Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2015
This book definitely works as a standalone piece, but it's meant to build upon her prior works. As Brene shares in the first chapter, the progression of her works is that the first book, http://www.amazon.com/The-Gifts-Imperfection-Supposed-Embrace/dp/159285849X, has the message "Be you," while the next one, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1592408419/, is a call to "Be all in." This book? "Fall. Get up. Try again."
This isn't another book telling you it's okay with fail. No, the assumption is that you have failed or will do so in the not too distant future. What will you do when it's time to get back up? In the author's words, "my goal for this book is to slow down the falling and rising processes: to bring into our awareness all the choices that unfurl in front of us during those moments of discomfort and hurt, and to explore the consequences of those choices." In this book, she uses stories and research, but unlike previous books, many of the stories in this one are her own personal ones. That makes it feel a little less like a book and a little more like an encouraging yet tough-love conversation with a trusted friend or mentor.
Truth and Dare: An Introduction
This part of the book got me a little nervous, if I'm honest. It was here I realized that this book was all about drilling down deep into the most difficult and uncomfortable moments in our lives, getting honest, and holding ourselves accountable to move forward in the after. I wasn't sure I wanted in on all of that. It seemed hard and dirty and messy and, well, uncomfortable. For starters, she dives into the idea that failure is painful, poignantly pointing out that our celebration of redemption often skips over the real hurts that needed redemption in the first place. We're guilty of "gold-plating grit," she writes, as we make failure seem fashionable without acknowledging the inherent desperation, shame, and dismay. Then enters my favorite Brenéism from this book: "the [awesome] deficit." What we need - and lack - is "a critical mass of [awesome people] who are willing to dare, fall, feel their way through tough emotion, and rise again" instead of just glossing over the pain or stuffing it down deep or taking it out on other people. (The bracketed word above isn't what she wrote, but Amazon's review guidelines won't publish a review with the real word. It's bad plus a synonym for donkey.)
Chapter 1: The Physics of Vulnerability
Here, vulnerability is presented as courage rather than weakness. Just as I remember the laws of physics from high school, Brené offers a new twist: if we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. That's what the physics of vulnerability is. Being brave and falling changes us for the better, while the individual path can be isolating and the need to ask for help challenging. As she writes about our being wired for story, I couldn't help but think of two powerful books (both from a Christian perspective, FYI, in case that's not your thing): Nish Weiseth's http://www.amazon.com/Speak-Your-Story-Change-World/dp/0310338174/ and Annie Down's http://www.amazon.com/Lets-All-Be-Brave-Everything/dp/031033795X. The most powerful point from this chapter, though, is that comparative suffering is detrimental: hurt is hurt, and love is needed in response without ration.
Chapter 2: Civilization Stops at the Waterline
The title of this chapter comes from a Hunter S. Thompson quotes. But the waterline is also a call to a powerful story Brené uses to open this chapters, about her husband and a morning swim and a vulnerable conversation for both of them. Then she lays out a story-telling paradigm - borrowed from Pixar - to apply to our lives in how we deal with the conflict parts in our real-life stories. This is where the meat of the book emerges. The rising strong process is (1) the reckoning, as we walk into our story, (2) the rumble, as we own our story, and (3) the revolution as we transform how we live as a result of our story. That's how we can rise strong from our failures.
The next several chapters build on that process...
Chapter 3: Owning Our Stories
This is where Brene challenges us as readers to accept or turn down the invitation to own our stories, rather than minimizing, compartmentalizing, hiding, or editing them. Owning our stories also means we're not defined by them or denying them. They are ours. Then to do so, the three steps begin...
Chapter 4: The Reckoning
As we reckon our stories, Brené pushes readers to feel and recognize our emotions and then get curious enough about them to dig a little deeper. Doing so, she writes, keeps us from offloading our hurts in a variety of unproductive ways: lashing out our hurts, bouncing our hurts away as if they don't matter, numbing our hurts through one or more methods, stockpiling our hurts by keeping everything inside, or getting stuck in our hurt. In this chapter, she also offers amazing strategies for reckoning with emotion, and I know I'll botch them if I even attempt to summarize them.
Chapter 5: The Rumble
In this chapter, we reexamine our stories, diving deeper to mine for truths, including errors in our own first retelling of the failure tale.
Chapter 6: Sewer Rats and Scofflaws
This chapter takes the rumble a bit further with discussions of boundaries, integrity, and generosity.
Chapter 7: The Brave and the Brokenhearted
This chapter as a whole is too meaty to succinctly summarize in this review beyond the subtitle: "rumbling with expectations, disappointment, resentment, heartbreak, connection, grief, forgiveness, compassion, and empathy." On a personal note, my heart jumped and then sank and then fluttered when I got to this chapter. For reasons not relevant to this review, I'm finding myself to be the brave and brokenhearted this week, and it's hard. I saw the title and my heart jumped as I thought, This is the one for me, my current faceplant situation. Then I read the subtitle and my heart sank as I thought, But Brené isn't going to make this easy, because it isn't easy and I'm sure there aren't shortcuts, plus she's been telling me to feel and I don't really want to right now. Finally, my heart fluttered, knowing this was part of my rumbling. I needed to drive forward to rise strong.
Chapter 8: Easy Mark
This chapter continues to expand on the concept of the rumble - which makes sense, because Brené states in chapter 2 that the second day/stage/point is the most important in the process. In her reckoning-rumbling-revolution paradigm, then, it makes sense to dissect rumbling the most. This chapter's subtitle also describes much of the content: "rumbling with need, connection, judgment, self-worth, privilege, and asking for help."
Chapter 9: Composting Failure
In this chapter, Brené dives deeper once more into the rumble, this time with the subtitle: "rumbling with fear, shame, perfectionism, accountability, trust, failure, and regret."
Chapter 10: You Got To Dance With Them That Brung You
Yep, another dive deep chapter on rumbling, this time "rumbling with shame, identity, and nostalgia." This one had a lot of gut punch for me, and Brené - at the risk of looking like a brat - shared a vulnerable story that helped me get vulnerable with myself in return in much needed ways.
Chapter 11: The Revolution
The revolution is what comes after the rumbling. It's the act of rising strong, but it can't be done before all the prior work. Revolution is the act of intentionally choosing authenticity and worthiness as an act of resistance in this world. With this the last chapter, Brené closes it out with a poem by Nayyirah Waheed, ending with "we are rising strong."
This book is a bold call to fall, get up, and try again. May we all rise strong.