Brene Brown was an academic who never expected to live a very public life.
But her 2010 TED talk, “The Power Of Vulnerability,” changed everything. The topic resonated, and she became a viral star overnight.
Today her talk has nearly 1 billion views.
The irony is that although the University of Houston researcher spoke on how important it is to be vulnerable — in work and in life, because it gives you courage and demands that other people be authentic, too — Brown herself had a tough time dealing with all the publicity and occasional backlash.
At Behance’s recent 99u conference, Brown shared that although she received “marching orders from my therapist and husband to not read the comments” once her TED talk went online, she did anyway.
Despite all of the praise she had received, Brown wasn’t immune to the sharp words from critics. Some of the comments were attacking her presentation style or appearance, others the substance of her talk. She responded by “watching 8 hours of Downtown Abby” to get her mind off everything, but it was still tough. Brown says she began to shake off the criticism after recalling a Theodore Roosevelt quote that changed her life:
“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.”
Successful people take risks. It’s the only way to get achieve anything of real value. But “if you’re going to show up and be seen, there’s only one thing,” Brown said. “You’ll get your arse kicked.”
If you’re going to put yourself “in the arena,” you’ve got to decide what your values really are. “If courage is a value we hold, this is a consequence,” says Brown.
When you walk into the arena, you’ve got to expect a few things:
Instead of shying away from the critics, she says, expect that they’ll be there, in the front row seats. Then acknowledge them, know exactly what they’re going to say, and ignore them. “Say, I see you, I hear you, but I’ll do this anyway,” Brown says.
“It feels dangerous to show up. But it’s not as terrifying as thinking, at the end of our lives, ‘What if I had shown up? What would have been different?’”