Insights From The Inc 5000 Conference – Brené Brown

Henry here again this week, with some more insights from the Inc 5000 Conference.  Feel free to read last week’s post to catch up if you haven’t already.

After talking with Norm Brodsky, the next best part of the conference was listening to two Brené Brown  talks.

Brené Brown
Photo credit Maile Wilson

She is a world-class researcher of relationships, and it turns out she is a great speaker as well.  (She’s also very pleasant off stage, as my business partner Josh and I found out when we found ourselves leaving one of the auditoriums alongside her.)

I HIGHLY recommend two of her TED talks as a way to learn more about her and about Vulnerability and Shame.  She has written numerous books, and she spoke for about two hours.  I’ll just note some highlights here so you quickly read though to get a sense of what she’s about.


She found out that once she started her own growth business that it is much easier to study leadership, which she has been doing for a while, than to lead people.

The #1 reason for business failure is a lack of courage and leadership, which is most often manifested in an unwillingness to have difficult conversations. Our society believes that we shouldn’t be uncomfortable, and further that money or status or privilege would mean we would be comfortable.  

This keeps us from tackling the hard things in life, which are inevitably uncomfortable. From my own observation, this means that we miss most opportunities to grow and mature.  

Discomfort leads to being open to learning lessons, which leads to change and growth, which leads to maturity. This means that discomfort is a good thing, and trying to be comfortable all the time is not.

Four Pillars of Courage: Vulnerability, Clarity of Values, Trust, and Ability to Recover.

  • You can learn these skills, and thus learn to be courageous – but you will definitely get your butt kicked in the process. When you sign up to be brave, you sign up for the “certainty of failure”. So each day, we end up choosing: Courage or Comfort?
  • She mainly discussed the first topic, Vulnerability. Her definition that I noted was “a willingness to show up and be seen transparently without controlling the outcome”. Part of that is understanding and believing that other people don’t define success for you.
  • Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we can feel.
  • We also need to do a much better job with celebrating each of our personal and professional successes whatever their size. I could do a much better job with this, though attending the Inc 5000 Conference was a part of that. I also plan to take a long multi-day hike in the mountains to celebrate.
  • She quoted Teddy Roosevelt  from his “Citizenship In A Republic” speech and extended it further: If you are not getting your (butt) kicked, I am not interested in your feedback. Who is in the arena? Who is paddling the boat with me? Those people, I will listen to.
  • The opposite of accountability is blame. Blame is just discharging your stuff, not owning it.
  • Clarity of Values: have we (at Kopis Mobile, or as individuals) written down our values and operationalized them by discussing what they look like as behaviors?
  • Regarding Trust: once you say “trust”, people go into their primal limbic systems . Once you bring it up, they may sense that you are attacking their sense of self, so be prepared to be dealing with more than just the issue at hand.
  • Consider the power of empathy to restore relationships. What’s empathy? Watch this insightful 3-minute video: Brené Brown  on empathy .
  • The Ability to Recover: Everyone wants to see their story with a good guy and a bad guy to help understand it and how to make it feel better. Help people see that story, and learn how to cultivate that story for yourself.

Brené spoke more about the Ability to Recover in her second talk, which is the subject of her book Rising Strong . There is a process for that, what she calls “The Reckoning, The Rumble, and The Revolution”. She mostly discussed the first – The Reckoning. In general, this is the often difficult work of understanding what is really going on in your life and how you got to that point, and being honest about it!

Often, people have problems and that generates shame (a focus on the person) – which frequently causes addictive behaviors. Guilt (a focus on the behavior) is a healthier alternative, and it protects against addiction. Among the other takeaways from her talk were that most people can identify 3 to 5 emotions, yet there are 30 core emotions! Many of those emotions show up as anger or distance.

It’s tough to dig below that emotional shell, but  she does have some great suggestions about how to go about it.  Brené  gave some powerful examples that start with asking the question:  “What is the story you’re telling yourself in your head?” Once those get out on the table, clearer communication and a better relationship follows.

I know that I personally have a lot to learn about vulnerability, empathy, shame, trust, and many of the other topics that Brené writes and talks about. Hearing her in person was motivational for me to keep learning more.

I hope this diversion from the typical Kopis Mobile content was helpful! One more post about the Inc 5000 conference to come.

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