Kick-ass Author #5 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)


As I’ve put together this short list of kick-ass writers over the last several weeks, I know I’m leaving out countless other amazing authors whose books also pick up on the powerful themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. In fact, I could probably make writing about other people’s books a full-time blogging job. I’m an unabashed devotee of books that inspire and nudge people to look inward and move forward. And I love connecting people to books.

But alas, this time around I’m committed to five recommendations only. So here’s the last in my series on Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown):


Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

This book is for you if: You feel you have something inside you that needs to get “out there” but don’t know where or are too scared to start; you have silenced or hidden your inner artist ever since that elementary school art teacher told you, “you’re not doing it right”; you are trying to solve a problem or express an emotion or amplify your life and think creativity might be the way forward. 

If you are thinking, “I’m not creative, this book is not for me” then you need to read this book. If you’re thinking, “I’m too busy with serious ‘real-life’ stuff to concern myself with creativity” then get yourself to a book store pronto and buy this book.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert takes a stand for all of us to live a creative life: To live a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear. She explains that creative living is what separates a mundane existence from “an amplified existence” (don’t you love that?) Creative living – in all its manifestations – is for all of us. Do you see how you need to read this book?

Big Magic is a great read, presented in nice, easily-digestable chapter “nuggets” that speak to overcoming the fear of stepping into the creative arena. Her book invites you to find all your “not enough” gremlins, look ’em square in the eye and then promptly kick them to the backseat.


She is like the friend who tells you, “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”


Gilbert challenges you to question all the stories you tell yourself about the way things are, nudging you to find a different, better and more daring story to tell. She speaks to self-care and compassion, giving yourself permission, and the occasional, much-needed smack upside the head (e.g. “Fear is boring.”)

What I love the most is Gilbert’s voice in this book: it feels like you’re sitting down with your best friend over a coffee/glass of wine, and she’s telling you the things you need to hear about expressing your creative self. She is like the friend who tells you,  “My wish for you is that you don’t take too long to get over your fear and do what you really love to do.”

As an added bonus, Gilbert launched her podcast, Magic Lessons, to continue exploring her ideas from Big Magic. It’s really worth a listen, especially Episode 12 which features an interview with Brené Brown herself!

Now, if you really want to get serious about exploring your creativity, check out my awesome friend and coaching colleague, Allyson Woodrooffe. Allyson helps people find their voice and live their truth through creative expression, and she is definitely someone you want alongside your journey to find your creative self.

To wrap up, let me say that I would love to hear about your favourite reads that touch on the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living. Send me your list on my Facebook Page.

And if you end up reading any of the five writers/books I’ve suggested over the past few weeks, please post a comment below or to my Facebook Page to let me know what you thought of it!


Kick-ass Author #3 Who Writes About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Is Not Brené Brown)


Participants often come to my Daring Way™ and Rising Strong workshops because they have read Brené Brown’s books and get the concepts of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living on an intellectual level, but struggle to deepen that learning and “get it down” into their hearts and souls.

Enter my next recommended author: His poetry and prose take the same messages around shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living and deliver them straight to your heart.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having The Life you Want By Being Present To The Life You Have

This book is for you if: You are a poet or poetry-lover; love to read inspiring text; like to read just a little snippet of something wonderful each day;  are enduring or have survived illness, trauma and life’s other hard-knocks.

Mark Nepo is a poet and his writing is simply gorgeous. The Book of Awakening provides short passages to be read daily, over the course of a year. They are his thoughts and stories on compassion, vulnerability, scarcity, fear, pain, risk, courage, and living fully and authentically.

Here’s how I think about the two authors: Reading Brené Brown’s books are like going to a university class on vulnerability and wholehearted living with one of those professors you love because she’s so good at explaining her work in a real way, with wit and brilliance.

Reading Mark Nepo is like returning home from that university class, pouring yourself a cup of hot tea and sitting with your wise, old neighbour as he tells you lyrical, soulful stories that weave in vulnerability and wholeheartedness in a way that you didn’t even know you were getting schooled. You feel changed just by having listened to him.

Here’s a passage from Nepo on vulnerability that I love:

“No bird can fly without opening its wings,

and no one can love without exposing their heart.

It is perhaps the oldest of inner laws, as inescapable as gravity. There is no chance of lifting into any space larger than yourself without revealing the parts you hold closest to your chest.”

Another of my favourite passages in The Book of Awakening speaks to self-compassion, which I consider to be one of the cornerstones of Brené Brown’s work. In my workshops, the concept of self-compassion is a difficult one for a lot of people to embrace, as they see it as self-indulgent, selfish and being in direct contradiction to how they were brought up (i.e. to put others first).

At these moments in the workshops, I will often read aloud these words from Mark Nepo:

“In deep and lasting ways, when we heal ourselves, we heal the world. For as the body is only as healthy as its individuals cells, the world is only as healthy as its individual souls.”

Sigh. Picture a room full of people nodding their heads, getting the concept of self-compassion in a whole new way, straight to their hearts and souls.

If you’re a Mark Nepo fan, let me know your favourite passage from The Book of Awakening, or let me know which of his books you’d recommend. Post it below or on my Facebook Page.

Happy reading!


Five Kick-ass Authors Who Write About Shame, Vulnerability and Wholehearted Living (Who Are Not Brené Brown)


Anyone who knows me, knows that I love me my Brené Brown.

From that first TED talk, I was smitten. My admiration grew deeper as I read each of her groundbreaking books. And of course my commitment was sealed when I flew to San Antonio two years ago to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator.

Can you blame me? The woman has become a leading voice in the growing global conversation about the power of shame and the practice of vulnerability to create a “wholehearted” life.

However, there are definitely other voices out there contributing to the shame-resilience conversation: Remarkable writers who bring their own unique lens, language and practices to the themes of shame, vulnerability and wholehearted living.

Looking for a fresh perspective on the topic? Look no further! Over the next five weeks, I’m going to introduce you to five kick-ass authors whose books need to be on your bookshelf. Get ready to build your summer reading list!

I begin with…

Tara Brach, Ph.D.,  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

This book is for you if: You’re into meditation, mindfulness, and the teachings and practices of Buddhism 

To me, Tara Brach is the Buddhist-Buddy of Brené Brown. I absolutely adore the writing of Tara Brach, and feel that her books bring a sacredness and spirituality to shame-resilience work that Brené’s books don’t quite capture.

In Radical Acceptance, Brach calls shame the “trance of unworthiness” and explains that, “trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are.” The book touches on perfectionism, numbing, self-criticism, scarcity and fear… and then beautifully describes the path to freedom from these sufferings.


“Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that

you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher

guiding you to self-love and acceptance.”


What I especially love about Radical Acceptance are the meditation exercises Brach has sprinkled throughout the book, offering these as practices to build shame-resilience. They are beautifully written and easy to follow, even if you don’t practice meditation.

Tara Brach writes with such warmth and clarity that you’ll feel like she’s your own personal Buddhist teacher guiding you to self-love and acceptance. And, if you fall in love with her writing, you can also follow Tara Brach’s work through weekly podcasts that feature her speaking to large groups and leading meditations.

Interesting tid-bit: Radical Acceptance was published in 2003, a full four years before Dr. Brown published her first book on shame (I Thought It Was Just Me)!


Have you read Radical Acceptance? Love it or not-so-much? Tell me what you think of it in the comments section below or on my Facebook Page. Or, if you plan to read it, remember to come back to my Facebook Page when you’re done to tell me what you thought of it. Happy reading!



Practicing Guidepost #7

Relax MGD©

I’ve been struggling for a few weeks to find the time and headspace to write a new blog entry. And this morning it dawned on me: it’s time to take a break from blogging and it’s time for me to start practicing Brené Brown’s Guidepost #7 (of the 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living).

Guidepost #7 is Cultivating Play and Rest. I know it’s time to seriously cultivate some play and rest right now, because:


  • Summer is here, a natural time to slow down and enjoy the long, sunny days.
  • Things at work are starting to slow down after a crazy busy season of planning, budgeting and forecasting.
  • I’ve been suffering from insomnia for the past two months (yes, in large part from the crazy busy season at work).
  • My brain feels wrung dry of ideas and inspiration – hence the dry spell in writing for my blog.
  • My body came crashing down a week ago with a nasty cold that I can’t seem to shake.

Cultivating play and rest might sound nice and easy to put into action, but it can be a tough guidepost to practice. Why? Because of what’s required to let go in order to truly make this practice have impact: to Let Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth. Yup, it may be easy to pour a glass of wine and put my feet up in the name of cultivating play and rest, but that’s not actually enough. That won’t actually give me the true reset my body, mind and soul need.

Practicing this guidepost means making a deliberate effort to embrace being over doing, which can be especially difficult when my default is to measure my “good enough-ness” against how many things I can check off my to-do list in a day. And don’t even get me started on the trap of comparison! What is there to talk about with my friends if not how tired or exhausted we are from all the demands in our lives, from kids to jobs to husbands to health?

It seems that if we are not busy and not tired from being so busy, something is wrong with us. We are all deeply suffering from a sense of time-scarcity. We wake up complaining we didn’t get enough sleep and then go to bed worried that we didn’t get everything done. And when we do manage to check a lot of things off our to-do list, we feel particularly proud of ourselves. Then we wake up the next morning to a fresh set of to-dos, and the exhaustion builds all over again.

Well, for me, it’s time to take a chance on rest and play instead. So, for one, I’m taking a break from blogging and won’t be posting again until September. My brain is saying “I’m full”. My body is saying “I need a break”. My soul is saying “Slow down and rediscover the joy of not doing.” And my choice is to heed these messages with a deep sense of self-compassion.

My wish for you, dear Reader, is that you will do the same. Take these hot, sunny summer days as your invitation to slow down and cultivate some rest and play into your life. Not everything on your to-do list will get done, and that’s ok: you’re not defined by your productivity, and your exhaustion doesn’t determine your worth. You and I, we are – simply and always – enough.


Dancing In This Moment


I’ve been a bit caught off guard by the month I’m having. It’s way busier than I thought it was going to be and, truth be told, it’s getting me down.

Like most people, I often live in that place of trying to balance what I want with what I have. It’s like me and all the parts of my world are dancing to a song on the radio, and someone/something keeps changing the station. So just when I finally find myself moving nicely in step with my job, my family, my relationships and my health,  the song changes and the different parts of my life start moving to a new rhythm I can’t quite keep pace with.

Then come the tough choices: what is it going to take to get back in sync? For me, it’s usually a combination of shifting my schedule, realigning expectations (mine and others) and maybe even re-evaluating my short and long term goals. Then I sprinkle in several handfuls of self-compassion and mindfulness so that I don’t to compare myself with others and remember that no one is keeping count, it’s all invented and I get to decide what’s important right now.

But it’s been tougher to practice this over the last few weeks, as I’ve really had to make some hard choices about what gets to rise to the top of my priority list, and what has to be deferred. For example, I regrettably decided to postpone this month’s Dose of Daring call to June, because the week coming up is going to be crazy-busy at my other job (as a learning consultant with the government). And I had to quickly pull back on a bunch of the workshops I had planned for the summer because I realized that between all my existing priorities, I also really wanted this summer to be about relaxing and enjoying the season, as well as connecting more with my family and friends. I’m feeling a bit lighter from these decisions, but the real work is in not judging myself too harshly for not being able to do it all.

In coaching training, we are taught to “dance in this moment” with clients, knowing that we can never be certain what will come up at any given moment and that we need to stay ever-present to our client’s current reality. Of course, this is also a fantastic mantra for dealing with the exquisite tension I’m feeling between what I want and what I have.

The salient point of the concept here is to “dance” in this moment. Notice that it doesn’t say, “stay in this moment” or “be in this moment”? Nope, the instruction is to dance! It may mean different things to different people, but for me this cornerstone is my reminder to stay light, to not take myself so seriously, and to not be attached to any expectation, explanation or story. It’s also one of Brené Brown’s Guideposts for Wholehearted Living: letting go of always being in control.

So as I go into the week ahead with it’s crazy-busy schedule, my mantra will be to dance in this moment. And I invite you to do the same. Truth is, it’s the only moment you and I have, so we might as well dance, right?

P.S. A gentle reminder that there will not be a Dose of Daring call this Friday May 22nd. The next Dose call will be Friday June 19!

P.P.S. There are just a few spots left in my Daring Moms workshop on Sunday May 24th. It’ll be a great time-out for any mom needing to get centred and connected with other moms, reflecting on what it means to let go of expectations and dance in this moment of motherhood! Join me!


Connection Matters (and introducing… A Dose of Daring)


I am absolutely craving connection these days. And this, from a self-professed introvert!

Last year I set an intention to get more deeply connected to others, especially like-minded women who were embracing their vulnerability (and awesomeness). I wanted to share and learn from them. Well, as you might have guessed, the universe delivered wholeheartedly. I met and forged connections to some amazing women (you know who you are!) and I know those connections will continue to deepen in 2015. And now I’m inspired for more. Let me explain…

Each time I connect with my peeps, I am reminded that you can never underestimate the power of a good conversation.

After connecting with any one of my friends, colleagues or clients – whether it be a quick check-in via text or a long, lingering conversation over coffee – I feel a buzz and a spring in my step as I walk away with a renewed sense of self, sense of gratitude and sense of alignment with the world. Brené Brown is right: we are hard-wired for connection and I am really beginning to understand the force of this truth. This is the kicker: for connection to work its magic, both you and the other person have to be willing to show up as you really are… imperfect, messy, flawed. You have to let go of any need to appear perfect, or to pretend to be someone you’re not, or to say things just to please the other. When you both show up authentically and come together with a sense of curiosity and empathy, you walk away with a connector’s equivalent of a runner’s high.

Interestingly, the critical role of connection in our lives seems to be popping up a lot lately in my newsfeed. Take a recent post by Johann Hari, author of Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, where he points to the role that connection (or rather, disconnection) plays in addiction. In the post, Hari makes reference to the fact that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. “It’s how we get our satisfaction,” and he argues that an addict, in the absence of being connected with other human beings, becomes “bonded” (rather than addicted) to a substance or habit. That is a powerful statement about how deeply we are wired for connection.

And, not surprisingly, it seems that almost every how-to article and Top 10 List for living a fulfilling or happy life these days rank building stronger social connections at the top, like in this article or this one or this one, to name just a few.

So, you want some of that?

Good! Because I have this idea to help quell my craving for more connection, and I hope you will be as excited to try it out as me! I’m going to start hosting a regular “tele-chat” called A Dose of Daring, and YOU are invited! Here’s the gist:

About once a month, I will host a gathering via teleconference where interested people – like you! – can dial-in to join a lunchtime discussion of all things daring, vulnerable, courageous and awesome. Our jumping off point for every discussion will be (of course) something  à la Brené Brown’s The Daring Way™. I’ll introduce a theme or topic via my blog, Daring Matters, and then we will chat more about it at A Dose of Daring.

This regular tele-chat is perfect for you if:

  • You have or are just about to make a big change in your life, whether it be in career, family, health or personal endeavour – you’ll get some great insights on how to build a courage practice for those times when you question or doubt yourself.
  • You’re struggling to feel good enough in your role as a parent, spouse, employee, entrepreneur or leader – you’ll see how we all struggle with feeling “not enough” and how a good dose of self-compassion and empathy can help.
  • You’re a fan of Brené Brown and want to explore some key themes of her work – you’ll be a part of lively discussion that will reinforce the things you’ve read or heard from Brené.

My goal is to build conversation, connection and community around The Daring Way™.

If you haven’t had the chance to join one of my workshops, THIS will be a great way to get introduced to the work and to meet some other lovely, like-minded people! And don’t worry if you haven’t read any of Brené Brown’s books… this is just all about conversation and connection about how you want to show up, be seen and live bravely in the world (and you don’t need to read a book to start talking about that – just an openness to sharing and a curious mind!)

Mark Your Calendar!!

Our First Dose of DaringFriday February 27th at 12:00pm, Eastern Time  (call will last approx 30 min)

Dial-in Instructions: 1-647-558-0588, Access Code: 693 929 1438

Topic:  Why, connection of course!  How Connection Is An Act Of Courage

I would LOVE for you to join the discussion! Put it in your calendar now and make a commitment to YOURSELF to connect with others and learn more about wholehearted living.

P.S. Would love to hear from you on some of the topics you’d like to discuss in the coming months. Which parts of Brené Brown’s work interest you? Anything you need clarity on? Curious about how others feel about the work? What is the hardest thing about daring greatly in your life?  Let me know by replying below, posting on my FB Page or emailing me at





The Work/Life Lab, Week #37 – Practicing Playfulness


Welcome to The Work Life Lab: 52 Weeks of Daring Experiments To Shake Things Up and Learn More About Yourself At Work and Life

Experiment #37 – Practicing Playfulness

Yesterday we hosted eight children at our house for my son’s 6th birthday party. It was a Lego-themed party and we made sure there was plenty of time and space for pure Lego creativity. The kids were most engaged when we handed each of them a paper bag filled with random pieces of Lego and told them to build whatever they wanted with the pieces they got, and then to explain their creations to each other at the end. The result: nine VERY different creations, each with a backstory so detailed that we were running out of time hearing them all.

All this playfulness was set against the backdrop of me and my husband rushing around, making sure all the other details of the party were unfolding as they should: sandwiches made, check. Loot bags filled, check. Candles in the cake, check. Serious, serious business. The party was a success, but it was the kids who had all the fun.

So, this week in the Work/Life Lab, let’s have a little fun ourselves. Let’s cultivate Brené Brown’s 7th Guidepost for Wholehearted Living and cultivate some play this week! Let go of exhaustion (and seriousness) as a status symbol, and have some kid-like fun.

You can do this any way you want, but here’s the deal: you have to practice it every day this week for at least 15 minutes each day. And it has to be fun for fun’s sake (that is, I don’t want you to take a particular task you have to do and play some upbeat music in the background just to make the task more palatable). The focus is on the fun all by itself.

Think back to what you loved to do as a kid, and recreate that. Did you love swinging at the playground? Go do that. Did you love dressing up? Go do that. Play a board game. Pretend you’re a spy. Play a pick-up game of soccer or basketball. Go for a bike ride with nowhere to go. Colour in a colouring book. Or get some Lego of your own and get building (but don’t follow the instructions! Be a Master Builder instead!)

Just make sure you’re not doing this while trying to accomplish something else (not even watching tv). Carve out the time for yourself to just have fun, and see what results. Do you feel refreshed? Giddy? Nostalgic? Bored? (By the way, if you feel bored, you’re not doing it right) Do you feel panicky or anxious because you’re not accomplishing something productive? If so, stick with it. It’s a definite sign that you NEED more playfulness in your life!

Have fun, folks!