Episode 42

Vulnerability as a Creative with Brené Brown

October 20, 2015

Today we’re joined by Dr. Brené Brown, whom you might know from her TED talk on vulnerability, or her books Daring Greatly and more recently Rising Strong. Today she’s talking with us about vulnerability as a creative, how to deal with the messy second act of rejection, perfectionism, and discomfort, and getting clear about whose opinions matter.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Falling down is an everyday part of the creative life."
- Brené Brown

Discussed in this Episode

  • How to cultivate courage when facing rejection and failure
  • Tools in rising strong and resiliency
  • Blending your creative life with your other life
  • The "messy second act" or messy middle
  • Shame vs. guilt
  • How perfectionism plagues creativity
  • Dealing with praise as a creative
  • How to keep the mojo going for creative work that may or may not make it into the world


More from Brené Brown

More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Kathleen Shannon 0:00
Get your business together, get yourself into what you do and see it through.

Emily Thompson 0:01
Being boss is hard. Blending work in life is messy. Making a dream job of your own isn't easy.

Kathleen Shannon 0:03
But getting paid for it, becoming known for it, and finding purpose in it, is so doable.

Emily Thompson 0:06
If you do the work.

Kathleen Shannon 0:06
Being Boss is a podcast for creative entrepreneurs. Brought to you by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon.

Emily Thompson 0:09
Hi, I'm Emily and I own Indie Shopography, where I help passionate entrepreneurs establish and grow their business online. By helping them build brands that attract and websites that sell. I help my clients launch their business so they can do more of what they love, and make money doing it.

Kathleen Shannon 0:15
And I'm Kathleen, I'm the Co-Owner of Braid Creative where I specialize in branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs who want to blend who they are with what they do, narrow in on their core genius and shape their content so they can position themselves as experts to attract more dream clients.

And Being Boss is a podcast where we're talking shop, giving you a peek behind the scenes of what it takes to build a business, interviewing other working creatives and figuring it out as we go right there with you.

Emily Thompson 0:29
Check out our archives at lovebeingboss.com

Kathleen Shannon 1:22
Welcome to episode number 42. This episode is brought to you by FreshBooks Cloud Accounting. Today we are so excited to have author and researcher Dr. Brene Brown here on Being Boss. Stay tuned.

Alright, a little bit on our sponsor FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the easy to use online cloud accounting designed specifically for creative entrepreneurs who did not major in financing or business or any of that stuff. FreshBooks is here to help you run your business and make you look like a pro while doing it. Just today I asked a couple of people in our Facebook group, what they love the most about freshbooks and one of them said that they love the time tracking tool. That they're working on lots of different projects, and they love that they can just hit record on their time and it bills straight to that project. Try FreshBooks for free today. Go to FreshBooks.com/BeingBoss and select Being Boss in the how did you hear about us section.

All right, you guys, we are so excited and grateful to have Dr. Brene Brown on our show today.

Dr. Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. Brene is the author of two number one New York Times bestsellers, Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. Thanks for coming on the show.

Brene Brown 2:55
I'm really, really excited to be with y'all. Thank you for having me.

Kathleen Shannon 2:59
Well, I first discovered you whenever I watched your TED talk on vulnerability, and this talk has been viewed over 21 million times as of right now. And it has started a national conversation on the power of vulnerability and shame. And then I read your book Daring Greatly. And it changed my life.

It changed really how I work and how I live and how I show up and be seen. And even now, with a baby it's changing the way that I approach this parenting gig. And you just released a new book called Rising Strong and of course it rocked my world too. And we're just thrilled to have you on the show today to talk about all things creativity, vulnerability, all of it.

Brene Brown 3:44
I'm excited. Those are my topics. I love it. And it's so funny to, I have to say right off the bat, that I could not have accomplished what I've accomplished without you and without Braid. So I really have to say that you know, y'all have just been such a huge part of my story and my journey. That it seems almost weird to talk to you as an external person because I think of you and your team is so internal to what we do. So I have to start with a huge gratitude for you and for Braid.

Kathleen Shannon 4:20
Oh well right back at you. I'm glad we can reciprocate because really your work influences so much of my perspective and worldview whenever it comes to the work that I do it's just integrated. I probably mention you every day whenever people ask me what business books to read I say Daring Greatly and ReWork. Like those are the two that I put out there.

Brene Brown 4:44
Yeah, that's great. Yeah. It's so funny because when I was writing Daring Greatly the publisher kind of looked at everything, looked at a layout and said, you know, we do separate books. We need to do Daring Greatly for individuals. We need to do Daring Greatly for leaders, and for parents, and then for educators.

And I was like, you know, no, because who we are is how we lead how we work, how we create, how we parent, how we partner. It's just one book. And they kept really kind of pushing on this idea of a work Daring Greatly. And you know, my belief is you cannot take people professionally where you're not willing to go personally. And so it's really just, we're just one integrated person. You know?

Kathleen Shannon 5:31
It's so true. And that's kind of one of the first things that I want to ask you about is whenever it comes to being a creative entrepreneur, creativity and vulnerability, really, you said, this is about connection. And creativity is I even heard you say this on Liz Gilbert's podcast, it's about giving the world a peek into your soul. So my question is, whenever creativity is so closely tied to your work, and your bank account, it puts you in a super vulnerable position, which is a good thing.

It's what allows us to have really authentic work. But that is until like, your design is rejected, or you aren't getting hired to do what you love. I think that even worse than rejection are hearing crickets. So whenever you're attaching your personal passion to your professional pursuits, and there's like this messy blend, it's really easy to feel shame whenever it's so closely tied together and connected. So my question is, how do you keep it personal and vulnerable without getting crushed? How do you cultivate courage whenever you're facing rejection and failures for work that is so wholehearted?

Oh, my God, I don't know, if you have a podcast on that I would listen. I can tell you what I learned from the research and I can tell you what works in my life. But you know, here's the thing. Sadly, I think, for me, and for most of us, if you're not asking that question and straddling that tension every single day, you're probably not doing deep creative work. I mean, this is not a problem to be resolved. This is the tension in which we work. And so there is, you know, and I have to say that, especially for Rising Strong, I really interviewed a lot of creatives, people who are just starting, people whose names, you know, we gasp when we hear them, because we're fans of their work across the continuum, platform, and I guess, traditional models of success and money.

Brene Brown 7:40
And I interviewed them for a very simple reason. I think I learned because falling down is an everyday part of the creative life. And so when you go into a book writing, when you go into a research study asking what do men and women who fall and get back up, and who have even more courage and tenacity after rising? What do they share in common? You know, it's so weird because the people who held the most information for me and the most truth were creatives, Special Ops, military, veterans and entrepreneurs.

Kathleen Shannon 8:16

Brene Brown 8:17
Right? But if you see it first you think what a weird group. But if you step back and think about it, what you realize is those are people who do work, every day where falling is built in. You don't get to be a creative and not fall on a regular basis. Every time you show someone your work. And so the sooner you can get to the place where, you know what? No, I don't like that. That's not what I was thinking at all. The sooner that becomes part of your process. As soon as crickets become a part of your process, the further you can move into I think, doing what you want to do and doing what you can contribute.

To me, I guess it comes down to this headline. He or she who has the greatest capacity for discomfort rises the strongest and the fastest. And so creativity is all about straddling the tension, leaning into the discomfort, and finding your way through the dark. And that's why when we see creativity, we have so much profound... We have a love affair with it really because we know that people on the other end of it, spend a lot of time in the dark.

Kathleen Shannon 9:39

Emily Thompson 9:40
I may have just teared up a little bit. Just so we all know that. Wow. Thank you for that. I think as creatives and especially as in the online world, where we are all doing our process and working in our little corner. Like I'm literally in the corner of my studio right now, in the corner of my house on a computer and this is where I work. This is where I spend 20, 30, 40 hours a week. And as creatives, it's hard enough, and as online entrepreneurs, I think it's harder because we isolate ourselves on this whole other level.

And so I just that message too, is so powerful in terms of it's supposed to be this way. Being a creative and being an online entrepreneur, and especially in a place where we, where we separate ourselves so that we can run online boundaryless businesses. That I don't know, we do put so much into what we do, and we do fall harder. And that doesn't mean that we don't keep going it just means we keep going regardless.

Kathleen Shannon 10:52
Okay, so I think this might be a good time to read the quote from Daring Greatly. So Theodore Roosevelt's quote, Brene, do you have that handy? I can I have it, right here. Okay. So this is how you open your book Daring Greatly. And it's how it gets the title. And I just want to read this for people who have not read the book. Just to understand what it means to show up, and be seen, and to fall face first into the dirt.

All right, "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 I think that speaks to a lot of what we're talking about whenever it comes to being a creative entrepreneur. And that failing and getting down and down. So what I loved about Rising Strong, is, you know... I read Daring Greatly, and I was like, I'm vulnerable, and I'm in the arena. And then Rising Strong made me realize that I'm like, face down in the arena, I'm that person who's marred by dust and sweat, and blood.

And in front of an arena full of people, like they're all looking at me face down. And I'm just looking for the nearest exit. So I started to get in that place where I'm like, wanting to armor up I'm wanting to get the hell out of my arena. So I want to talk a little bit about then the Rising Strong process and the tools for resilience. Because again, it's not about I guess, not falling down. It's about being resilient to that. And so what are some of the tools in Rising Strong, that are your favorites as far as adding to that resiliency?

Well, I think, I'll start with a very concrete example of one of my favorite tools is get really clear in your life about whose opinions of you matter. Because what happens, I think, for all of us who are putting work out into the world, you know, there are a lot of cheap seats in that arena that you just described. People who will spend their lives very far from the arena floor, hurling advice and judgment, mean spiritedness, especially, you know, as you're talking to Emily about online, and kind of ubiquity, and being everywhere.

Brene Brown 13:43
And there's just a lot of cheap seats. And so the problem, I think, and I've really seen this in the last couple of years, especially for those of us who spend a lot of time online, the problem is that when you open yourself up to all of that feedback, it is really devastating. Because it hurts, I mean, when people say mean things, it hurts and when it stops hurting, you've got a much bigger problem on your hands. Yeah, it should hurt because what happens, especially as creatives is we've got all these receptors. I mean, imagine tentacles, we've got all these receptors open in the world. And we have to because it's where we draw inspiration, like, I can spend two hours cleaning my study, noticing a font on a billboard driving home, and then hear a line on Law and Order, and I put those things together in some crazy way that's really meaningful.

That's what it means to be a creative to connect the seemingly unconnectable. That's what we do. And so we all have these receptors open and so that feedback comes in and it hurts and it tears us down, and it's not in service of our work. So the question becomes or the struggle becomes if... So I think the way, let me go back up and say, I think the way we respond to that hurt is we move to the very dangerous, I don't give a shit what anyone thinks. I'm, you know, and then oh my gosh, that's, then you've got your receptors closed, then your sources of inspiration are gone. So the object becomes, whose opinions of you matter, because when you close down your life to all feedback, and you don't care what anyone thinks, you lose your capacity for connection. When you're defined by what people think you lose the courage to be vulnerable.

So I think getting clear about whose opinions matter and the advice that I given and Rising Strong is something I've done for the past four or five years, it has completely rearranged my life. That is a one piece by one piece, inch piece of paper, I mean, a tiny an inch by an inch. And you actually write down the names of the people whose opinions of you matter, get very clear. And the prerequisite for being on the list is these are the people who have to love you, not despite your vulnerability and imperfection, but because of your vulnerability and imperfection. I carry mine in my wallet. So when I am trying to like hack into the back of Amazon to find out the IP address of someone who left a shitty comment... You know, I'm like, Okay, wait a minute, you're not you're not on my list. You're not on my list.

Like, these are the people whose opinions matter. And these people are not Yes People. These are people who say, I read the chapter, I love where you're going, I don't get it. I need more help making the connections, I'm not tracking, I'm not relating to the character in the story. They give me honest, real feedback, because let me tell you, for sure, one thing I've learned in this research, there is absolutely no mastery without feedback. So I think that's the big first piece, get clear about whose opinions matter and stick to that. I was doing an interview with Liz Gilbert, Elizabeth Gilbert very recently. And she said, reading a comment from someone you don't know about your creative is like taking a bite of a sandwich that may or may not contain glass. Do you know what I mean? Like, come on, like that could really hurt you. I mean, I haven't even watched the TED Talks. My own TED Talks.

Kathleen Shannon 17:22
It's really good. You should watch it.

I've read the transcript, but it's not in service of the work. Hypercritical feedback from myself or from other people is not in service of the work. Because what happens if I watch it? And then I'm like, Oh, my God, I really put myself out there. I'm not going to do that anymore. That's too scary. I just can't. Yeah. And so I think that's the first piece is get clear about whose opinions of you matter.

You know, one of the things that you said to me that has stuck with me ever since is whenever I was working with you on the website, and I asked you because it was the first time I really started dealing with online criticism from people who don't matter. And you said, you looked at me and he said, Kathleen, you have to write for your fans and not for your critics. And that was huge.

And then another thing that you said was to share what is vulnerable, but not what is intimate, and that my boundaries would be constantly changing. And they have, especially in the last year and a half since having Fox, my boundaries have absolutely changed. And so I think that's part of the rumble too, is that. And that tension that you're describing earlier, is that the boundaries are always there, but they're always changing.

Yeah, because what's... I do. I mean, I live by I share what's vulnerable, but not what's intimate. I live by that. But what is vulnerable, you know, lately some of the things that have just felt kind of vulnerable and okay to share for me lately, have become truly intimate, and I'm not sharing them. And vice versa. And I think also, I wrote in the beginning of my career, literally, I pictured a mobile over my head, with every potential critic in my life, my academic advisors and mentors, other people in my field, some of the really just mean-ass people that I know, who are just always scarcity-based critical. And I think I literally picture that. So today, when I write I actually have a physical mobile of my friends and family members over me. And all I ask is that I'm being true to them. That when they read it, they say, she showing up, she's being who she is, and she's telling the truth.

I love it.

Brene Brown 19:46
And, yeah, and so, but to me to make explicit who those people are and what that looks like is super important. And I think for people listening, you know, if you're like how do you go about that? Look at the list that you put on the one inch piece of paper. People who love you not despite your falls, not despite your imperfections, but because you're brave enough to try and you put yourself out there. And then just ask them for a picture and one sentence and just hang it up. Just hang it up. I have one friend that on the back of hers it said, just tell me the truth, so I can find my story and your words, you know, I mean...

Emily Thompson 20:27
Oh, that's so powerful.

What a mindset shift to change the people that you think about whenever you're creating. From being the people who write the negative things, which we all do, we think about those more than the positive things that come out of what we do sometimes. And that's not just a mindset shift, that's like a physical space shift to like force the mindset shift to happen.

Brene Brown 20:53
I'm really a believer in... And I think that's what one of my favorite things I do with y'all at Braid is making explicit values and ideas. There's a huge power of a combination. And you know, this from your blog, Kathleen, and your work. And Emily, you too. I mean, there's a huge power between the combination of images and words. And values and ideas and beliefs are so hard to stick to that having visual reminders around your workspace of what's really important to you is hugely important.

Kathleen Shannon 21:24
I mean, I remember even without going into too much detail at one point while you were working on Rising Strong, I emailed you, it's something that we had come up with through the Braid Process. And I was like you said this three years ago.

Brene Brown 21:37
Oh, my God. You don't even know the shit show that started? I mean. Okay, so that whole branding, is that a branding exercise that Braid exercise?

Kathleen Shannon 21:49
Yeah, I mean, our whole process is pretty much one big branding exercise.

Brene Brown 21:53
Okay, that gave... I mean, we still turn, when we are in struggle, we still go back to that. But part of that, I mean just for people listening and part of that, and we can share it with the listeners. When you write a book, you know, when you have The Gifts at number one and the New York Times and you have Daring Greatly at number one, there's a ton of pressure when you're sitting down to write another book. And there was a huge push for me just to rewrite Daring Greatly. Find a quote, as the spine, riff off the quote, set it up the same way. But that was not the book in my heart.

And that was not what I wanted to do next. And I have to say, I have experienced some very huge major professional failures in my life, books that have failed, projects that have failed, some publicly. And I know from my experience and falling and failing that when you fail, and you put your heart and soul into it. It hurts like the dickens I mean, oh god, it hurts. But when you fail, and you were half assed about your intention, and held back. Nothing hurts like that failure.

Kathleen Shannon 23:08
No doubt.

Brene Brown 23:09
Yeah, Nothing hurts like that failure. So I was like, you know, what? What is the book that's worth writing? Even if I fail. And so then you sent this image of something from three years ago, that was kind of like a whisper to myself about what this next book would be and what it wouldn't be. And it was on a beautiful image that y'all had designed. And I was like, damn that Kathleen. Let me tell you something, it started like, I mean, I'm not even kidding you. Like I was in New York, probably five days after that, sitting down with a table load of people at my publishing house saying, this is not going to be this book, this is what I'm doing. And I hope you're on board because this is what this book is going to be.

Kathleen Shannon 23:55
And you know, there is some power into making it visual and making it real. And I feel like that's what a lot of branding does. So I'm curious, Brene, coming from such an academic background, and part of the work that we did with you was helping you really embrace that personal branding side and that kind of creativity side. I feel like you came to us while you were going through your own creative revolution of sorts, and making that more public after decades of doing the hard research. So I'm curious if or how your creativity is impacting your research process as far as like making it visual or making it real, or if you're beginning to blend some of that academic process into your creativity.

Brene Brown 24:41
Oh, I think it's both. I don't think, I think it's so fully, you know, I think this is a really great place to kind of interestingly insert some research. I mean, I think the research I did probably a decade ago for The Gifts of Imperfection on creativity really was such a hard, painful reminder for me of the fact that there is no such thing as creatives and non-creatives. To be human is to be creative and to deny that is to introduce pain into our lives. And so I think I was always a very creative person. But I had actually forced myself to kill off that part of myself to fit in into the academy into academics. But if you came into my house, you would see that I was a creative person, if you looked at, you know, my wedding invitations are pen and ink with hand painted daisies on them.

So you know, like, it's always been a part of me, but I didn't know how to integrate it into what I thought I was supposed to be as an academic. And so I think when at the time I came to you, I think I was in the process of realizing that orphaning that part of me had left me really sad, and really not wholehearted. I mean, you know, the root word of integrate is the Latin word to make whole. And so I think integration is about making ourselves whole. These are all the stories that make up who I am, the struggles, the great stuff, the hard shit, that tragic stuff, the heartbreak. And also creativity is a part of that whole. So I needed to do it in a way where I didn't lose my integrity as an academic and a researcher. And what I found is, with your help, and your incredible, I think listening skills, and also to be honest with you that process, that was a no holds barred, no bullshit process. I was super resentful at first, when emailed those cards, to us. I'm like, I just want a logo. You're like, no.

Kathleen Shannon 26:49
I know! You're even like, I'll pay you double. Just do the design, I'll pay you double to not have to do this.

Brene Brown 26:56
I know, I was like, I don't want to do this. And then I think it was digging into that. That Braid Process for me, was a reclaiming and an excavating. And it was painful and hard. And what I think has happened is it's made me a better, it's made me a whole-er person more whole more whole, whole-er, whole, more whole. It's made me a more whole person, a more wholehearted person, and that's benefited every part of my life.

I don't have to hide my washi tape. You know, yeah, I can I don't wear it on a holster. But you know, like, I get to be who I am. And so even today, when I see people doing that thing, where they're compartmentalizing who they are like whether it's motherhood or creativity or family or you know, mental health struggle or being sober or whatever it is. The only unique contribution that we'll ever make in this world will be born of our creativity and our wholeness. And so that's where the juices right that's where the magic is.

Kathleen Shannon 28:08
Yeah, it's in that blend and I think everyone talks about like the work-life balance right and I know that there's been a backlash against that but I like to think of the work-life blend. And for me, especially since having a baby it's gotten really messy. I mean, the blend is just, I'm facedown and really messy.

Brene Brown 28:29
Blend is such a nice word.

Emily Thompson 28:31
No, Fox's like literally he's texted me on Evernote before. Like the work-life blended with Kathleen right now is ridiculous.

Hi, guys, Emily here to jump in and introduce you all to our newest sponsor Acuity Scheduling. I don't know about you, but at this point in my boss business, my calendar has become a sacred place. Between team checkins, launching projects for clients, and recording podcasts, it can be a bit of a struggle for me to easily and efficiently book coaching meetings or just moments in between the catch up with my online buddies. This calendar hustle is why we are so excited to pair up with Acuity Scheduling to give you the tools and insight to manage your calendar like a Boss. With features like automatic reminder emails and client self-scheduling, that lets your clients and pals sign up based on your availability. Goodbye to the back and forth of are you available when and hello streamlined scheduling without the headache. Schedule clients without sacrificing your soul. Sign up for your free trial of scheduling sanity at acuityscheduling.com/beingboss. Now, let's get back at it.

Kathleen Shannon 29:52
So one of the things I want to talk about is in Rising Strong, you talk a lot about the messy second act of the story and this was inspired by some of your interaction with Pixar. I think you were giving a talk there and ask them about their creative process. So I think a lot of what this podcast is, Being Boss is about shining a light on that messy middle. But my question is, as I'm, I don't know, this gets a little bit more philosophical. Is it all just the messy middle? Like there's no beginning or end? Like this isn't a Pixar movie? Right?

Brene Brown 30:28
Well, I mean, it will looks a Pixar movie, for example, I think, Dallas Clayton, who's a great artist, and I don't know if you know his work, but he's just a great artist, and thinker. And he has this beautiful poster, I'll send it to you. That says the beginning. And it's one sentence, and then he's painted like 50 in a row, the middle, the middle, the middle, the middle, the middle. The End. And if you look at any show, you know. So let's go back to Pixar and let's go back to storytelling. So Pixar leans very heavily on Joseph Campbell, and the idea of the myth, or the monomyth, you know, the one single myth that across cultures, where the hero's journey, where, you know, the character goes out, there's an inciting incident, it's really tough. And then the character spends the entire second act trying to resolve the problem without being vulnerable. Until they realize that what it's going to take is a true heart opening, dangerous, daring, bold, move.

And that's not, you know, necessarily, that's not Woody jumping out of the window to save Buzz. That's Woody opening his heart and realizing there's enough love from Andy to have another toy in the room. And so that the entire drama and tension of a story, I mean, let's take something that probably everyone knows, like Law and Order, you watch it, scene one takes five seconds, it's usually somebody stumbles upon a dead body, and then the police get there. And there's a smartass comment and you go to commercial break. The entire middle of that is trying to find that person or trying to figure out what happened. That's what we love to watch. That's what we hate to live.

Kathleen Shannon 32:25

Brene Brown 32:25
Because the messy middle is trying every easy way to write that blog post, to design that logo. Every easy way, until we get to the point at the very end of Act Two, where we're like, crap, this is what it's gonna take. It's gonna take 30 conversations is going to take a back and forth, it's going to take me owning that I'm overly invested, it's going, you know, this is what it's going to take. And then the end is usually one comment on Law and Order. I mean, the conflict ends, haven't you ever watched like a romantic comedy? And they're in this dance the whole time for an hour and a half of the movie? But you're like, wait, I want to see like, what their apartments gonna look like. And are they gonna, you know, have kids or are they gonna have Christmas, but it's just over that kiss, and then it's done. So the middle is the mess. And it's hard. And so when you're a storyteller, like I am, with my work. Or like Pixar is with animation and their movies.

You're the parallel and I think design is absolutely true. The parallel is you hate the second act the most, because it's the dark part, the point of no return. But at the same time, you know where that's going to happen. And the only thing that experience gives you, you can't skip Act Two. Even if this is your 20th year as a designer, the only thing you get in Act Two as a creative is a little whisper that says you know the road, this is the dark and scary point, stay the course. But you don't get any light or anything.

Kathleen Shannon 34:01
Right, but it's part of what makes the story. So sometimes, whenever I'm kind of in that messy middle, I literally think this this would not be a good story without this part.

Brene Brown 34:13
Right! Have you ever seen that thing going around? I don't know. I saw it on Instagram or Facebook or something that said the creative process. This is going to be awesome. This sucks. This is shit. I'm shit. And then the last one is this is awesome. Like everything, it starts with this is awesome and it ends with this is awesome. But everything in the middle just sucks and that's why so few people do it.

Kathleen Shannon 34:34
And I think that the creative process opens us up to shame because exactly what you just described going from this is shit to I'm shit. That's the difference between guilt and shame. Right?

Brene Brown 34:46
That's it.

Kathleen Shannon 34:47
So I feel like creatives are so open to shame in their work. Which is why I'm glad you're on the show.

Brene Brown 34:58
The difference between shame and guilt is the difference between I did something bad and I am bad. So if I mean the example I always use is from an academic journal article where you get to work... you get so drunk on Thursday that Friday morning, you're hungover, you're tired. You get to work, you're late, you missed an important meeting and your self talk is, God, I'm such an idiot, I'm such a loser. That's shame. If you get to work and yourself talk is I can't believe I did that. That was a really stupid thing to do. That's guilt. Shame is a focus on behavior. I'm sorry, shame is a focus on self. Guilt is a focus on behavior. Parenting Fox. Parenting, Eleanor, Charlie, my kids. If I look at Charlie and say that, you know, you're bad, versus that was a really bad choice. Let's talk about that.

That's the difference between shame and guilt. And the outcomes are huge. Because shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, eating disorders, suicide. And guilt is inversely correlated, meaning people who have the skill to be able to separate themselves, and their worth from their behaviors, and be able to look at it objectively and say, I'm not stupid, but that was a stupid choice. Number one, don't have those outcomes. And number two, are more likely to change the behavior. Because if I'm parenting, if you're my daughter, let's say Emily, you're my daughter. And I'm not going to use this as an example. Because I don't like to use it. Let's say, my daughter's... Susie is my daughter. And I say, you know, I find out Susie lied about something like Susie, you're you're a liar. Where do you have to grow from there? It's not you told a lie. That's not okay. That's outside of our bounds as a family. That is you are a liar.

How do you change that? It's who you are. And so the problem with creativity, the struggle is that it's not unusual for me to say, this book is not what I think this book is who I am. This piece of art is not what I produced, it's who I am on paper. So we have this sense that what we're producing is a piece of us. And so if it's not loved, then we are unlovable. If it has no value, we have no value. If you don't put worth on it, that I am worthless. And so it becomes a very tricky balancing act of Yes, what I produce is a part of me and a reflection of me, but it is not me. And that's hard.

And you know what the parallel is really, children. Parents who overly identify with their children, and are overly inmeshed in terms of boundaries, have a tendency to shame their children much more. Because if Ellen says something in front of her teachers, that's disrespectful, I can't separate that from how I think I'm perceived by those teachers. And so I can't help her out in terms of helping her understand what she's done, or how she could do it better. Because now I'm so invested, that I've taken this as a personal reflection of me.

Kathleen Shannon 38:25
So that kind of brings us to there's one part of the book I want to talk about real quick. And that is on perfectionism. And I did not think I was a perfectionist until I read Rising Strong. And you had posed, you were talking with your therapist about people doing the best they can. And anytime I'm told, like, just do your best, I'm like, dude my best is like up here, I will drive myself into my grave doing my best. And so then you pointed out and Rising Strong. There's a connection between people believing that they're not doing their best or that no one else is doing their best with perfectionism. So I want to talk a little bit about how perfectionism plagues creativity. What are your thoughts on that?

Brene Brown 39:13
No. So I think one of the things that's incredibly helpful, I guess, context for understanding perfectionism is to look at what perfectionism is and what it is. And so in research and in studying achievement, success, striving for excellence, what we know for sure, is that there's a tremendous difference between striving for excellence or what we call and research, healthy striving, and perfectionism, and that they're actually not even related. That healthy striving or striving for excellence is internally motivated. It's about setting goals for ourselves to achieve. Perfectionism is really motivated by one influencer, which is what will people think. And so perfectionism is actually what we think of as a defense mechanism. So it's the line of thinking, and I know it's, Hi, my name is Brene, I'm a recovering perfectionist.

But what we think of as perfectionism is, if I make it perfectly, live, perfectly dressed perfectly look perfect, you know, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment. And so what perfectionism is actually is like a 20 ton shield, we carry it around thinking, this is going to protect me from being hurt, or blamed, or judged, or shamed. When in truth, judgment and shame and hurt are just parts of the human experience. And that shield does not protect you from them. But what it does do is it keeps you from being seen. And so healthy striving and perfectionism are two radically different things. And so, are we killing ourselves because of an internal goal? Are we killing ourselves to perfect, to prove, to please, to perform. They're all the P words.

You know, and so that becomes the question, what is the motivator? So if I'm really, you know, in the way that Gretchen Rubin says this, and I love it so much. She says, you know, I'd rather have friends over for takeout, than plan the perfect dinner party that never happens. I'd rather publish the book that's not perfect, than keep adoring the perfect one that will never move off my laptop. I'd rather walk for 15 minutes, than not do the run that will take an hour and a half. And so to me, perfectionism. You know, this is another quote about perfectionism that I love from Annie Lamott, which is perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. And yeah, and to me, in creativity, especially perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. You know, I always say, when I find myself in perfectionism, I always laugh and say, Oh, my God, the killers in the house, you know, like, this is me.

Kathleen Shannon 42:26
Oh, man, I love it. Well, we have just a couple of questions from our listeners. If you just have a couple more minutes.

Brene Brown 42:33
I do.

Kathleen Shannon 42:34
We told our Facebook group, which has over 4,000 bosses in it, that we were interviewing you today. And they were super excited. Literally every, there's a conversation every day about your work in our Facebook group.

Brene Brown 42:52
I love that

Kathleen Shannon 42:53
You're making waves Brene, among the creatives.

Emily Thompson 42:56
Yeah, and shout out to whoever created the hashtag Muppet arms, because they were so excited that apparently they had Muppet arms.

Brene Brown 43:05
I love Muppet arms! Yeah.

Kathleen Shannon 43:09
All right. Emily, do you want to ask one of those?

Emily Thompson 43:12
I do. I think this first one is going to be really, really good. Especially considering we just talked about like negative feedback. And what happens when that happens? So this question is from Amira, and it is how do you deal with praise as a creative? When is it too much and time to unplug from external affirmations, while still putting your work out into the world for people to enjoy? I feel depleted after being so vulnerable. But also recognize that this is a crucial element for my art practice.

Kathleen Shannon 43:44
It's a really great question. You know, I don't, we read every email that comes in through us. I don't read them, but someone who works with me does. And what I really say is, give me the feedback that will help me, I don't want the kind of gratuitous praise. And I don't want the I hope you die. I just want to be back that's really constructive. And I'd like it to be a higher positive to negative ratio, because I think that reflects what's actually coming in now. If we have a project where there's higher negative ratio to positive then I want it in ratio of whatever the project is. Does that make sense?


Brene Brown 44:29
But you have to be careful because you have to... I think it's, I keep leaning into the list of people whose opinions of me matter for both corrective feedback and positive feedback. Because when you open the door and say, I'm going to take all this stuff that's, you know, love you, you're the best you know, it's a really a short fall to opening yourself to the other. So I think I lean into that list. And then I asked the people who curate my email for me to give me feedback that helps. So someone will say, I really loved your talk in Washington DC last week, the examples were really helpful and helped me relate it to my life. That's constructive for me. And if it's just, you're awesome, I don't really get those as much because it opens me up to the, you suck.

Kathleen Shannon 45:29
Right. You know, one thing that really helped me with both positive and negative feedback was Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements, and the chapter on not taking anything personal.

Brene Brown 45:43

Kathleen Shannon 45:44
Even the positive feedback. And I think that you're exactly right, Brene, that opening yourself up to being lifted up by the positive, it's great, but it only lasts so long. And I've noticed that for me, it does open me up to the negative stuff, too. So I try and be really neutral about it and not take any of it personal. But that can be difficult on both sides of the coin. Good and bad.

And I'll tell you this, too. One thing that's a huge kind of rule of engagement for me, is I don't share anything until my healing and growth is no longer dependent on the reaction to it.


Brene Brown 46:22
Does that make sense? Especially in writing, and blogs, and stuff like that, I don't share a story where my healing is dependent on the feedback, I share it once I've already healed from it.

Emily Thompson 46:32
Oh, good. That is such a great rule of thumb.

Brene Brown 46:37
It's pretty helpful. I gotta say.

Kathleen Shannon 46:39
And I think, you know, you told me that actually, a couple years ago, and or maybe I read, you write that somewhere. And I pretty much I have not been blogging since becoming a mom, because I'm still in my shit with it.

Brene Brown 46:53

Kathleen Shannon 46:54
But I'm looking forward to the day that there is a little more healing, so I can help other people a little bit more through the sleep deprivation or the identity crisis, or, you know, the stuff that comes with it.

And that stuff, that stuff is really real. And I have to say that one of the things that you'll see, you know, if you look at my work, I blog very little about parenting. Because I mean, I will sometimes, but, you have to be careful, and you have to be really prepared.

Brene Brown 47:26
Let's do Heidi's question. I would love to hear your take on being creative "in the dark." As creative entrepreneurs, we do so much creative work that is seen and sold out in the world that it can be hard to find the time and energy to do creative work that doesn't feel as commercial or ready for the world's eyes. When creativity is already part of our everyday lives, how do we keep the mojo going to make more that may or may not one day sell? PS. She's excited that you're here.

Kathleen Shannon 48:02
Hi, Heidi. You know, I think that's really... it brings me back to a story my therapist told me one time about a guy who... Let me see if I can tell the story right. Because it was really... Oh, this CEO is on like this much needed vacation after a year of not taking any time off. And he's sitting on the beach, and he's watching this fishermen come in with his boatload of fish. And he watches this guy do this for two or three mornings in a row. And he finally pulls the guy over and says, Hey, can I talk to you for a minute? And he said, Sure. And he goes, you know, I'm a really well known business leader in the US and I've been watching your process. And if you expanded your number of boats, and rather than you going out hired people to go out, you could probably like quadruple your, you know, your load every day. And you could turn this into a really viable business. You seem very good at you what you do.

Brene Brown 48:58
And he said, yeah, but I get to fish out every day already. You know, it's like, we turn what we love into a business, and then it loses. It changes from a vocation to an occupation. And we almost have bad energy around doing it for fun anymore. And so for me, that's a constant battle. And it has to come with whitespace. So if I do not have whitespace built into my life, I do not do anything creative for fun. And so it's not like okay, you work 40 hours a week. It's not carve out another 10 for fun creativity, it's carve out another 10 for nothing. And then you'll be willing to lose part of your 40 for fun creativity. It's it's not it's about to me, I think it's about whitespace it's about having time because as soon as that fun creativity gets scheduled it just becomes the other stuff again.

There's no spontaneity. There's no wonder. So to me, it's about whitespace. And you know, the best advice I ever got was from a friend who said to schedule your whitespace because we have shared calendars, and everybody has my calendar that works with me. Schedule your whitespace like you do work meetings, they're non negotiable. People need to, you know, people can't say, Oh, can we just encroach here a little bit. And so I put the white, I'm really trying more and more to put the whitespace on as just non negotiable. And I think when we do that, the creativity for the love of it is born on its own.

Kathleen Shannon 50:39
I love it. Yeah boundaries. Amen. Brene, thank you so much for taking the time to come on to Being Boss. We're going to let people know where they can find you. But everyone check out Daring Greatly and Rising Strong and The Gifts of Imperfection. They all hit, were they all three New York Times bestsellers this last week?

Brene Brown 51:03
Yes, they were all on the list, which is really weird, but amazing. I have an incredible community. So I'm grateful.

Kathleen Shannon 51:09
So exciting. And we will include in our show notes where people can find your work. Thanks again so much for joining us. Is there anything else that you would like to add where people can find you? Or?

Brene Brown 51:21
Oh, yeah, we've got a new a new business that I'm really excited about. It's kind of my passion project. It's CourageWorks.com, and I'm taking all my content and offering online classes on the books for individuals, couples, teams, organizations. So I'm really really excited about it. It's something people have been asking for for a long time and we had a lot of fun doing The Gifts of Imperfection. And so check us out.

Kathleen Shannon 51:51
Thank you for listening to Being Boss. Find show notes for this episode at lovebeingboss.com. Listen to past episodes and subscribe to new episodes on our website on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher.

Emily Thompson 52:05
Did you like this episode? Head on over to our Facebook group by searching Being Boss in Facebook to join in on the conversation with other bosses or share it with a friend. Do the work. Be Boss and we'll see you next week.

Brene Brown 52:45
It's a very kind of vicious, can be a very vicious community. Sorry, you're hearing, you're hearing Daisy the Bichon in the background.

Kathleen Shannon 52:53
Aw. Daisy.