3 Life Lessons Learned From Brene Brown’s SXSW Keynote


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For those who don’t know, I’m a huge Dr. Brene Brown fan. Two of her books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong have fundamentally shaped my 20s to date. So when I found out she would be a keynote speaker at SXSW this year, I was more than a little excited. Her keynote definitely didn’t disappoint.

This isn’t a normal community management, marketing or social media post that you normally see from me on here. It’s more self development. But, I truly believe that any professional (well for that matter, human being) could benefit from the wisdom she shared in her keynote.

The foundation of her keynote centered around three pieces of advice.

1. Choose courage over comfort. 
Staying in your comfort zone is safe. If you ever want to be great at anything, you have to step out of your comfort zone and enter the “arena.” When you step into the arena, it’s inevitable that you are going to get your ass kicked most times. Showing up and continuing to bounce back when you fall is how you keep growing. It also makes you a little dangerous.

2. Vulnerability is not a weakness.  
At a young age, most of us were taught to “mask” our emotions. Myself included. When you got your feeling hurt or started to cry when you didn’t get your way, you were probably taught to wipe away your tears and get over it. That’s not necessarily terrible advice. But, it’s also not the full picture. You need to be able to “feel” through emotions. It’s why it’s called, “FEELINGS.” Without feelings, you can’t be vulnerable. Vulnerability is one of the building blocks to building lasting relationships. It lets you be genuine and authentic.

3. Be careful about the feedback you let in. 
It’s really easy to be an armchair quarterback and throw cheap shots at people who step into the arena. It’s even harder to decide which feedback to listen to and which to ignore. If you listen to every negative review or cheap shot, you are never going to want to show up and put your work out there. But if you actively cultivate 5-10 people whose feedback is important to you and ignore everything else, it makes it a little easier to keep showing up time and time again.

On the surface, this all sounds super simple. Duh, we should all be practicing this all the time. However, it’s really, really challenging to put this advice into action consistently.

As Dr. Brown shared,  “Our brains are hard wired to recognize the narrative.” We like stories that have a beginning, middle and end and hate ambiguity and uncertainty.

This becomes super problematic because the majority of life is centered around uncertainty. When we don’t have all the facts, we’re really good at creating stories. In fact, we’re natural conspiracy creators.

“Conspiracy is a story that has limited factual data points that you fill in with your own beliefs and fears,” said Brown.

The only way to change that is to constantly own your story because then you get to control and write the ending. When you deny a story, it owns you.

We’re also really bad about setting boundaries with others. We can’t be generous, compassionate, empathetic and vulnerable with others if we don’t set strong boundaries.

“We are not comfortable setting boundaries because we care more about what people will think and we don’t want to disappoint anyone, we want everyone to like us and boundaries are not easy,” said Brown. But I think they are the key to self love and I think they are the key to treating others with love and kindness.”

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Jessica Malnik

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