Daring Greatly: When Books Have Good Advice

When books have good advice they are usually stories.

I am generally not a fan of self-help books, pop psychology books, et al. When books have good advice, to me, they tend to be coming from a place of “let me tell you a personal story” and not “let me be meaningful, SO MEANINGFUL.”

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown didn’t quite get into smoopy “unlock your inner power, the secret to life the universe and everything is in these pages, how did no one find it until now” territory, but the subtitle still sets off my overpromise warning bells: “How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.” Still, I was aware of its very existence because someone with good taste recommended it to me. So I bought it. Then let it sit gathering virtual dust on my e-reader for about a year.

But clearly we’re here because I finally cracked it open. And friends, it’s kind of good.

When Books Have Good Advice: A Pre-emptive Review

I can’t report yet if it stays good because of the tragic passing of my Nook. But the author, Brené Brown, is an actual scientist, who talks about her pretty reasonable conclusions in terms of her actual, large-scale scientific research. So factual basis for measured and not overblown conclusions. We’re off to a promising start.

In particular, I enjoyed this list early in the book, breaking down the core categories what the average fulfilled person cultivates or lets go (Daring Greatly, pg 19):

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What Other People Think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

Sorting Good Advice from Fluffy Nothing: Danger Words

You can probably guess that I am not super keen on some of the keywords above. In particular “faith” “resilient” “joy” and “laughter, song, and dance” make me raise a skeptical and judgey eyebrow. These are the keywords of fluffy best-sellers whose marketing is way more grand than their actual content. But on closer examination, the core idea behind the buzz-y keywords hits that sweet spot of not-quite epiphany, when you’re being told something you always kind of knew but hadn’t been able to articulate.

In short, when books have good advice, they can also sometimes be wrapped up in the trappings of an overall bad advice genre. Because scientists gotta make money to eat too, I guess.

Is anything missing from the list above? Have you read this book yourself, or have another rare winner to share in the “get your shit together, adult human being” advice book category? Let me know in the comments! For me, I’ll report back on whether the grand promise of basically good advice in Daring Greatly‘s first few chapters holds up.