Gift of the Gab

Havelock North Village Press - - News -

I am one-inch away from be­ing com­pletely dis­en­chanted with politics but I’m hold­ing on. I’m whiteknuck­ling it right now.

Brene´ Brown’s books on shame, vul­ner­a­bil­ity and courage have given her A-list fans like Oprah and Melinda Gates and made her a goto lead­er­ship con­sul­tant for both Pixar and the Seat­tle Seahawks.

But Brown, a research pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Hous­ton’s Grad­u­ate Col­lege of So­cial Work, thought she’d spend her ca­reer writ­ing for other aca­demics, not mak­ing the

New York Times’ best-seller list.

“My goal was to put it in peer-re­viewed ar­ti­cles that no one would read but like five peo­ple and they would just read it to check to make sure they were quoted,” Brown told The As­so­ci­ated Press from her home in Hous­ton.

Five best-sell­ing books later, Brown is de­but­ing her first Net­flix spe­cial on Fri­day,

Brene´ Brown: The Call to Courage, based off her two decades of research. The spe­cial is a bit of an ex­per­i­ment for the stream­ing

ser­vice, whose cat­e­gories Brown doesn’t neatly fit into.

“Am I com­edy? Doc­u­men­tary? True crime?” Brown joked.

Brown’s skill as a writer and speaker is that she doesn’t sound like a typ­i­cal self-help or lead­er­ship ex­pert who is shout­ing mo­ti­va­tional speaker mantras. She has a re­searcher’s mind for pat­terns and a sto­ry­teller’s gift of lan­guage. She pep­pers her talks with plenty of Texas col­lo­qui­alisms, like “There’s noth­ing in the mid­dle of the road but white stripes and dead ar­madil­los.” She tells per­sonal anec­dotes about her kids and her hus­band to il­lus­trate her broader ideas about par­ent­ing, com­pas­sion, lead­er­ship and more.

“Peo­ple will come up to me and say, ‘I al­ready knew every­thing you said. I just didn’t have the lan­guage to say it. I didn’t know we were al­lowed to talk about it’,” said Brown. “And so I think I just put lan­guage around feel­ings and ex­pe­ri­ences and thoughts that we all have.”

She can also curse like a true South­ern lady, which is just enough to set peo­ple at ease and give them a laugh. “Not like An­drew Dice Clay,” she said. “An ap­pro­pri­ate amount of curs­ing.”

In the spe­cial she talks about her 2010 speech on vul­ner­a­bil­ity that has be­come one of the most watched TED Talk speeches, now viewed about 39 mil­lion times. Her most re­cent book, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Con­ver­sa­tions. Whole Hearts ,isa play­book for lead­ing with em­pa­thy.

When asked about lead­er­ship qual­i­ties she hopes to see among can­di­dates for the up­com­ing 2020 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, Brown took a long pause.

“I am one-inch away from be­ing com­pletely dis­en­chanted with politics but I’m hold­ing on. I’m white-knuck­ling it right now,” she said. “I need a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem where the peo­ple who make the de­ci­sions ac­tu­ally are re­quired to live by them and are not in such an elite po­si­tion where they make pol­icy and laws and fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions that don’t af­fect them.”

The Net­flix spe­cial is good tim­ing for Brown, who has spent years trav­el­ling all over the coun­try giv­ing speeches to cor­po­ra­tions, en­trepreneurs, women’s con­fer­ences and lead­er­ship training events.

Her youngest child is in mid­dle school and she’s mov­ing into a pe­riod of her ca­reer where she’s do­ing less of those speak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in or­der to be at home. But with Net­flix, she has a chance to con­tinue build­ing on the con­ver­sa­tions she started with her books. “This op­por­tu­nity from Net­flix just felt like such a deeply im­por­tant gift,” Brown said. “This thing is go­ing to drop in 190 coun­tries.”

AP Photo

Research pro­fes­sor Brene Brown, star of the Net­flix spe­cial Brene Brown: The Call to Courage.

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