HR Books Review: ‘Braving the Wilderness’

Brené Brown is a national treasure.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone” is one of the two #HRBookClub recommendations of the month. I can’t recommend this book enough for HR and recruiting professionals who wonder where they belong and how to articulate their place in the world.

That’s you.

The thesis of the book is straightforward: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”

Sound too lyrical and mystical? It’s a quote from Maya Angelou, and it’s a good one. Everybody seeks to belong to a tribe. However, labels and tribes are killing our society. How do you square the circle and connect with people while having individual thoughts and opinions?

The purpose of life isn’t to stake a claim and defend it. Your goal as a human being? Be the best version of yourself while leaving a gentle footprint on the planet. It’s your job to learn and grow. Be brave and ask questions to satisfy your curiosity. And never stop being interested in other people’s perspectives and experiences.

Brown writes:

“Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.

2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters ‘a basket of deplorables’ then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said ‘Democrats aren’t even human.’

3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.

4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, ‘Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?’

5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization — the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.”

It’s tough to be principled and brave in a political climate that is mean and cruel. Likewise, being brave might make you feel alone in a wilderness. You might wonder when someone will recognize your brilliance or agree with you on an important and controversial topic. Brown writes, “Being ourselves sometimes means having the courage to stand alone.”

It sucks to be courageous. Being alone on Facebook during a political battle isn’t fantastic, even when you’re right about a crucial issue. Brown tells us to approach people with a strong back, a soft front and a wild heart.

  • Strong back means we know our stuff and have the courage of our convictions.
  • Soft front allows for humility and empathy.
  • The wild heart lets us embrace new ideas and encourages us to turn away from the same old nonsense and noise.

If you work in HR and have the courage of your convictions tested daily, this book will help you rethink your influence and communicate your ideas.

Brené Brown has your back. If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and get a copy as fast as you can. You won’t be disappointed. She’s appearing at WorkHuman on April 2-5, 2018 in Austin as the keynote speaker. Hope to see you there.

Join us on January 31 at 2 p.m. Eastern on Facebook Live to discuss “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.”

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