“Daring Greatly”…or at least “Daring Well”

“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 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 and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the 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 he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910


I do not “dare greatly.”  Some days, I don’t dare at all, and on a good day?  Well, maybe I don’t “dare greatly”, but I try to manage “daring well”.

When you hear the words “daring greatly,” what do you think about?  I was envisioning skydiving or paragliding off a huge cliff.  Maybe even cleaning out my kid’s lunch box at the end of a two-week break.  That is definitely taking a huge risk.  Surely that must qualify as “daring greatly”?

What I didn’t imagine was the idea that “daring greatly” means you must put your most vulnerable self out there for the world to see.  It doesn’t sound so scary until you really start considering it…

Let the whole world know that, despite what everyone says, I’m still insecure about my ability to teach nine-year-olds?  No way.  Confess to everyone I know that every time anyone asks how I am doing, I will automatically say, “Hanging in there!” (even if I am definitely NOT “hanging in there”)?  I’ll pass.  Admit to the world that despite the Facebook pictures that brag otherwise, I am not the multitasking, super-mom they see?  Never.  Why would I want to risk damaging a façade that is working so well?

Enter: Brené Brown.  If you have gone this far in life without reading anything by the great Brené Brown, stop what you are doing right now.  Do yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now.  I’ll wait…

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead: Brown, Brené: 9781592408412: Amazon.com: Books

Done?  Good.  Now, let me tell you why Daring Greatly is a must-read.

This woman has dug through cultural and personal baggage to help the rest of the world understand that taking great risks means being your most vulnerable self.  It means that even in your weakest moment, you will make the greatest gains when you are willing to reveal your true self and trust those around you to accept, support, and encourage that risk.  Talk about daring greatly!  Most days it feels like a risk just leaving the house five minutes late while rockin’ a “going-on-five-day dry shampoo hair job”.  So, what would it feel like to take the real risk of vulnerability and really be open to the response you get?

According to Brown, “Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience.  Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.  To feel is to be vulnerable.” (Brown, 2012.)  Armed with this knowledge, it would seem easy to embrace vulnerability, right?  If I want to feel, I must show others my most vulnerable persona.  Easy, right?

But being vulnerable is only easy, well…when it’s easy.  Telling your closest friends about a major work mishap that you, yourself, caused?  Easy!  Your friends tell you not to worry and that it was just a mistake. 

On the other hand, confessing to your child that you threw away their tooth fairy tooth because, quite honestly, you were distracted and busy and weren’t listening when they told you they lost a tooth and didn’t pay attention that they put it in a bag for safe keeping…well, that doesn’t earn you any rewards or brownie points.  Wouldn’t it just be easier to explain it away?  Tell them it wasn’t your fault and that you’re SURE they didn’t tell you about the tooth in the bag or else you would have never tossed it? 

That is definitely not daring greatly.  Instead, wouldn’t it be the daring thing to tell your child that you were distracted and didn’t give them the attention they deserved?

I can’t proclaim that I am great at “daring greatly.”  I still have so many things to work on, but Brown’s research gives me hope.  I strive to be the wife and mom that can say, as so eloquently written by Brown, “I’m with you.  I’m in the arena.  And when we fail, we’ll fail together while daring greatly.” (Brown, 2012.)  I want to be the parent who can allow their child to struggle with the experience of vulnerability because, as Brown has so diligently researched, it breeds hope.  I wish to be the friend who can sincerely say, “Lay it on me.  Tell me and let me understand.” 

Am I there yet?  Most definitely not.  I still have days that I doubt my teaching expertise, yell at my own children, and refuse to tell my husband why I’m mad about things that could easily be resolved if I was willing to lay out my vulnerability.  However, I am growing each day.  I am writing to all of you and sharing things that make me incredibly vulnerable.  I am learning to create a mind space that allows me to be both vulnerable and forgiving of myself.  I am reteaching my brain how to interact with my students and my own children in a way that encourages vulnerability and breeds understanding and connection. 

I learn a little day by day.  In the meantime, I’ll look for the miraculum, love my family, keep “daring well,” and, of course…drink coffee.

Be grateful, water your own grass,

…and drink coffee.


Brown, B. (2015). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Reprint ed.). Avery.

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