The title of this post is a bit misleading. This is more of a “brief synopsis… read this book cause it’s great” than a review. Hopefully in my future book reviews I’ll be better at writing an actual review. But I hope you find this useful and are inspired to read these book recommendations.
As I love Brené Brown’s work, I thought my inaugural book review would be her book, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. This book came into my life at the perfect time, a time I was questioning my self-worth.
In the introduction, she tells us how she sees the progression of her books and says that Rising Strong is the “Fall. Get up. Try again” book. In life we will always fall and in Rising Strong Brené gives us the process to get back up and try again.
In the intro, she sets up the scene as to where exactly this rising strong process begins. She talks about her book, Daring Greatly, and the Theodore Roosevelt quote from the speech he gave in 1910, “Man in the Arena:”
“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 them 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 at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
She tells us to “STOP” right after we read, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” This is the start of rising strong, this is where she says she wants to “slow down time” and “figure out exactly what happens next.” Right at the start of the book we are made to think about our “facedown” moments and how we have reacted to them.
She also tells us her goal for the book is to “slow down the falling and rising process” and that it is her hope to give us “language and a rough map that will guide us in getting back on our feet” (and that she did).
In chapter one she tells us and elaborates on the ten “rules of engagement for rising strong.”
In chapter two she starts with the story of her family trip to Lake Travis, the vulnerable conversation she had with her husband after a morning swim, and later realizing that that conversation was a great moment in their marriage because “you can’t skip day two.” Or, rather, you can’t skip the middle of the rising strong process – “… the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.”
On page 28 I underlined:
“The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”
To help us better understand the middle, she uses Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. In a three-act journey, act two is the messy middle: “The protagonist looks for every comfortable way to solve the problem. By the climax, he learns what it’s really going to take to solve the problem. This act includes the ‘lowest of the low’.”
The end of chapter two is also where we see, for the first time, “The Rising Strong Process” outlined for us:
The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution.
Chapter four is dedicated to “The Reckoning.” This chapter we learn that step one in the process is recognizing “that we’re experiencing a ‘facedown in the arena’ moment – an emotional reaction.” And we learn that step two is “getting curious about our experience.” This chapter is full of gems including: reckoning with emotion, choosing curiosity, ways we off-load hurt, & strategies for reckoning with emotion (I love the “permission slips” idea).
After we learn about reckoning, we move on to “The Rumble” in chapter five. Right at the start she states, “The reckoning is how we walk into our story; the rumble is where we own it.” Flip the page and you come to the section: “Conspiracies and Confabulations.” This part of the book is where we learn why capturing our “uncensored story” is necessary and where we learn what three “critically important questions” are needed at the start of our rumble:
1. What more do I need to learn and understand about this situation?
2. What more do I need to learn and understand about other people in the story?
3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?”
We are also introduced to the “shitty first draft” (or “stormy first draft” if we want to keep it G rated). Put simply, our SFD is just writing down our story – getting it down on paper (or sticky note) without regard for editing, polishing, or filtering it. This is the moment we take a step back so that we can get clear on the story we are telling ourselves.
At the end of the chapter we are armed with questions and ready to start our rumble. We’re also introduced to the delta – “the difference between what we make up about our experiences and the truth we discover through the process of rumbling.”
Chapters six through ten are filled with stories that “let us examine the rising strong process in action.” We rumble with:
Boundaries, Integrity, & Generosity (Chapter 6)
Expectations, Disappointment, Resentment, Heartbreak, Connection, Grief, Forgiveness, Compassion, & Empathy (Chapter 7)
Need, Connection, Judgment, Self-worth, Privilege & Asking for Help (Chapter 8)
Fear, Shame, Perfectionism, Blame, Accountability, Trust (& the elements of trust (B.R.A.V.I.N.G)), Failure, & Regret (Chapter 9)
Shame, Identity, Criticism, & Nostalgia (Chapter 10)
And these chapters share the same format:
Story → The Reckoning → The Rumble → Topics (to rumble with) → The Revolution
One thing that I love about Brené is her story telling ability – when she tells a story she is able to put us smack dab in the moment. With all the stories she tells, especially the stories in chapters six through ten, I related to the protagonist and that helped with understanding the moment of reckoning, the rumble, and seeing how the revolution was able to happen even if I never faced a similar situation.
Then the final chapter, chapter eleven, we come to The Revolution. This is where we put the process into practice. She gives us ways to rumble in different settings: at work, at home, and in our communities. And, by far my favorite part of this chapter, she gives us the “Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted” – a call to action in rising strong together.
Before reading this book I would have never thought that there was a process to rising after a fall. I’m so glad that I have read this book and now have a process I can go to whenever I am “facedown in the arena.”
Going back through Rising Strong to write this post and seeing all the sticky notes and underlined passages has made me want to read it all over again. Getting clear on the stories we tell ourselves and owning our stories, I believe, is one of the greatest things we can do.
A part of me feels like my life would have been so different if I had this process years ago, but this book came into my life at the perfect time – a time when I was open to receiving its wisdom.