Yesterday, I had the good fortune to see Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, who was a guest on Katie Couric's new talk show.
The title of Brown's latest book, Daring Greatly, comes from one of my favorite quotes by Teddy Roosevelt:
"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 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."
I was thrilled to see Brené in person, having watched her TED talks numerous times. I think of her as "The Queen of Vulnerability." Often when I am engaging in actions that feel risky (no, I'll never skydive, I'm talking about crazy stuff, like going on a date), I wonder, "what would Brené say?" She would say, "Go for it."
But the real revelation for me at the show was Katie. I've always liked her, but had imagined that everything must be easy for her, that she didn't have the kind of pesky voices in her head like I do that seem constantly to be saying what the hell do you think you're doing? Yesterday she showed us her vulnerability, laughing with the audience and wondering if she was doing things right, and it made me admire her all the more. What Brené Brown teaches us is what Katie, the ultimate professional with a thoroughly human side, showed us yesterday: Katie has often dared greatly.
We hear "nothing ventured, nothing gained," but I see so many people in life talking about taking chances, changing their lives, leaving jobs they hate, or unhappy relationships, or moving, or going back to school, or dating, or wanting to dance, or meditate, or stop drinking, or ask someone out, or changing careers, or standing up to an abusive person... and talking about it is as far as they get.
I am not judging them. I was in marriage that wasn't working for many years and all I did was talk (or write) about it. I watched so many of my friends get divorced and I always thought, "But my husband is a good guy, he's not a jerk like so and so's husband." The truth was, we weren't a good fit. We wanted different things in life.
Brené Brown and Katie Couric are both big risk takers. Katie's show will be in front of an audience. This is a new skill for her. It looks easy, but the Talk Show Highway is littered with failed shows, even with hosts we love. Katie has the unenviable position of being compared to Oprah and Ellen and every snarky armchair observation that pops in peoples' heads. Imagine what it felt like for Jimmy Fallon to read that his show was a "trainwreck:" "It didn't seem to have attitude, direction or an identifiable style -- a newborn already suffering an identity crisis..." or the Maureen Ryan description of the first show: "Sweaty, tense, uptight, nervous, wound-up, keyed up -- pick an adjective. Any one of them would describe Fallon's demeanor on opening night."
Fast forward to this year, where Fallon has increased his lead over the competition from last year's 5 percent to this year's 19 percent -- who's sweaty now?
I'm not shilling for Katie's new show (though an address for a check can be provided) -- I'm just suggesting we should cheer Katie on for doing exactly what Brené Brown says her research reveals for lives of meaning and substance: take the chance, be vulnerable and thereby risk having more joy and fulfillment.
By the way, Brené freely admits that she became an academic to live in a world of facts and statistics, only to find herself (not by choice!) firmly planted in a world of risk taking and vulnerability. The audience yesterday was rooting for both of these women to succeed and I think that is ultimately what we all have to do: be there for each other, to cheer each other on. We need to become a community of risk takers, of people whose insides are allowing them to move forward and change that job or start exercising or end that toxic relationship.
When we don't move forward, we begin to break down, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Or as Alvy Singer says in Annie Hall: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark."
Let's avoid the dead shark! Let's look now at what's endangered in our lives -- a relationship? A passion? A creative impulse? How many years can we wait to move it forward, energized and free? What are we waiting for?