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Rising Strong (Book Review)

written by Steve Safigan 25 August 2015

Steve Safigan, MAPP '09, is a practicing life coach (CPCC). He is president of Foundations Seminars and presents personal growth seminars specializing in positive interventions for healthy adults looking for more happiness, meaning, and connection in their own lives. Full bio.

Steve writes on the 4th of the month, and his articles are here.

We all strive to be brave. If we are brave enough for long enough, we will sometimes fail. How do we cultivate the resilience to get back up and be brave again?

“Struggle can be our greatest call to courage and rising strong the clearest path to a wholehearted life.” ~ Dr. Brené Brown



Dr. Brené Brown is a TED talk sensation and the author of two #1 New York Times bestsellers. One of her TED talks is among the five most viewed. She releases her much anticipated new book, Rising Strong, today, August 25, 2015.

Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. According to Dr. Brown, her latest book extends the progression of her previous books:

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection (2010): Be You.
  2. Daring Greatly (2012): Be all in.
  3. Rising Strong (2015): Fall. Get up. Try again.

Like her two previous works, Rising Strong is a prescriptive and deeply personal work. Dr. Brown practices what she preaches, meaning that she approaches her books with a sense of vulnerability, introspection, and courage that few other researchers would dare.

Based on extensive qualititative research, Dr. Brown develops 3 steps to learn from failure, which she calls the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution. Here’s her explanation.

The Reckoning

The Reckoning means reckoning with our emotions when we fail. We must recognize and acknowledge our emotions, rather than denying them. It doesn’t help to offload them by acting out, shutting down, or getting hamstrung by shame.

To recognize our emotions associated with failure, we must get curious. This is difficult because it takes vulnerability and uncertainty to get curious about ourselves. It’s much easier to get defensive, act superior, numb out, or overreact and fire off that email we’ll regret later. It’s a brave act to acknowledge our feelings rather than deny them.

The Rumble

The Rumble means rumbling with our story. An informal definition of rumble is to take part in a street fight, so the word implies an element of struggle and danger. We all make up stories about our struggles based on incomplete information. It’s important that we reality-check our stories. When we rumble with our story, we move from our first knee-jerk responses and seek a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about who we are and how we engage with others.

First, Dr. Brown recommends that we identify the story we make up by writing out what she calls a “sh***y first draft” (SFD). She cites research by Dr. James Pennebaker about the value of writing down our thoughts and feelings in order to organize the experience. It’s important that we don’t filter the experience or worry about how our story makes us look. We search for the hidden story we’re telling ourselves about our emotions.

SFD - private to you

SFD – private to you

After we identify the story we’re making up with our SFD, it’s time to probe our assumptions, which are usually self-defeating. Dr. Brown recommends asking ourselves other questions:

  • “What do I know objectively?”
  • “What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story?”
  • “What more do I need to learn and understand about myself?”

Then we can look for the difference—the delta—between the story we make up and a more objective truth.

The Revolution

The Revolution is about using the Rising Strong process to create revolutionary, rather than incremental transformation by making it a daily practice and way of engaging with the world. Dr. Brown stresses that it starts with a “vision that we can rise from our experiences of hurt and struggle in a way that allows us to live more wholehearted lives. However, transforming the way we live, love, parent, and work requires us to act on our vision.”

Dr. Brown continues, “We know that rumbling is going to be tough, but we head straight into it because we know running is harder. We wade into the brackish delta with open hearts and minds because we’ve come to learn that the wisdom in the stories of our falls makes us braver.”

Is Dr. Brown a positive psychology researcher?

I don’t know whether or not Dr. Brown considers herself a positive psychology researcher. I haven’t ever heard her describe herself as such. However, I believe Dr. Brown adds a valuable perspective to the field of positive psychology. She focuses on the value of difficult emotions resulting from failure and loss, and prescribes research-based, constructive, courageous, and uplifting (whole-hearted) approaches to learning from failure.

Integrating her approach into the field of positive psychology will go far to dispel the unfair and baseless notion that positive psychology advocates an ostrich-like denial of difficult emotions.




Brown, B. (2015). Rising Strong. Spiegel & Grau.

Brown, B. (2006). Shame Resilience Theory: A Grounded Theory Study on Women and Shame. Families in Society, 87, 43-52. Abstract.

Brown, B. (2010a). Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability. TED Talk.

Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing.

Brown, B. (2012a). Brené Brown: Listening to Shame. TED Talk.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gotham Books.

Pennebaker, J. (2010). Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Safigan, S. (2011). Whole-Hearted Living. Positive Psychology News.

Safigan, S. (2012). Grounded Theory in Action: Daring Greatly (Book Review). Positive Psychology News.

Photo Credit: via Compfight with Creative Commons license
Ostrich courtesy of Spartacus007

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Judy Krings 26 August 2015 - 5:29 am

Hi, Steve. Perfect timing, as my book arrived yesterday. Great review, and my appetite is whetted to dive into The Reckoning, The Rumble, and The Revolution. I skimmed the book yesterday and read the end of the book first to get a fun appetizer. I enjoyed her down-to-earth, get real, pithy and pathos-packed stories. I really enjoyed her list, “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

I made a huge mistake a few weeks ago. It affected others, and it has been gnawing at my psyche. I sunk my teeth into her list and made an action plan. I will accept that I ain’t perfect and will address my mess with new-found vigor. Letting go is key, and yes, to rise up and accept my humanity. Be still the rumble!

I think this book will touch the hearts of millions and Brown has her next bestseller. Thanks, again, Steve.

Diana Gabriele 26 August 2015 - 3:13 pm

Hi Steve!!!
I am very happy that you took the time to read, write and share your perspectives on Brene’s new book. Thank you!!! I just downloaded my audible copy this morning, and was only able to listen to 1/2 hour of it. I am chomping at the bit to hear the rest of the remaining 7 1/2 hours. Brene’s work is everything that Positive Psychology is and some. She is an amazing story teller, and like we are taught in social work school – she uses “Purposeful sharing of self” in a powerful “Badass” way that inspires, directs and teaches sooooo many. She is one of my greatest teachers and heroines. Oh yea – Very nice writing Steve. I truly appreciate your perspectives and outline and like Judy my appetite is whetted for The Reckoning, The Rumble, and the Revolution.
Diana Gabriele – formally Diana Boufford, BSW, RSW, and Certified Problem Gambling Counsellor, Windsor, ON Canada.


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