Recently I finished reading the book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. Many of you have probably already seen Dr. Brown present at TED or the Global Leadership Summit. Her TED talks have garnered millions of views – which is uncanny, given her subject matter of shame and vulnerability. In Rising Strong, Dr. Brown presents a simple framework for working through our stories:

  1. The Reckoning
  2. The Rumble
  3. The Revolution

This is a profound framework based on the premise of owning our stories because according to the author:

When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we own our stories, we get to write the ending.

This is not an easy read, but it is worth the investment. In it, I learned to dig into some stories that had me stuck. Some were personal (family, relationships, friendships). Others were professional (leadership, the nature of my ministry work, ministry partnerships). In most cases, my initial response to these stories is to ignore them or when things start to hurt, grabbing the nearest pint of ice cream. But real leaders rumble with their stories and vulnerably and bravely move forward.

In the book, Brene talks about life “in the arena.” It’s based on part of a speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910. In it, Roosevelt said:

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 errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; 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.

Ministry is not easy. In fact, I think it is one of the toughest jobs in the world because we involve our entire being in the work: body, mind, and spirit. We all face criticism and pushback, it’s why I love this quote. I’m looking to hear from leaders like me, getting knocked down in the arena – not sitting on the sidelines. I want to learn from people in the game, not people gaming others. I left Rising Strong with a desire to be an integrated leader – one in the thick of the fight, not succumbing to guilt and shame, but boldly rising with the courage to love and write new endings.