Brene Brown’s latest book Dare to Lead urges today’s leaders —you, me, and the entire world FYI— to take time to consider their two core values. No, you cannot compartmentalize values to those of you wondering about your personal and professional lives. You cannot even compartmentalize lives. We are one being: one glorious, dynamic, extraordinary creation that is whole and the same at the office, in the shower, and on a public stage.
“A value is a way of being or believing what we hold most important. Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk—we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviours align with those beliefs.” —Brene Brown
It is no secret that Brene Brown is a personal inspiration for me. Her simple approach to big, complex topics makes her relatable and real. I don’t know about you, but I am personally over phony displays of grandeur and “guruship”. It came as no surprise to me when I found out that one of her core values was courage. Courage lies at the centre of her work: daring, rising, and braving. This vulnerable, honest, and powerful woman is the embodiment of living the value of courage, not hanging it on a poster in her office.
Naturally, my two core values have been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. It so happened that this provocation came at around the same time I was invited to join a group of inspiring humans to speak at TEDx Arar Street Women in Amman. I am not sure if you have ever experienced the introspection that burrows deep within your soul, literally opening up new pathways and shedding light on minute details that would have otherwise —under different circumstances like regular life— floated by. It makes for interesting self-study. Multiply this by 1000 when you have to also deal with the anxiety of public speaking. You are left with a raw ball of human essence.
I first learned that plans were underway to host this TEDx event back in the summer of this year. My name was suggested —I think— for my plant-based nutrition advocacy. (The poor organizers had no idea what was coming! There was no mention of plants in my talk. ZERO.) A few months, and many conversations, later I watched myself justifying my presence on such an inspiring list of names to my sister in Canada. I said —out loud— that she shouldn’t be too impressed because it was much easier to have such opportunities in a small place like Jordan where everyone knows everyone, and —you know— it is just more likely to be noticed. It’s true.
But let me tell you what else is true. We are hungry for conversation, for story, for inspiration, and for courage. The real kind though, not the one sparkled and decorated with star power. And you know when we feel connected, disarmed, and open to relate? When this two-way interaction takes place with someone ordinary like us, who has breathed our air, drunk our water, and walked our land. This shared playing field is the home of empathy. And the launching pad of human feat.
A decade ago, Nick Kristof wrote about the success of social enterprise initiatives when the ideas were borne from within the community and by the community, because that is when they actually address a real need, understand the intricacies of the culture, and are guided by a true desire to empower (being and living versus doing and performing.) It is not imparted by an expert flown in from Mars on a private jet, to lecture the locals on how to live green lives. (Today, the alien gurus have been replaced by machines that speak algorithm.)
Sharing that stage with the speakers at TEDx Arar Street Women reminded me of the power of synergy, and the dis-empowerment of compartmentalization and isolation. It brought to mind, through the new pathways forged by those hours of introspection about values, the root cause of our disenchantment and isolation in our constant effort to swim against the current. We think our perceived weaknesses are unique to us, when the exact opposite is true. What makes us unique are our combinations of strengths. Everyone shares our doubts, fears, and made-up stories (what Brown calls SFDs -shitty first drafts.) When I stood on that round red carpet and allowed the SFDs to take over for a moment, I was anxious about being judged, misunderstood, and maybe mocked. And then I remembered the playing field and the shared purpose. And my heart was at peace.
Before I got up on that stage that day, I knew in my heart that my two core values that have subconsciously guided me throughout my life have been authenticity and faith. I have chosen to BE me and not to DO me. I have also elected to recognize the divine in every living being. Sometimes it is impossible to find that spark, especially on those days when the SFDs in my head imbed themselves so deeply they turn into manuscripts. As I faced my audience, I noticed the conversations in my head, and smiled. I recalled the time I tried to belittle this stand on the stage.
Authenticity is simply being you unapologetically. It means speaking the universal language of energy. It requires a lot of work, and then surrender if you plan to be in it for the long haul. The words you speak will touch the heart of the person/being they are meant to touch. (You are lucky if you find that ONE.) And in so doing, you will be daring greatly, rising strong, and braving the wilderness.
“Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” —John C. Maxwell
Leadership is not the platform/stage. It is the connection. Our humanity is marked by a dynamic cord of connection to one another and all living beings. That is the divinity in us. And this thrives on authentic relations through community. The TEDx Arar Street Women planted a new seed of community. In a small plot in Jordan. But its branches will soon touch the planet. And that is a very BIG deal.