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TOP 10: Internet Heroine Brene Brown Wows SXSW

Brene Brown at SWSX/Photo: SXSW

Internet Heroine Brene Brown Wows SXSW: forbes.com–3/13/16–Photo: SXSW

TOP 10: Brene Brown Wants You to Wallow in Your Failure

Brene Brown's book, Rising Strong

Brené Brown Wants You To Wallow in Your Failure: K. R. Naasel–fastcompany.com–8/4/15

STORY OF THE WEEK: Hillary Clinton Powers Inaugural Lead On Conference for Women

Stacey Gualandi/Lead On Conference/Photo: Lifescript.com

Stacey Gualandi at the Lead On Conference/Photo: lifescript.com

By Stacey Gualandi (@staceygualandi)/April 1, 2015

I’m going to need more than one day. That was the first thing I thought the minute I, and over 5,000 others, walked into the Santa Clara Convention Center for the inaugural Lead On Conference for Women in February.

Waiting for me in the heart of the Silicon Valley was an outstanding lineup of one hundred+ speakers, brought together to “promote leadership, professional development and personal growth,” thanks to the forward-thinking females at Watermark Institute.

Stacey Gualandi at Lead On Conference/lifescript.com

The list included tech industry leaders, best-selling authors, innovators and entrepreneurs—women like fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, Stella & Dot founder Jessica Herrin, former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, Intel’s Rosalind L. Hudnell, research professor Dr. Brené Brown, and Before I Die Project creator Candy Chang—and that was all before former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s luncheon keynote address!

I covered the one-day event for lifescript.com and I was certainly in good company. With this many high-profile overachievers under one roof, and the possibility that Secretary Clinton might announce her 2016 Presidential run, everyone from CNN to the Huffington Post to the New York Times was front and center.

Hillary Clinton and Kara Swisher at Lead on Conference Silicon Valley, Feb. 24, 2015--Getty Photo

Hillary Clinton with interviewer Kara Swisher at Lead On Conference/Getty Images

During her highly anticipated speech, the former First Lady emphasized how women need to do more to help all women lead on and succeed, but left the crowd hanging when she jokingly teased, “What you do doesn’t have to be big and dramatic…you don’t have to run for office!”

While Revere Digital co-CEO and well-respected tech journo Kara Swisher masterfully led a Q&A with the Secretary, getting her to discuss “partisan bunkers”, Edward Snowden and whether she uses a fitbit (she doesn’t). But she only got an “all in good time” response regarding a run for the White House.

What she lacked in a formal announcement, Mrs. Clinton made up for in her assertion that historically, there has never been a better time to be a woman than right now, but “we have an obligation to set an example for people across the globe.”

She also added, “I believe talent is universal, but opportunity is not. I think ‘leading on’ means, in large measure, how we expand that circle of opportunity.”

At the end of the day, by having leaders like Secretary Clinton speak, Watermark’s take-home strategy gave the audience “insights and practical advice” for their careers, life and relationships. There was no shortage of either.

Dr. Brené Brown, best-selling author of Daring Greatly, told the crowd that on the subject of failure, being brave means being uncomfortable, adding, “There is no greater threat in the world to the cynics, critics and fear mongers than a woman who is willing to fall because she has learned to stand back up.”

Artist and designer Candy Chang, who sold out hundreds of copies of her book Before I Die at the conference, showed all of us through her community art projects how to “share our ideas, memories,  anxieties and aspirations.”

Diane von Furstenberg’s Keynote Address/WeAreWatermark

And Diane von Furstenberg, wrap-dress icon and “comeback kid” at age 50, said, “to be a woman is a privilege. Women should have an identity outside of the home.” She also said don’t waste any time because your present is all about building on your past.

In between keynote speakers, there were networking breaks, author signings, meet-ups, social media roundtables, expert exchanges, and breakout sessions. (Now do you get why I wanted another day?) There were even several TWE radio guests serving as panelists including Gloria Feldt and Victoria Pynchon.

As the hours quickly ticked on, several hot-button issues and themes emerged: Lean in or lean out? Where are the childcare solutions? Why no equal pay? How do I deal with gender inequality? Can I find balance? Many of the sessions tried to tackle these questions.

Former Wall Street equity investor-turned-Akoya Power CEO Vanessa Loder led a panel called “Breaking Through: How to Overcome Fears, Inertia, Gender Bias and Other Obstacles.” She said events like this allow her to inspire other women and show, by example, how to move through fear.

Stacey Gualandi with Katrina Alcorn, author "Maxed Out"

Author Katrina Alcorn and Stacey Gualandi

Loder said, “It’s our inner fears that hold us back much more than the outer obstacles. [This session] was to help people look within and start to question what it is that’s been holding them back. I also wanted to give practical tools so that they could take action on it. I’m really focused on helping people create lasting change.”

“My message to women is: It’s not your fault and you’re not alone,” said Maxed Out: American Moms On The Brink author Katrina Alcorn. She joined a panel, alongside Daring and Passages author Gail Sheehy and POPSUGAR founder Lisa Sugar, called “Life Balance Survival Strategies in a ‘Lean In’ World.”

Her point was simple: “We’ve made great strides but we are far behind other developed countries when it comes to support for working women and families—no paid maternity leaves, guaranteed paid sick days—things like that make such an enormous difference in people’s lives and can set us back in our abilities to lean in.”

Sugar told me she was fortunate to be able to create her own unique path with the POPSUGAR web brand; Lead On let her teach others how to do the same. “We all have our passion. We just need to be able to find it and follow what works best for us,” said Sugar.

Gail Sheehy interviewed by Stacey Gualandi/lifescript.com

During my Lifescript interview with Gail Sheehy, she said she is no stranger to conferences like these, but the energy and professionalism at Lead On is the best she’s experienced. The irony, however, is that it took place in Silicon Valley, “where the last dark hole for women exists. I just wrote a story on this: ‘Straight White Men Don’t Have All the Great Ideas.'”

My takeaway from her successful journalism career? It pays to be daring.

“Every time I feared I would dare, I would take a risk. And that would make me feel stronger that I actually turned anxiety into action. Of course, often I would stumble or fail but it would make me stronger because of having taken the attempt and something good would always come out of it,” says Sheehy.

When the conference began, I was asked, “Name one woman, past or present, who has inspired me and why.” Well, not only did I need more than a day to see and hear everyone, I needed to name more than just one. But after Lead On, it was refreshing to know there are so many women to choose from.

And while I still don’t know if Hillary Clinton wants to lead the country, one thing I do know: I’m that much closer to leading a more inspired life.

Lead on Conference Logo



Brené Brown and the Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown, author and researcher

Story and Photo By Pamela Burke/October 20, 2012

A recent visit to Book Passage in Marin, CA to hear a talk by Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly-How the Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, was more than satisfying…it was exhilarating.

Brene Brown's book Daring GreatlyWho knew that a talk about vulnerability could be so fascinating.  The standing-room-only crowd loved Brené’s energy and ability to breathe life into a speech about perfectionism, shame, and clearing one’s armor.

Brené is a self-described storyteller whose newest book has been a popular best-seller.   More than that, she’s a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  She has spent 10 years studying the essence of vulnerability.

If you haven’t yet heard about her or read her books, you might want to watch this video of her 2010 TEDx Houston talk on vulnerability from YouTube.  In it she communicates about this sensitive topic with such humor and humanity that it struck a chord with more people than she ever could have imagined.

By the way, it is known as one of the most watched TEDx speeches with over six million viewers.

Her response to this talk is the following 2012 “Listening to Shame” TED Conference lecture at Long Beach.   Here she describes waking up after the Houston speech with the “worst vulnerability hangover of her life.”  She didn’t leave her house for three days and thought her life was over with the exposure she would receive on YouTube.  And yet that experience profoundly changed her.

What she’s learned, she says, is that vulnerability is not weakness as many people think.  Her message is to run into the arena with courage.  What she has also gleaned along the way,  she described amusingly and poignantly at Book Passage.

Here are my Top 10 Takeaways from her talk:

1.  Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen.

2.  There’s no equation where vulnerability equals weakness.

3.  To be alive is to be vulnerable.

4.  Vulnerability is letting it all hang out.

5.  We are hardwired for connection. In its absence is suffering.

6.  Vulnerability isn’t easy. It can be dangerous and scary.

7.  We don’t need a posse.  One or two people can dust us off and say we are brave.

8.  It’s a daily practice to clear our armor.

9.  When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shot gun.

10. Deliver us from fear and shame.

She leaves her audience with lots to think about.  Another thing to ponder is where she came up with the title of her book.  It turns out she was inspired by the Theodore Roosevelt speech, Citizenship in a Republic, excerpted here:

…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 . . .”

Be sure to read the  whole speech on her website.  Roosevelt’s words described to her what it meant to be vulnerable.  Her book is certainly a testament to her own ability to dare greatly.

We hope to have Brené on our radio show to ask her more about her most thought-provoking stories and writings and why she loves the rock band Whitesnake.  She tells a fun story about singing their song, Here I Go Again, in her car!