And there is an increasing number
of people in the world today

that are not willing to take that risk.

They'd rather never know love

than to know hurt...

or grief, and that is a huge price to pay.


We're wired for love.

We're hardwired for belonging.
It's in our DNA.

And let me tell you,

we are in the midst of what I would call

a political and social shitshow right now.

-[audience laughs]
-[Brené] It's a cultural nightmare. Um...

It is.

And we want belonging
in the midst of this thing, right?

Let me tell you what belonging is.

The opposite of belonging,
from the research, is fitting in.

That's the opposite of belonging.
Fitting in is assessing and acclimating.

"Here's what I should say, be.
Here's what I shouldn't say.

Here's what I should avoid talking about.

Here's what I should dress like,
look like." That's fitting in.


is belonging to yourself first.

Speaking your truth, telling your story,

and never betraying yourself
for other people.

True belonging doesn't require you
to change who you are.

It requires you to be who you are,

and that's vulnerable.

And then the last of this big list is joy.

And I'm coming at you as someone
who studies shame and fear and scarcity.

I'm here to tell you that joy is
the most vulnerable of all human emotions.

We are terrified to feel joy.

We are so afraid
that if we let ourselves feel joy,

something will come along
and rip it away from us,

and we will get sucker punched
by pain and trauma and loss.

So that, in the midst of great things,
we literally dress rehearse tragedy.

How many of you are parents
in the audience?

How many have ever stood over your child
while they're sleeping and thought,

[exhales] "I love you
like I didn't know was possible"?

And in that split second,

you picture something horrific happening
to your child?

Ninety-five percent of parents do that.

Non-parenting example:

You wake up.

You're like, "Hey.

I feel pretty good. Working out.

Family's good.

House is good.

Holy shit."

[audience laughs]

Yes or no?

[audience] Yes.

[Brené] Like, "Oh, my God.

What's gonna happen next?"
We're waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Here's a great example.

The very first time I got to meet Oprah,

got to fly to Chicago
and do SuperSoul Sunday.

So... [chuckling] I'm leaving the house.

I get in the car
that's gonna take me to the airport.

I get out of the car,
and I go back in the house.

And I said, "Steve."
And he goes, "Oh, God, no."

[audience laughs]

And I said-- No, really. I said,

"The chance of me making it
to Chicago are slim.

[audience laughs]

Because this is too good to be true."

And he goes, "I hate it when you do this.
I really hate it when you do this."

And I was like, "I want you to remarry.

I... I want you to find someone to love.

I want you to wait
an appropriate amount of time,

but I want you to find someone else."

And he's like, "I got it. Go," you know.
And I said,

"And I've been thinking about it a lot.
In the right hand drawer of my study--"

And he's like, "Oh, my God.

Did you write a list of people
you think I should marry?"

And I was like, "No.

But I wrote a list of people
you damn well better not marry.

[audience laughs]

[Brené] Because I need to make sure...

[audience laughs]

...that if you marry somebody
on this list,

I'll be back.

And it won't be fun, like in the movies."

And he's like, "You've gotta get
in the car, or I'm gonna remarry.

Like-- Like, go."

How many of you do that thing?

That foreboding joy?

Because when we lose our capacity
for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.

It becomes scary to let ourselves feel it.

And the research participants
who had the ability to lean fully into joy

only shared one variable in common.

They only shared one thing
across all the variables.

The people who could really lean into joy,
they didn't dress rehearse tragedy.

They didn't practice the terrible things.

They just leaned in. What do you think
the one thing they share is?

[man] Gratitude.


Gratitude. They practiced gratitude.

Because here's the thing.
Vulnerability has a real physiology.

It has a real tremor.

Something inside of us.

When we feel vulnerable,
our body is like, "Whew."

Some people use that as a warning
to start dress-rehearsing for bad things.

Some of us try to use it
as a reminder to be grateful.

I'll never forget standing at the door

watching my daughter, Ellen,
walk to the car

with her boyfriend
in her senior year to senior prom.

And I'm standing there,
and they're walking towards his truck,

and what's the only thing
I'm thinking about?

-[audience laughs and mumbles]
-Car crash, right?

And I remember just going,
"I'm so grateful. Y'all have fun.

I'm so grateful. I'm super grateful for...

being a part of this process.

I'm grateful."

Charlie, my son, was standing next to me,

and he kinda looked around at Steve,
on the other side, and he goes,

"What's wrong with Mom?"

And he said,
"Let her keep saying how grateful she is,

otherwise things will get
really dangerous.

Just, grateful. We're all grateful!"

-[audience laughs]
-[Brené] Um...

But gratitude is also vulnerable, right?

Gratitude is also vulnerable.

Sometimes we're afraid to feel it
'cause we feel like,

is that dangerous to say
I'm grateful for something

because then is someone listening
and saying, "Ooh, I can take that away."

Like, I don't--
My God doesn't work that way.

But sometimes I fear it anyway.

I've had this incredible experience, um,
doing this research over the past,

I don't know,
probably 15 years especially,

where I've had the honor of sitting across

from people who have survived
tremendous things.

Um, mass shootings,
the death of children, genocide.

And... really trying to understand...

from them what we can do better
collectively to show up...

in a compassionate way.

And it's an interesting swirl of variables
around joy and gratitude and compassion.

And so, there are three things I learned.

The first was,
across all of these interviews,

they said the same thing.

No matter what the trauma was
that they were recovering from, they said,

"When you are grateful for what you have,

I understand that you understand
the magnitude of what I've lost."

So often we're afraid to be grateful
for what we have,

especially in front of people
who've gone through great trauma and loss

'cause we think it's insensitive.

But it's really hard

because for those of us
who don't want to be grateful,

to show a picture of our child to someone
maybe who's lost a child,

what they see is,

"Not only are you not going to talk to me
about your child,

me talking about my loss
and child is not on the table either."

You know? So I think gratitude,
in some ways, is healing for people,

and we don't think about it that way.

The second thing that I learned

that changed me as well
is this idea that when I said,

"Tell me about the grief,
the longing, the loss,"

and they said the thing
that surprised them the most

was how they missed
the ordinary moments

more than anything else.

That they missed the simple,
ordinary things

that they never really took notice of
when they were happening.

One woman told me, "I used to get
these crazy texts from my mom

because she never quite learned
how to use her phone.

And I was like, 'Man, learn how to use
your phone, Mom, then text me.'

And now I would kill for a text
from my mom.

I wouldn't care, you know,
how many emojis were in it.

Just something from my mom,
but she's gone now."

Or someone--

A couple whose child had died of cancer,
a four-year-old.

And they said, you know, "We used to get
on him all the time and say,

'Man, stop slamming the screen door.'"

This was his, like--
This was his signature move, you know.

Just... [imitates door slamming]

And he said, "Sometimes me and my husband
just stand at the back door

and just slam it for five or ten minutes,
just to hear it."

You know, there's these--
And for all of us,

I think, for me, the lesson was,
and you can take it if it fits...

I get so busy sometimes
chasing the extraordinary moments

that I don't pay attention
to the ordinary moments.

The moments that, if taken away,
I would miss more than anything.

You know? My daughter has
this really interesting thing.

She was probably...

ten, maybe nine at the time,

and I picked her up from school
in Houston, where we live,

and we went to Hermann Park,
and we were on one of those paddle boats.

I brought some old bread,
and we were feeding the ducks.

I looked over and she was like this...

I was like, "Are you okay?"
And she goes...

[audience laughs]

And finally, she said, "Yeah, I'm good."
And I was like, "What are you doing?"

And she goes,
"I was making a picture memory."

And I said, "What's a picture memory?"
And she said, "Sometimes,

when I'm really grateful,
and things are just amazing,

I close my eyes and take a picture memory,

so when I feel lonely or things are hard,
I can remember it."

You know, I think the picture memory
is a lot better than our phone.

You know, I think taking a moment
and just committing to just that feeling.

What were we in, in that moment?

The next thing which is really hard
for me, and I'll be honest,

is sometimes just do the joyful thing
for the hell of it.

Just choose joy sometimes.

Just choose a thing
that seems frivolous and fun

and has no ROI or payoff or upside.

Just do the joyful thing.

You know? And, you know,
Stuart Brown, who studies play,

defines play
as time spent without purpose.

-Like, I call that an anxiety attack.
-[audience laughs]

Like-- Like,
I-- I have a hard time doing that,

just choosing joy.

But Charlie, who's 13 now,

last year when he was in sixth grade,
he came to me one day and he said,

"I really need to up my grade
in this class.

I really want to do it."
I said, "Your grade's fine."

And he said, "No, I-- I think
I really want to try." And I said, "Okay."

A week later he comes home and said,
"We got a huge project.

It's a big one." And I said, "Okay."

He said, "I was just gonna do it
tomorrow morning before school,

but maybe I should just dig in."

And I said, "Okay. Let's do it."

And he said, "It's an art project."
I'm like, "Oh, my God.

I have an art and craft supply
addiction issue.

So I was like,
"Let's go to the craft closet." Um...

And so he had to make a gladiator helmet
out of, like, paper.

And so he starts making it,
and I'm kinda watching.

Every now and then I have an idea,
and he's like, "Eh," which is good.

And he's like, "You know, you're allowed
to write something on it if you want to.

Should I take a chance
and write something on it?

I have a funny idea,
but it's kinda weird."

And I was like, "Take a chance."

So he writes on it, and he shows it to me,

and his gladiator helmet says,
"I run with scissors."

-[audience laughs]
-And I think it's really funny, right?

So he takes it to school,
and I'm like, "How'd it go?"

And he's like,
"Yeah, I think it was pretty good."

The next day he comes home,
and he goes, "Oh, my God.

I won first place.

The best gladiator helmet in sixth grade."

And I was like, "Oh, my God, Charlie.

Effort and you took a chance.

Like, effort and taking a chance
doesn't always pay off,

but I don't see anything, really,

that pays off without effort
or taking a chance,

so there you go." And he goes,

"She said I could have points added
to my final grade,

or, like, a secret treasure."

And I was like, "Oh, how many points
are you getting added to your grade?"

He goes...

-"What? I picked the secret treasure."
-[audience laughs]

"Yes, that's good.

Right on!" It was like a Pokémon pencil.

I was like,


Secret treasure?"
So now every now and then, I'm like,

"I could do this and it could get me here,
or I could just pick the secret treasure."

The joy, right? Just the joy.

Work is another place where vulnerability
gives birth to really important things.

Empathy, trust.


people call me all the time and say,

"Can you come talk
to our leadership team?"

I spend about 90% of my time now
doing leadership work.

"Can you come talk to our team?"

"What do you want me to talk about?"
"Anything but vulnerability and shame."

I'm like, "No, I'm not you."
They're like--

This is my favorite one.
Someone said, "Well...

fourth-quarter earnings."

I was like, "I don't give a shit
about your fourth-quarter earnings."

Like, I'm like, "What am I gonna talk
to you about?"

They're like,

"We have a huge creativity
and innovation problem."

I'm like, "But you don't want
to talk about vulnerability?"

No vulnerability, no creativity.

No tolerance for failure, no innovation.

It is that simple.

If you're not willing to fail,
you can't innovate.

If you're not willing
to build a vulnerable culture,

you can't create.

It's just that simple.

Inclusivity, equity, diversity.

We're in the middle
of really important movements right now,

movements that I hope
will change the world.

Black Lives Matter, Me Too, Time's Up.

-These are-- These are big...
-[audience applauds]

These are big movements.

Trans Lives Matter.
These are movements that matter,

and these are movements
that have the potential to change things.

What happens is, every organization
I go into right now, they say,

"We don't know
how to have these conversations.

They're incredibly uncomfortable.

We're afraid
we're gonna say the wrong thing.

We're afraid that what I say
won't match my heart.

I'll be taken the wrong way.

People will make assumptions."

And so, I think there's
a very clear answer here, which is,

first, to not have the conversations
because they make you uncomfortable

is the definition of privilege.

Your comfort is not at the center
of this discussion.

Like, that is not how this works.

It just doesn't work that way.

Of course you're going to get your ass
handed to you in these conversations.

And the whiter, straighter, Christian,

majority culture you are,
the more mistakes you're gonna make.

It's not a question about
whether you have a bias or not,

it's what biases do you have,
and how many, and how bad, and how deep?

That's going to happen.

That's what we sign up for
when we have these conversations.

That's how it works. And then you listen,

and you learn,

and you don't hold the people accountable.

You know, the people who are targeted

by racism and homophobia,
and heterosexism, and gender bias

are not responsible...
for initiating these conversations

and building the tables
where they should be happening.

-[audience applauds]
-That's not-- That's not how this works.

We have to be able
to choose courage over comfort,

and we have to say, "Look...

I don't know that I'm gonna nail this,
but I'm gonna try

'cause what I'm sure as hell
not gonna do is stay quiet."

That's what we can't do.

And so, yeah, you're gonna make
a lot of mistakes.

Yeah, it's gonna be uncomfortable.

Yeah, you're gonna learn about blind spots

that you didn't even know you had.

And then you're gonna be grateful
for that moment

and take learning it...

into your own hands, not make other people
responsible for teaching it,

and that's how we move forward.

But if you think there's gonna be
real conversation in this country

or in companies or organizations

around equity
and-- and diversity and inclusivity...

while you remain comfortable,

that is not gonna happen.

And it shouldn't happen.

So when we build cultures at work,

where there is zero tolerance
for vulnerability,

where perfectionism and armor
are rewarded and necessary,

you can't have these conversations.
They're not productive.

How many of you think, tomorrow,
if I had a magic wand

and I could wave it at where you work--
it's your office--

and tomorrow morning
when you walked in,

everyone in that office had the capacity
for difficult, productive conversation,

how many of you think
things would change overnight?

If everyone could have
really hard conversations?

We can't have them.
You know what we end up doing?

We end up talking about people
instead of talking to people.

[scattered applause]

And it's really--

It's toxic. It just takes over culture.

Giving feedback, receiving feedback,

ethical decision-making...

These are all born of vulnerability.

I understand that work seems
like a hard place to be vulnerable,

but we spend
more than half of our lives at work,

and I've never met a single person
or interviewed a single person

in 20 years

that had a joyful, wholehearted life
that was miserable at work.

That stuff will eat you alive.

And we all have a responsibility
to show up

and bring our whole hearts
and our whole selves to work

and lean in to the tough conversations.

Brave leaders are never silent
around hard things.

Our job is to excavate the unsaid.

What is the thing that's not being said?

And that requires courage
and vulnerability.

People ask,
"Where do I start with vulnerability?"

And the best place to start
is dispelling the myths.

So myth one: Vulnerability is weakness.

I've spent a lot of time

evangelizing around this,
and here's the thing.

I've cut it down to one question.

And here's the question:


is-- the definition of it, from the data--
uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure.

So vulnerability is the feeling
that we get when we feel uncertain,

at risk, or emotionally exposed.

So I was doing work with special forces

maybe a year ago now,
and I asked a question.

Could anyone,
any one of the troops in this audience,

give me an example of courage
from their life

or something they witnessed
in a colleague's life.

A single example of courage

that did not require uncertainty,
risk, and emotional exposure,

and there was just silence.

And I waited, and it seemed
like a long time, and finally...

a young man stood up and said,

"Three tours, ma'am.

There is no courage
without vulnerability."

And so I would ask y'all, in here,
give me a single example of courage

in your life or that you've witnessed
in someone else's.

A single example of courage

that did not require uncertainty,
risk, or emotional exposure.

I don't think you can.

There is no courage without vulnerability.

Yet, how many were raised to believe
that courage is an important value?

That you should be brave with your life?
Show of hands.

How many of you were raised to believe
that vulnerability is weakness?

Here's the rub. Be brave,
but never put yourself out there.

We've gotta dispel the myth, right?

Number two: "I don't do vulnerability."

[audience laughs]

Yes, you do.

Anyone here manage to live
to this point in your life

without uncertainty, risk,
or emotional exposure?


We do vulnerability. And here's the thing.

You only have two options. There's--
You only have two options.

You do vulnerability knowingly,

-or vulnerability does you.
-[audience laughs]

Vulnerability shows up, and you--
and if you don't know, just go home...

and say, "Hey,
do you think I do vulnerability well?"

to someone you love,
and then step back a couple steps...

-[audience laughs]
-...and take in the truth.

You do vulnerability,
knowingly or unknowingly.

And here's the thing.
Here's why we need it.

Man, it is so much easier
to cause pain than feel pain.

And people are taking their pain

and they're working it out
on other people.

And when you don't acknowledge
your vulnerability,

you work your shit out on other people.

Stop working your shit out
on other people.

[audience applauds]

Right? Stop.

It's okay if you've got
crazy stuff going on. Join the club.

Like we all do.

The difference is, don't offload
your hard stuff on other people.

Three: "I can go it alone."
This was my favorite.

One time after a talk,
a guy came up to me and goes,

"I'm gonna try it.

I'm gonna try vulnerability...

[audience laughs]

...but I'm gonna try it by myself.

And I'm gonna see how it goes,

and then I'm gonna try it
with other people."

And I was like,

"I-- I don't think that's gonna work.
Like, I don't know what that means."

And he's like,

"I'm just gonna...

do it alone for a while." And I was like,
"All right, you get back to me."

We can't go it alone.
We're neurobiologically hardwired

for connection with other people.

In the absence of connection,
love, and belonging,

there is always suffering.

You can't go it alone.

If you could,
I would have found a way by now.

[audience laughs]

As an introvert...

and somebody who loves humanity
but is más o menos on people...

-[audience laughs]
-...I would have found a way.

Number four: "You can engineer
the uncertainty and discomfort

out of vulnerability."

I work a lot with tech companies
in Silicon Valley and around the world,

and they really want to engineer

the uncomfortable part
out of vulnerability,

to the point where one of them said,

"We're thinking about an algorithm...

-[audience laughs]
-...that could actually help you predict

when it's okay to be vulnerable
with other people."

And I was like, "The minute it becomes
comfortable, it's no longer vulnerability.

Call it whatever you want,
but don't use that name on your app."

"Trust comes before vulnerability."

This is a hard one, right?

Like, do I trust you
then I'm vulnerable with you?

Or am I vulnerable with you,
and then I learn to trust you?

And the answer is "yes and..."

It's a slow stacking over time
of vulnerability and trust.

We don't go out with,
like, you know, the big guns, and like,

"Nice to meet you. I'm Brené.
Here's my darkest secret.

Can I trust you forever?"

We start with little things,
and we build over time,

and the more I share with you,
and the more you honor that sharing.

But here's the thing...

you share with people who've earned
the right to hear your story.

Your story is a privilege to hear.

You share it with people
who've earned the right to hear it.

You don't share it...

just because.

Vulnerability minus boundaries:
not vulnerability.

Last: "Vulnerability is disclosure."

This goes back to the boundary thing.

Live Tweeting your bikini wax:
not vulnerability.

[audience laughs]

Sharing the intimate details
of your divorce and your pain on Facebook

for your kids to read,
who are reeling as well:

not vulnerability.

Again, vulnerability minus boundaries
is not vulnerability,

and you don't measure vulnerability
by the amount of disclosure.

You measure it by the amount of courage
to show up and be seen

when you can't control the outcome.
Does that make sense?

Okay, we're gonna end with a story.

So, Ellen, my daughter,
decides to try swim team, and she tries--

She decides to try a year-round swim team,

which is a big commitment
'cause we have a rule in our house

that if you try a sport,
you've gotta finish the season.

So she-- I'm picking her up
one day from swim team practice,

and she's-- she's young. She's probably...

maybe fifth grade, and I can see--
How many of you have had this experience?

I can see from her silhouette
in front of me

when I'm still eight cars behind
that she's crying.

Like, I can tell by the way
she's holding her body

that things are not okay.

So I get up next to her. She gets
in the car, and she's crying, and I said,

"What's wrong? What happened?
What's going on?" She goes,

"I have to swim the 100 breaststroke
in the meet this weekend."

And I'm thinking to myself,
"No! Not the 100 breaststroke!"

And I was like,
"Man, that's a tough race."

And she goes, "Mom, you know."
And I was like,

"That's a tough race, girl."
And-- And here's the thing.

Breaststroke is a hard stroke.

It's like, one day it just comes together,
and you get it.

And like, the arms work
with the frog legs, and it just happens.

But until then, while you're doing it,
you actually don't propel forward.

Like, when you don't--

You kinda go forward, then you come back,
and then you go--

And so, 100 yards is a long way
for non-propelling.

I'm dying on the inside
'cause, you know, like,

I wasn't a great swimmer either,
and I had those moments,

and, like, what I want to say is,
"Well, run away and don't worry about it."

But I'm trying to be, like,
the parent that--

you know, the brave parent.
I'm like, "It's a tough thing.

Let's get home, get you showered.
Let's talk about it.

Let's talk about it with your dad."

And so we get home,

and she goes upstairs to take a shower,
and she comes down, and...

Steve's home, and we sit down for dinner,
and, you know, she starts crying again,

and she explains everything to her dad,
and, you know, he's like,

"Well, I think we respect your coach,
and it's your coach's call,

and I think you're gonna have to swim
if that's the race you're put in."

And, you know,
very much we aligned on messaging,

just like the books say.

And so she-- she starts crying.
And she goes up after dinner and I'm like,

[grunts] "Curse you, Steve," and,

you know, like, "You should have got her
out of this!" Um...

Then she comes back down real quick,
and she goes, "So you're sure?"

-I'm like, "We're sure. This is--"
-[audience laughs]

Yeah. So, but--
But I said, "Don't you think, Steve,

that she could take it up with her coach?

If you don't want to swim it,
take it up with your coach."

She comes home the next day, and she said,
"Coach Jason says I'm in.

A hundred yards-- 100 yards breaststroke.
I'm doing it."

I said, "That's tough."
Starts crying again,

and she said, "My friend said

that I could scratch my heat."

And so what that means is,
in swim meets, they'll call an event,

like girls' 100 breaststroke,

then they start calling heat.
Heat one, heat two, heat three.

And swim meets run like this,

and a lot of the time,
swimmers miss their call.

And so, that's considered
scratching the heat. So her friend said,

"Just don't show up
when they call your heat."

Which I know all about
because I scratched some heats in my day.

[audience laughs]

Only one or two, but for big races.

And I said, "You-- You could do that."
And she goes, "I could?"

And I said, "You definitely could do that.
I think it's a choice.

You'll have to take that up
with your coach

if you don't show up on the blocks
for, you know, for your race."

And she said, "Will I get grounded here?"

And Steve's like,

"No. No. I mean, that's your choice,
Ellen, you know."

And then she just starts sobbing.
She said, "I'll never win this race."

And I said,
"You will never win this race."

I said, "That is for sure,"
and I said, "But you know what?

Sometimes winning is not coming in first.

Sometimes winning
is doing the really brave thing.

Maybe winning for you is just
coming off the block and getting wet.

Maybe that's winning for you.

Maybe that's what a win looks like."

She goes,

"So if I scratch the heat,
I don't get grounded?"

-[audience laughs]
-[Brené] And I said, "Yes. Right. Yeah."

So, it's meet day. We're there.

They call the heat. No--
We don't see Ellen.

And then all of a sudden,
at the last minute,

she pops up on block number eight,
you know,

so Steve and I situate ourselves
at the end of the thing,

and then the gun goes off,
and there they go.

And I can see her,
and she is struggling, and she's trying,

and I can see, like, right kind of like
at 75 yards,

she checks the lanes,
you know, 'cause she's in a far lane.

She checks the lanes,

and she gets this look on her face like,

"I'm ahead."

And-- And you can see, you know, like,

"Oh, my God. I'm ahead!"

And then you can see,
as she's finishing the final 25,

that she understands that there are
no other swimmers in the pool,

that she's been lapped so badly

that the whole field is out of the pool,

and that, in fact, when she finishes,

not only are all the other girls
from her heat out of the pool,

the next heat is on the blocks,
ready to go in,

and people are just kinda watching
but not watching.

And I can see her struggling
to get out of the pool

'cause that's-- that was a big race.

When you're not going anywhere
for that long, it's a lot of work.

I mean, it-- it's hard.

And I can see her,
and she stops by her coach.

He kind of bends down on one knee,
and you can see her talking to him,

and he's doing this,
and she's just shaking her head.

And she didn't have her goggles off,

and I know she didn't have her goggles off
'cause I know she's crying.

And then she comes over and--

You know, and her dad--
And, you know, me and Steve,

we were like mama and papa Phelps
during this thing.

It was like she was going
for the Olympic trial.

We were like, "Pull! Pull!"
Like, you know?

There's no one in the water but Ellen,
and people are just like,

"Wrap it up. Pull, whatever, just, like--"

[audience laughs]

And she comes over,
and she pulls her goggles off,

and she's just like--

Just, I think, ashamed
and tired and exhausted.

And she said, "Can I say a cuss word?"

And I was like, "Oh, hell, yes,
you can say a cuss word."

And she goes, "That sucked."

[audience] Oh!

[Brené] And I said,

-"That really did suck."
-[audience laughs]

I said, "That sucked."

And then she stopped for a minute,
and she was looking down, and she goes,

"But I was brave, and I won."

-[audience] Ah! [applauds]
-You know?



And, to me, she was brave, and she won.

Here's the thing.

I'm not gonna bullshit you.

Vulnerability is hard,
and it's scary, and it feels dangerous,

but it's not as hard, scary, or dangerous

as getting to the end of our lives
and having to ask ourselves,

"What if I would have shown up?

What if I would have said I love you?
What if I would have come off the blocks?"

Show up,

be seen, answer the call to courage,

and come off the blocks

'cause you're worth it.

You're worth being brave. Thank y'all.

[audience applauds]

[cheering and whooping]

[Brené] Thank you.

Thank you! Thank y'all!

Good night!

[audience chattering]