Daring Greatly at SXSW Interactive

March 22, 2016   |   Kelly Callahan-Poe

As a huge fan of Dr. Brené Brown, I was excited to discover that she would be a keynote speaker at SXSW Interactive 2016. After seeing her Ted talk, Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability, I purchased and read every single one of her books.

I was curious though as to her message for the 30,000 attendees to SXSW Interactive. Her talk revolved around her book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.”

As a researcher on vulnerability, Brown has spent a decade studying the topic and proposes a shift in how we process vulnerability, not as a weakness, but as an act of courage. Her premise is that we should learn how to embrace our vulnerabilities so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity.

Her main message is “when you fail, at least do so daring greatly.” By embracing vulnerability and acknowledging our fears, she says, “we are the authors of our lives, we write our own daring endings.”

After experiencing her own struggles with “haters” who disagree with her work, she has this to say: “If you aren’t in the arena with me, I’m not interested in your feedback.” We need to be careful whose feedback we take.

This is especially relevant for those in leadership positions. If you are living your truth and being authentic, you may get criticized for what you are doing. To reignite creativity and innovation, she suggests that leaders rehumanize work. Talk about emotions and thoughts. Choose courage over comfort. Choose what is right over what is fast or easy. Practice values over professing them. And most importantly, “there is zero innovation and creativity without failure.”

This line resonates most at SXSW Interactive as there are so many examples of this from the world of technology. From Apple’s Lisa, Newton, and Power Mac G4 Cube to Google Glass, to the Segway, each of these creators had many failures as well as huge successes.

She ended her talk with a list of ways to cultivate change. From mindfulness (i.e. “paying attention”) and “tactical/square breathing,” to daily writing, to the end of multi-tasking (“do things one at a time”), to modeling what you want to see from the people around you, when you own your own story you get to write the ending.

Through personal storytelling of moments in her own life, Brown’s self-deprecating humor made her message accessible to a business and technology-focused audience.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Brené Brown.


For more SXSW – Read my commentary on Government & Policy Sessions