Rising Strong by Brene Brown: Free Book Summary

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown, a renowned researcher and storyteller, takes us on a profound journey through the heart of failure and the process of getting back up. This book isn’t just about understanding setbacks; it’s a deep dive into the emotional whirlwind that accompanies them. Brown, with her signature blend of research, storytelling, and unabashed honesty, explores what it takes to rise after falling. This journey isn’t a simple one. It involves confronting our fears, embracing vulnerability, and transforming the way we perceive our struggles. “Rising Strong” is a beacon for anyone who has ever dared greatly, stumbled, and had to find their way back to standing tall.

Related: The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

The Core Principles of Courageous Recovery

In Rising Strong, Brown articulates the “Rules of Engagement for Rising Strong,” a set of guidelines that embody the spirit of resilience and courage. These principles, inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in The Arena” speech, serve as a compass for navigating the tumultuous journey of falling down and rising again.

  1. Acceptance of Failure as Part of Bravery: Recognizing that failure is an inherent part of being courageous. Those who dare greatly are bound to stumble.
  2. Irreversible Transformation Post-Failure: Embracing that once we engage in courageous acts and experience failure, we cannot return to our former state of merely being spectators in life.
  3. Journey as a Personal and Collaborative Endeavor: Understanding that while the journey of rising strong is intensely personal, it requires the support and companionship of others.
  4. The Power of Storytelling in Human Connection: Acknowledging the impact of stories in triggering emotional connections and fostering empathy, as they activate key brain chemicals like cortisol and oxytocin.
  5. Creativity as a Tool for Embedding Knowledge: Emphasizing that true learning and understanding occur when we apply our knowledge creatively, transforming it into practical action.
  6. Uniformity in Personal and Professional Recovery: The process of rising strong is consistent across both personal and professional realms, underscoring the inseparability of emotional experiences in different areas of life.
  7. Avoidance of Comparative Suffering: Recognizing that comparing our struggles to those of others is a natural, yet unhelpful response to failure and setback.
  8. Rejecting a One-Size-Fits-All Approach: Understanding that the journey of emotional recovery is complex and cannot be reduced to a simple formula; it varies greatly in duration and intensity.
  9. The Contagious Nature of Courage: Acknowledging that our courageous actions influence others around us, fostering a cycle of bravery.
  10. Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice: Defining the process of recovery as a spiritual practice, rooted in the belief of a connection greater than ourselves.

The Illusion of Effortless Resilience

Brown identifies a societal tendency to “gold plate grit,” which refers to the glorification of resilience and comeback stories without fully acknowledging the underlying struggles. This concept suggests that while we admire stories of people overcoming failure, like Steve Jobs’ return to Apple, we often overlook the real emotional turmoil involved. True resilience, as Brown highlights, isn’t about bypassing the feelings of desperation, shame, and panic that accompany failure. Instead, it involves recognizing, confronting, and working through these difficult emotions. The genuine heroes in Brown’s perspective are not those who disregard the emotional impact of their setbacks, but rather those who face their pain head-on and choose to rise again, fully aware of the challenges involved.

Navigating Failure: A Three-Stage Process

Rising Strong outlines a three-stage approach to effectively dealing with failure, emphasizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but a general path one can follow.

Stage 1: The Reckoning

This stage involves recognizing and acknowledging the emotions that accompany failure. Instead of ignoring these feelings, we should pay attention to physical and emotional signs like anxiety or frustration. The key is not to precisely identify the emotion but to acknowledge its presence and explore its impact on our thoughts and actions.

Stage 2: The Rumble

Here, we confront the narratives we create about our failures, such as feelings of inadequacy. This stage is about challenging and understanding these self-made stories. Brown suggests writing down our story, identifying our emotions, bodily sensations, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. By doing this, we can differentiate between the fabricated aspects of our story and the truth, leading to valuable insights and wisdom.

Stage 3: The Revolution

The final stage is transformative, where we rewrite our story to rise from failure in a positive and life-affirming way. This requires immense courage, as it involves exposing ourselves to potential pain again. However, this process of owning and revising our narrative leads to a revolutionary change in how we think, believe, and interact with the world, marking a significant shift in our personal growth and resilience.

Confronting Criticism with Courage

Brown’s Rising Strong provides valuable insights on how to handle criticism effectively, especially in the context of failure. Here’s an expanded view on dealing with criticism:

  1. Avoiding the Trap of Playing Small: Criticism can be hurtful, and our natural inclination might be to minimize exposure to it. This often leads to ‘playing small’ – reducing our ambitions and goals to avoid criticism. However, this approach strips us of the strength and courage needed to achieve great things​​.
  2. Recognizing the Importance of Others’ Opinions: While it might be tempting to adopt an “I don’t care what anyone thinks” attitude, Brown emphasizes that this is a game we cannot win. We are inherently wired to care about others’ opinions. Completely disregarding what others think can be counterproductive, especially when those opinions can offer constructive feedback​​.
  3. Discerning Which Criticisms to Heed: The key is not to eliminate all criticism but to distinguish between unproductive criticism and constructive feedback. Brown advises a practical exercise: write down the names of people whose opinions truly matter to you on a small piece of paper. These individuals are the ones who accept and love you with your imperfections and vulnerabilities. Their feedback is more likely to be constructive and beneficial for your growth​​.

The approach to handling criticism involves a balance. It requires not shrinking back in fear of criticism but also not becoming indifferent to all opinions. The focus should be on valuing feedback from those who genuinely care about your well-being and growth.

Through the pages of this empowering book, Brown doesn’t just share insights; she shares a part of herself – raw and unfiltered. The book encourages us to look within and find our own stories of falling and rising. It’s a testament to the indomitable human spirit that thrives in the face of adversity. As we close the last page, we’re left not just with lessons but with a renewed sense of courage. The courage to face our fears, to rise from our failures, and to write new endings to our stories. In embracing the principles of Rising Strong, we don’t just recover from our falls; we soar to new heights, fortified by our experiences and emboldened by our newfound strength.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Recognize that failure is a natural part of the journey towards success. It’s not just about falling down but about learning to get back up.
  • Take time to identify and understand the emotions you experience during failure. This self-awareness is crucial for personal growth.
  • Develop a mindset that sees challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. Resilience is key to rising strong.
  • Remember that the path to success is uniquely yours. Seek support when needed, but own your journey.
  • Stories can be powerful tools for connection and understanding. Use them to share your experiences and learn from others.
  • Engage in creative activities to embed and utilize your knowledge effectively.
  • Your emotional well-being is important in all aspects of life. Don’t neglect it in either sphere.
  • Don’t diminish your struggles by comparing them to others’. Each journey is unique.
  • Your journey can inspire others. Share your story of resilience and courage.
  • This journey is about connecting with others and recognizing a power greater than ourselves.






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