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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When the Movie is Better Than the Book

It doesn’t happen often, but now and then a movie is released with the side-note: based on the acclaimed novel. That’s generally not a good thing. However, there are exceptions. The films Fight Club, Atonement, The Lovely Bones, and possibly the Harry Potter series live up to their paperback predecessors, in my humble opinion. As of Friday, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was added to that list.

I first read the book in 1999 when it was first released, and reread it again last year. Though many of the topics went over my head as a kid, I really connected with the story–that feeling of never fitting in, and then finding a group of people with whom you can be yourself, and those experiences in which you feel infinite and alive.

The film version of the story features Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. Now, thirteen years after publication of the book, its author, Stephen Chbosky, has helped his vision come full circle. Chbosky took the liberty of writing the screenplay, choosing the cast, and directing the movie himself. Since he had full control, Chbosky was able to create a mirror image, moving picture of his novel. The scenes, details, and emotions were all spot on, which made the story even more powerful.

I’ll eagerly read a book if the movie has a stellar plot, but I have hard time seeing movies based on books. I loved The Hunger Games series, and though my sister owns the movie, I haven’t watched it, as I’m worried the movie will ruin the story. Just seeing the trailer triggered thoughts like, “That is not at all how I envisioned it…”

Though I was wary of the movie featuring such well-known actors, at a local book signing Chbosky made an interesting point. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson were both child actor–their lives have been filled with the same socially awkward, don’t quite fit in sentiments as the characters in the book. Thus, it was easy for them to take on the roles of those teenage misfits. For nearly two hours, I forgot that they were famous. They were just Charlie, Sam, and Patrick.

If you happened to have read and enjoyed the book, I would highly recommend the movie. If not, perhaps check out the plot and reviews and then pick up the book in honor of National Banned Books Week or check out the movie some evening when indecision and boredom kick in.

What is your opinion of movies based on books? Do any stand out in your mind as prime examples of either engenderment or butchering of the story?

How to Write: Fictional Characterization

Last November, I wrote a 51,628 word novel in 28 days. Since then, I’ve met up with a diverse group of other local NaNoWriMo participants a few times. In January, I attended a workshop on How to Write Fictional Dialogue, led by Tom Leveen. A few weeks ago, I attended yet another workshop led by Janette Rallison, detailing how to utilize Characterization and Point-of-View in your story.

Characterization is defined as the creation and convincing representation of fictitious characters; character traits can be conveyed though description or through a character’s actions, words, or thoughts. Its purpose, first and foremost, is to create a compelling and likable character. It also serves to make your protagonist unique and memorable, because people tend to remember characters more often than the plot. As you begin to brainstorm your character traits and story line, it’s important to decide whether you’d like your story to be driven by plot or by character development. For now, we’ll be focusing on the latter.

Tools for success.

As you build your character, define their biggest strength, most debilitating weakness (which is often a strength taken too far), and their deepest yearning. Once you know your character well, you will be able to accurately convey him or her to your reader. One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with your protagonist is through brainstorming. Write down your character’s life story in a biography and refer to this back-story throughout the novel using memories, phobias, and weaknesses. Remember that your reader does not know your character yet, so it’s important to be thorough. Use vivid descriptions and explain how their physical traits have affected their life (Are they nerdy, athletic, or gorgeous?) Present their social and economic background (Are they religious or penny-pinching?) Through words and actions, show the character’s psychological background and personality type. Interview your character in order to understand their approach to life and their values. Another helpful technique is to write a journal entry in the character’s voice and from his point of point-of-view. Present different dimensions and roles to add more depth to your protagonist.

If you have a fictional work in mind, take a moment to think about the defining traits of your main character and write them down; look for these characteristics throughout your manuscript. Makes sure that your list contains both positive and negative traits, and don’t worry if some attributes seem contradictory (A timid person could have a burst of courage, etc.)

Develop your character.

Creating a story in which your character has mutually exclusive goals leads to inner conflict (e.g. Katniss having to choose between Peeta and Gale in The Hunger Games). This tactic builds reader anticipation and engagement. Character growth is of utmost importance because observing changes in the protagonist adds depth and dimension to your story. In relation to that, it’s important to neither make your character perfect, nor a complete idiot. Leave room for improvement, but don’t let your character do things that no one would do in real life.

One of the most important aspects of a successful novel is a likable and heroic protagonist. Give your character a heroic attribute and implement that quality into that novel (even in a small way) at least six times before the climactic sequence. Make your reader aware of why you character is a hero, and hint at how they may utilize their heroic trait later in the book.

According to James Frey, there are several characteristics which every hero should have:

  • Heroes have courage, or find it over the course of the novel
  • A hero is clever and resourceful
  • The hero has a special talent
  • Heroes live by their own rules
  • Heroes are good at what they do for a living
  • The hero takes the lead in a cause or action at some point in the story
  • The hero has been wounded – physically, emotionally, or in some other way
  • The hero is motivated at some point by idealism
  • The hero is attractive

Revealing your character’s innermost thoughts can help your portray aspects of their personality which would otherwise be difficult to share. Internal thought can help characterize, reveal motivation, increase tension, and provide the character with a unique “voice.” Internal thought is considered to be the most important part of writing, trumping dialogue, action, and description. A helpful tactic for figuring out how much internal thought to use is to go through a favorite novel and highlight internal though, dialogue, action, and description in different colors to visually see the proportions of each.

In a nutshell, characterization is the most important element of you novel. Develop a protagonist who is likable, relatable, and authentic. Know your character inside and out, and share all of your knowledge with your reader through vivid description, appropriate actions, representative dialogue, and insightful internal thoughts. And, most importantly, have fun with the process!

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.

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.

Fragile Thoughts, Explosive Ideas

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.                               

-Edward P. Morgan