sometimes winning is doing the really brave thing

The third important takeaway from Brené Brown’s Netflix special is: Sometimes winning is doing the really brave thing.

Towards the end of the talk, Brown shares a story about her daughter who had joined a year-round swim team. Her coach assigned her to the 100 breaststroke, which is a challenging race, and her daughter was not ready for it; she was still trying to perfect it as it was not her strongest stroke. Both Brown and her daughter knew she had zero chance of winning this race. Her daughter tried her best to get out of it, even asking the coach to reconsider his decision, but it didn’t work. 

She was upset and nervous, and said her last chance to escape as suggested by her friend was to “scratch her heat”, meaning she could pretend not to hear her heat get called and hence miss her race. She asked Brown if she would get grounded if she scratched her heat. Brown assured her that it won’t happen. Her daughter told her, “I’m never going to win this race,” and Brown advised her, “You will never win this race, but maybe winning for you is getting off the block and getting wet.”

Finally, the day of the race arrived. At the beginning of the race, it looked as if her daughter wouldn’t show up for the heat but then she did. It was not pleasant by any means. She was so far behind that everyone else had come out of the pool and the next heat was lined up on the block to start while she was still struggling to complete her lap. As she came out of the pool, naturally, she was devastated, embarrassed, and exhausted but when she reunited with her parents, with tears in her eyes, she told them, “That sucked but I was brave and I won.”

Brown then points out a key message from this story, “Vulnerability is hard and it’s scary and it feels dangerous. But it’s not as hard, or scary or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves: What if I would’ve shown up? What if I would’ve said ‘I love you?’ What if I would’ve come off the blocks? Show up, be seen, answer the call to courage and come off the blocks. Because you’re worth it—you’re worth being brave.”