Daring Greatly Review + Giveaway

What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What will people think of me? We’ve all probed these and similar questions. Each of us, at one time or another, has doubted our abilities. No one is perfect and bulletproof is a myth, yet everyone occasionally trips over these instances of fear and insecurity.

In her many years of researching connection, psychologist and storyteller, Brené Brown has spent much time exploring the topics of vulnerability and shame, as well as examining how these emotions affect our relationships. In her latest book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brown shares her research findings, fearlessly exposes her personal story, offers a guided journey towards understanding the driving forces behind out behaviors and–most importantly–encourages each of us to reclaim our lives and fearlessly reopen our hearts.

“Connection is why we’re here. We’re hardwired to connect with others and it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Though we’re inherently driven towards connection, over time society has driven a wedge between our natural inclinations and societal exceptions. The structure of our cultures, families, and organizations choke that desire for openness and vulnerability in well-intentioned, yet devastating attempts to preserve order. We construct complex means of navigating through life while keeping everyone at a safe distance and forever fixating our eyes on the exit sign. We want to experience others’ vulnerability while keeping our own secrets and insecurities close to the chest. I can completely relate to Brown when she states, “along with my fear of vulnerability, I also inherited a huge heart and ready empathy.” That dichotomous combination makes day-to-day life excruciatingly difficult, at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Vulnerability is at the core of our most difficult emotions–fear, disappointment, and grief–but it is also the wellspring of love, belonging, joy, empathy, and creativity. It involves both an openness to positive experiences and an acceptance of the potentially heart-breaking risks. Likened to a tightrope, vulnerability is that trembling midpoint where moving forward and turning back are equally terrifying, and standing still is an entirely unstable option. With that knowledge, why would we ever do anything other than move forward?

As the title suggest, Daring Greatly is broken down into multiple sections. The implications of Brown’s research and observations are applied to all areas of life, from self-growth and relationships to parenting and leadership. The insights offered in the book are thought-provoking and invaluable.

What drives our fear of being vulnerable? Are we building walls around ourselves as a defense against vulnerability? What is the price we pay by shutting down and disengaging? How can we learn to embrace our vulnerability and begin to transform the ways in which we live, love, parent, and lead?

We live in a culture of scarcity. Nothing ever seems to be “enough” and we’re continually striving for more money, more power, and more material possessions  Maybe, beneath all those superficial “wants,” what we truly long for is love and acceptance. Remove that maybe, because research has shown that it is connection, not possessions that bring us true and lasting joy.

We live in a culture of shame. We compare our lives, our relationships, our children, and our teams to those around us and then question our own technique, our own worthiness. We’ve forgotten how to trust our intuition and we’ve lost sight of our unique strengths and perspectives. To complicate things further, men and women experience shame differently–women struggle with physical beauty and motherhood, whereas men worry about being perceived as weak. We all cause ourselves unnecessary pain when we shut down or lash out due to fear, pain, and that all-too-familiar insidious sense of inadequacy. An important lesson highlighted in the book is to pay attention to how we act while in this state of shame and fear. The worst crime we can against a loved one is to shame them–even after an apology, the damage is irreparable because we’ve shown them our willingness to use confidential information as a weapon.

The concept of perfection is seductive. Yet, perfection does not exist in the world, as we know it. Instead, vulnerability lies at the core of human experience. It’s through vulnerability that we learn about and experience courage, compassion, and human connection. Vulnerability is also a prime catalyst for innovation and change.

In interviewing numerous individuals over the years, Brown realized that vulnerability is never an effortless pursuit, but rather it is often a daily struggle to become comfortable with one’s power and gifts. Each day is a new opportunity to remind ourselves that we are worthy, that we are enough. We don’t have to be “perfect,” but we should strive towards engagement in all that we do, and we should commit ourselves to finding some alignment between our personal values and our actions. 

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to  wake up in the morning and think, no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to be at night thinking, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”

Having majored in psychology, I’ve developed a post-collegiate fondness for psychology and personal-development books. Under that broad umbrella of admiration sit many prominent researchers. Brené Brown is the one standing tall, smiling, and shamelessly singing along to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. After viewing her TEDx talk on vulnerability, reading The Gifts of Imperfection, and singing along with her at World Domination Summit 2012, I  did not hesitate to pre-order Daring Greatly as soon as it was announced. The book far exceeded all expectations.

Does the book sound like you something you may be interested in? As luck would have it, I was offered by the publisher an additional copy to give away. You read that correctly–you could win a free copy of this wonderful book!

Daring Greatly Giveaway

What can I win? Enter to win a free copy of Brené Brown new release, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I have one book to offer, so there will thus be one winner.

When does the contest run? The contest will run now through Saturday, October 13th at midnight (MST). 

How can I enter? In the comments below, answer the following question: What’s worth doing even if I fail? (You’re welcome to share other thoughts, as well.)

Can I earn additional entries? Yes, you can! Like analyfe’s Facebook page, post a tweet  about the giveaway @analyfe and then leave a comment saying you’ve done so.

Are there any restrictions? The contest is limited to residents of the continental US.

How will the winner be chosen? The winner will be chosen at random, and each entry will be counted separately.

What if I don’t win? Daring Greatly is a wonderful book, so consider investing in your and buying or borrowing a copy.

*I’m still in the process of transferring the blog from analyfe.wordpress.com to analyfe.com, so to avoid confusion I’ll be accepting entries on both sites, though I’d prefer the former (turquoise header)*

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Uncertainty

Glance through any textbook and you will quickly notice a pattern.

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first Western man to summit on Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth. Mary Kingsley was an unmarried English woman who used part of her inheritance to travel and study in “uncivilized” parts of Africa during the 19th century. Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Martin Luther King Jr., Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Jane Goodall, and many others tuned out their voice of reason and resistance from the outer world and leaped fearlessly into the unknown. Those who face uncertainty head-on are the leaders and heroes who go down in history and who, in their own unique way, change the world. 

I’m the type of person who hears a lecture, is deeply moved, and is then inspired to go buy the book. Uncertainty was no exception. Jonathan Fields is a lawyer turned entrepreneur, innovator, writer, speaker, creative, and embracer of uncertainty.

In business, science, art, and life, all progress stems from risk-taking; and facing said risks involves looking beyond the fears that permeate that unexplored territory. Though so many of us have unanswered questions and big dreams, fear of failure often holds us back from completing, or even starting our big projects and adventures. Life becomes more fulfilling when one chooses to pursue the unanswered questions, explore bold new ideas, and create rather than replicate.

“…uncertainty is a signpost of novelty and innovation, telling you that what you’re creating is really worth creating.”

Uncertainty is not a bad thing. Success is not a matter of eliminating uncertainty, but instead developing a tolerance for that unknowing, and amplifying it in ways that will help you to grow. It’s natural to feel pain and anxiety in response to the unknown; however, this reaction has outlived its evolutionary purpose and now hinders us from the ideas and endeavors that could bring more meaning into our lives. We prefer the safety net provided by a financially secure job, widely accepted ideas, and regularity. The potential to lose money, be judged harshly, or fail miserably are simply the terrifying flip-side of innovation, success, and fulfillment. Yet, we as humans have a propensity to stare into the vast unknown and see the blinding darkness, rather than the millions of far-off stars.

Since overcoming fear and uncertainty does prove to be such a challenge, the author provides practical guidance, broken into relatable and helpful chapters.

  • Find your creativity anchors: Rituals and routines serve as a source of psychological bedrock and help you to maintain confidence in at least some areas of your life; this allows you to fearlessly delve further into lesser known areas, but also know when you need to come back to reality. Example include exercise, meditation, meals, religious services, classes, and time spent with family and friends.
  • Build your creative hive: Maintain relationships with mentors, people who support you, and those you look up to. Create an environment in which you can receive constructive criticism and positive feedback, as well as offer the same to others.
  • Socialize creation: Incorporate feedback-driven technologies into your creation process; release your product or service early on and continually tweak it based on what your audience thinks could be improved. This method drastically cuts down the time it takes to reach an optimal product.
  • Train your brain: Attention training (such as meditation) and exercise help keep your body and mind in shape; in conjunction with one another, they are the strongest known creation-force multipliers.
  • See the forest: Is what you’re doing a project, a calling, or the thing that you can’t not do? This question will help you know when to exert more effort, change your path, or call off the project. Be familiar with your biggest dreams and drives, maintain balance between your heart and your head, and don’t lose yourself on the deeply meaningful quest.
  • Own the story line: Rather than jumping to negative conclusions about your situation, resort to a place of equanimity and ask yourself what other interpretations might exist. Find the silver lining, accept the dark clouds, and keep on working towards your dream.

As you begin to accept uncertainty, work around it, and face the associated fears, its power over you will slowly fade, further expanding your creative potential. Understanding how uncertainty functions, as well as how to befriend the unknown can benefit entrepreneurs, artists, and everyone else

This book came into my life at the perfect time, as I am currently drowning in uncertainty and fear of what’s to come. I tend to soar high on hopes and dreams and then crash hard when I drop my rose-colored glasses and notice the backlog of ignored failures catching up to me. The book is aimed at entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative types, but offers guidance and resources that we can all benefit from. We are all creative geniuses with the potential to do great things, but that requires that we step out of our comfort zone, discern our life’s purpose, and jump in without hesitation.

Remember the list of famous leaders and creators above? Transform your fear and doubt into fuel for brilliance, and perhaps one day your name will be added to that ever-growing list of world-changers.

Crooked Little Hearts

If I could go back ten years and tell the younger version of myself one thing, I would say “Stop comparing yourself to others and simply be yourself. That’s the key to self-acceptance and happiness”. If I had to talk in front of a group of middle schoolers, that would be my message. I think it’s something we’ve all heard throughout our lives, yet struggle to understand and apply.

I recently read a book, Crooked Little Hearts, by Anne Lammott, which explores the dramatic, yet somehow realistic, lives and struggles of a fictional thirteen year old girl, her friends, and her family. Rosie remains a awkward and gangly child as her best friend is transformed into a voluptuous and attractive young woman. She watches the people around her fall in and out of love, die, cheat, submit to and overcome fears, grapple with self acceptance and peer approval, and face both commonplace and unfathomable hurdles.

In many ways it’s a typical teen angst novel, something I would not typically read; however I feel as if the author delves in deeper and develops the story well enough to engage the reader. Growing up, I was sheltered and naïve, I was far from thinking or behaving like the young people in this book, so it’s interesting seeing their perspective on life and situations. Simone begins drinking alcohol and hanging out with older boys and becomes pregnant at age fourteen. Rosie still has a childish build and resents the fact that all the boys lust over her best friend, but hardly notice her. She shuts out her mother and stepfather most of the time because they don’t understand what she’s going through.

I’m not particularly fond of children, especially adolescents, but I think they’re the age group that needs to most help and support and this book really brought that to light for me. Even though I was a relatively self-sufficient and unsociable kid, I still hated the awkwardness and uncertainty of growing up. I was naïve and oblivious to everything going on around me – drugs, alcohol, sex, abuse – and I can’t begin to fathom how much more difficult and complicated things could have been.

This post has been sitting in my drafts for about two weeks because I’m not sure what my point is. Yes, growing up is pretty rough for everyone. Yes, I am very grateful to have been brought up in an environment where I was at least temporarily sheltered from some of the harsh realities of life. Yes, I think young people need better role models, more supervision, and programs to help them develop a healthy self-concept and overcome peer pressure. But I think reading this book also triggered something else in the back of my mind that I just haven’t pinpointed yet.

A Prayer for Owen Meany

“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

I believe that is one of the most intriguing and profound opening sentences I have ever read. In his novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving explores the lifelong relationship between best friends John Wheelwright and Owen Meany.

The powerful narrative delves into topics of companionship, faith, adversity, love, sacrifice, and fate. The multifaceted plot-line is engaging and unpredictable, filled with interesting charters and realistic relationship dynamics. Set in a small New England town in the 1950-60s, the story follows the companionship between two unfathomably different boys. John is average in nearly every sense and comes from a prestigious family; Owen, on the other hand, has an abnormally small stature and an eternally child-like voice, and although he comes from a simple working-class family, he is very intelligent and wields an unwavering faith and conviction.

Owen always knew that he was different. He believes in fate and envisages his own impending death. After accidentally killing his best friend’s mother with a stray baseball, the young boy is convinced that he is an “instrument of God” and that his life will serve some higher good and important purpose. Though the notion seems absurd to his closest friends, Owen’s confidence in his destiny is hard to look past.

The story is beautiful, inspiring, and thoughtful. It makes you want to believe that everything does, indeed, happen for a reason. The novel makes a strong statement on faith and God, yet the theme is presented in a sincere and compelling way, so as to not to come across as pretentiousness or elicit cynicism. Rather, the manner in which spirituality and religiosity are addressed provokes a sense of admiration and hope. The character of Owen Meany does a truly wonderful job of conveying courage, responsibility, and actionable faith.

This is the first Irving book I’ve read, and I’m not sure yet whether I’ll read more. Though exceedingly well-written, the book was a bit long and dry at points. I would recommend this book, however, if you’re interested in modern classics or novels exploring faith and destiny.

Where Will You Be Five Years from Today?

Each moment is an opportunity. Our days are filled with marvels, adventures, and special souvenirs from the journey. However, we are too often caught up in our own cyclical thoughts and routines to notice all the amazing possibilities that surround us.

Throughout life, there seem to be expectations around every corner. At times, it may feel as if finances, relationships, health, education, and appropriate worldly possessions are dictated by some invisible leader, a societal arm-twisting that is hard to resist. Is it be possible that these continual pressures and collective values are not quite as necessary as they may seem?

In The Five Book, Dan Zadra conveys – through touching quotes, lively colors, thoughtful questions, inspiring anecdotes, and enlightening activities – that life is about wants and choices and dreams. You are the designer of your own life; it’s up to you to uncover your dreams and devise a strategy to reach them.

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same amount of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.

– H. Jackson Brown

The book serves as a tour guide to the depths of your psyche, asking thought-provoking questions and presenting highly beneficial prompts. What are your lifetime values? What traits define you? What is your mission in life? What are your goals, and do they address every area of your life? Where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

Thinking big, Kyle MacDonald started small – with a paperclip to be exact. He posted it on Craigslist as a barter and got a fish-shaped pen for it. He then traded the pen from something better. One trade led to another, until MacDonald finally found himself the new owner of a three-bedroom house.

There are two options in life: you are either living the life prescribed by someone else, or you are following your own path. Get to know yourself and stay true to who you are. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you achieve your goals. You are one-of-a-kind and brimming with untapped potential; no one knows what you’re capable of, and thus no one has the right to hold you back.

Sample page – others’ definitions of success, as well as a place to write down your own

Goals are often centered on necessity and image. I want a prestigious job, six-figure income, a sports car, an attractive and intelligent spouse, a healthy and happy family, and an extravagant vacation each summer. Does that sound about right? Life, the world we live in, and each moment is filled with beauty and newness. Think about how can you incorporate novelty and fun into each day, rather than waiting for that far-off vacation. Have you ever wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, the Northern Lights, or the Olympic Games? Start to save and begin to plan, and within five years you will likely achieve at least one big travel goal. I would wager that the later would be both more fulfilling and impressive than a big paycheck. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Thousands of perceptions, hunches, ideas and intuitions race through our brain every day. Some are pure genius. Give them the red light for at least long enough to write them down.

– Ralph Ford

What does it mean to stay true to yourself? The concept permeates our culture, but is rarely explained or deeply explored. Each person has a unique experience, perception, repertoire of ideas, and an idiosyncratic way of connecting and merging all these seemingly dissimilar concepts. We are all inherently gifted with intuition and innovative power. However, it is our own responsibility to realize all the possibilities that lie within, to trust the crazy ideas, to test obscure theories, to put in the necessary effort, and to discover the wonderful things that no one else has ever thought of. Everyone has the capacity to create something new, whether an invention, protocol, or work of art.

Your resources are always far greater than you imagine them to be. Never ask, “Can I do this?” Ask instead, “How can I do this?”

-Dan Zadra

Setbacks and failures often cause people to coil into remission and completely give up on their dreams. The next time you encounter a perceived problem, take a step back and reexamine it. Think of a new approach towards the same goal and jump in at full force. Celebrate those who have helped you, practice gratitude, and say, “Thank you” whenever you can. You wouldn’t be where you are today without the help of your family, friends, teachers, mentors, and those who inspire you. Let everyone know how much they mean to you; put the time and effort into maintaining your strongest relationships.

Grow as a person, master new skills, read the great books, kick a bad habit, and get into shape. What can you do today that will help you become a better and more well-rounded person tomorrow?

What can you do to help others? How are you going to change the world? Who has done the most to help you, and how can you carry on their legacy? How do you want to be remembered?

When you reach the end of your life do you want to be one of the people who are glad they did, or one of the people who wish they had?

Start doing the things today that will matter tomorrow. Don’t leave this world without giving it your all. The best inheritance you can leave your kids is an example of how to live a full and meaningful life.

Live your life so that your children can tell their children that you not only stood for something wonderful – you acted on it!

– Dan Zadra

The Five Book is simply written, yet brilliantly beautiful and inspiring. It’s been on my wish-list for several years, and I’m thrilled to have finally had the opportunity to read and benefit from this inspirational personal development book. Is the perfect compilation, aptly balancing the questions leading towards success in all areas of life with the wisdom and inspiration of those who have already pursued, and perhaps even answered the same questions. I would highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of where you are in life or where you have been. It’s the perfect gift for a recent graduate, anyone entering a new stage of life, employees, family, friends, and yourself.

You will never have more time than you do right now. What are you waiting for. Where do you want to be five years from today, and how are you going to get there? The Five Book will help you uncover the answers and devise a plan.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

*I’ve been working on the activities in this book for nearly a month, so once I figure out how to go about it, I plan to share some of my own thoughts, dreams, and goals for the next five years.

Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life

Between my background in psychology and my personal experience with shyness, I have a keen interest in the common, yet socially shunned personality trait. In her book, Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life, Barbara Markway examines and dissects the issue of social anxiety, defined as the experience of apprehension or worry that arises from the possibility, either real or imagined, that one will be evaluated or judged in some manner by others.

The book answers common questions regarding the meaning and causes of social anxiety, and contains self-assessment tests and activities, as well as several helpful methods for overcoming social anxiety. In addition, there is a section on how to recognize and help your child overcome social anxiety. Finally, it concludes with an appendix of helpful terms and resources.

I found this book to be a fascinating look into a personality trait that is often seen as undesirable, and a hindrance to success. Combining scientific research and her own clinical experience, Markway offers an informed and understanding perspective on social anxiety and those who suffer from its overwhelming symptoms.

Some examples of practical exercises to overcome instances of social anxiety include paying attention to what the other person is saying, rather than focusing on how you look; and relaxing your mind and reminding yourself that you don’t have to be perfect, instead of worrying about what others are thinking about you. The section on methods for managing social anxiety is full of countless similar suggestions and tips.

As anyone who has dealt with shyness or social anxiety knows, it can be a real struggle. Throughout life, each of us is driven to consider the four existential concerns – death, freedom, isolation, and meaning. Although grappling with these complex issues does not guarantee answers, the questioning process in and of itself can help one transcend their small, everyday struggles, adding more fulfillment and joy into their life. By focusing on the big picture rather than each individual interaction, one can lessen the effects of social anxiety.

Whether you’re studying psychology, interested in the topic of personality, or suffer from painful levels of shyness and social anxiety or know someone who does, this book is a wonderful resource, presented in a helpful and easy to follow format.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love

Contrary to popular belief, emptiness does not refer to lack. Rather, the basic meaning of emptiness is openness or potential. In Open Heart, Open Mind: Awakening the Power of Essence Love, Tsoknyi Rinpoche explains how individuals can actualize their full potential through mindfulness, clearing out old fears and ways of thinking, and acting with kindness towards others.

Each of us is equipped with a limitless capacity for openness, compassion, and wisdom; however the journey toward this end is not a passive one. Through simply examining your experience, you can begin to transform it. Beyond that, there are several steps towards awakening the power of essence love; however, it is basically broken down into the following two steps: discover the spark within yourself, and then pass your insights on to others.

Firstly, it’s important to find a balance within your own life – between your thoughts, feelings, and physical experiences; to let go of your attachment to old habits and mindsets, as well as the identification with who you “think” you are. The author prescribes several exercises through which the reader can learn to communicate with their body, obtain clarity, and ultimately make progress towards spiritual awakening and the discovery of essence love.

In addition to working to achieve your own personal potential, it’s important to be selfless and compassionate, and to offer all of the wisdom and love that you have to others. You lose nothing by sharing, and have much to gain from opening up to others.

“You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to teach anything. You just have to be who you are: a bright flame shining in the darkness of despair, a shining example of a person able to cross bridges by opening your heart and mind.”

Tsoknyi Rinpoche writes in a warm and engaging style, meshing practical information and inspiration through straightforward language, helpful analogies, and relatable personal anecdotes. He also presents and illuminates Buddhist concepts and terminology, ideas which are explained in a widely accessible and easy-to-understand manner.

Only through an open heart can you gain an open mind. This book is a wonderful resource, regardless of whether you’re well on your way to spiritual awakening and enlightenment, or simply looking for the path on which to begin.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.