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On this episode of Dare to Lead

Michael Bungay Stanier is the author of six books, including The Coaching Habit and The Advice Trap. We talk about taming our Advice Monsters — you know, those insatiable things that fuel our need to offer advice and answers when curiosity and good questions are way more powerful. We also share a very vulnerable, impromptu role play, where I ask him for help on a real issue that I’m struggling with at work and he models incredible coaching and curiosity.

About the guest

Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier helps people be a force for change. He’s best known for his book The Coaching Habit which has sold close to a million copies and has thousands of 5-star reviews online. His latest book The Advice Trap focuses on what it takes to tame your Advice Monster. He founded Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. They’ve trained hundreds of thousands of managers to be more coach-like and their clients range from Microsoft to Gucci. He left Australia about 30 years ago to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University—where his only significant achievement was falling in love with a Canadian—which is why he now lives in Toronto, having spent time in London and Boston.

Show notes

The Advice Trap by Michael Bungay Stanier
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

“Well, you might say that I stopped listening to new music after about 1984, but I think it says that love is about knowing what to hold on to and knowing what to let go of—and dancing.”


Brené Brown: Hi everyone, I’m Brené Brown. And this is the Dare To Lead podcast. This week, I am talking to my friend, Michael Bungay Stanier, author of six books including The Coaching Habit and The Advice Trap. I have to tell you, I really just… pause and go get both of these books, The Coaching Habit, and The Advice Trap, read them back to back, they are so practical, tactical, gritty, on the ground, do something different, 20 minutes after you’re done reading them. We’re going to get into it, we’re going to talk about the advice-giving monster that’s inside all of us that when people say, “Hey, I need some help,” or like, “Here’s exactly what you should do and why.” Why our advice is probably not that great and how we can be not just better leaders, but better people, if we can stay a little bit curious a little bit longer. Ask good questions. I love this episode and unprepared, but always willing, I asked Michael to do a hard role play with me around a real issue that I’m grappling with in my role as a leader, a tough issue. It is very vulnerable on both of our parts, but we just jumped right in. So enjoy the episode.

BB: Before we jump into the episode, let me tell you a little bit about Michael. As I mentioned earlier, he is the author of six books, he’s best known for The Coaching Habit, which was a best-selling coaching book, and it’s really a classic in the field to be honest. He was a Rhodes Scholar, and he wants everyone to know that he plays the ukulele, badly. He is Australian and he lives in Toronto, Canada. Let’s jump in.

BB: Hello, Michael.

Michael Bungay Stanier: Brené, how are you doing?

BB: You know what, it’s a really good question before I just say, “I’m doing great.” Let me think about it for reals. I’m actually doing pretty okay, today. Let me tell you about this book, The Advice Trap that you wrote. Ouch. Let me say ouch, and thank you.

MBS: Well, I’m curious to know why you went ouch. What struck a chord for you?

BB: I have an advice monster for sure. I took the quiz. So, before we even get into that in my ouch and my thank you. Tell us your story. So, were you born in Australia?

MBS: I was so. I grew up in Australia, went to high school here, I grew up in Canberra, Australia’s little known national capital. And honestly, Brené, I had a pretty fantastic childhood. I have brilliant parents, two great brothers, I was really happy in school, went to high school here, took a year out, went to England where I worked as a teacher in a school, which was a mind-opening experience, but trying to set the stage for me in terms of awakening a desire to be a teacher in my life, and then came back to Canberra and did what’s known as an art’s law degree here.

MBS: So, in Australia, a Law degree is an undergraduate degree, and I love my arts degree, it was in literature, so that’s kind of a love of mine. Law, honestly, a bit brutal, I was not a good law student, struggling my way through it, but it’s kind of my “backup plan.” The saving grace that stopped me from being a lawyer because I would have been an unhappy and largely incompetent lawyer was two things. First of all, I won a Rhodes Scholarship, that was going to take me to Oxford. Secondly, the killer blow in my law degree was I ended up being sued by one of my law school professors for defamation. I was like, “Okay.” Well, I didn’t need any other clues, that was clue enough, that this was not going to be the right career for me.

BB: The universe wanted to make sure you were clear on this.

MBS: Yeah. You’re like, “Right. Message received,” heading over to Oxford to study. I wasn’t totally sure why I was being a Rhodes Scholar, other than my dad is English, and he had gone to Oxford because he had brought up in Oxford, so he went as a local boy. And at 14, a teacher said to me, “So, what do you want to do when you grow up?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, maybe go to Oxford University,” is the only thing I knew. And he went, “Wow, you have to be a Rhodes Scholar for that.” I went, “Okay, I don’t know what that means, but noted.”

MBS: And that somehow came to pass, and then the brilliant thing that happened at Oxford was I met my wife, Marcella, and fell in love with her. So, sort of hustling back to Australia, she’s Canadian, so we lived in England for a while, States for a while. Got tired of living in Boston, so we decided to move to Canada. We weren’t quite sure where to move Brené, so we went to our local pub and we had a couple of beers, and then we each wrote the name of three cities we’d like to move to on the back of a beer coaster. On the count of three, we flipped it over. Toronto made both Beer coasters. So, we decided Toronto was going to be the end destination.

BB: Oh, my God.

MBS: And my flight out of Boston and kind of wrapping up that and moving to this new city and this new job was on 9/11. So, everything went wrong. We finally made it across the border to Canada, but the job I had lined up had disappeared, and that catapulted me into starting my own business because I didn’t know what else to do, and there weren’t a whole lot of other jobs around. So, I started this company called Box of Crayons, which honestly, for the first number of years, my whole business plan was to try and find somebody with a pulse and a wallet and hope that they would pay me for something that I could do. But in the end, I found my hook, which was trying to make the skills of coaching and curiosity be more accessible and more every day for regular people. And that’s become the focus of Box of Crayons, and then the book writing has become part of the offset around that, which is, how do I make some of these skills, particularly around coaching, which can sometimes feel a bit exclusive and a bit HR-ey and a bit touchy-feely, I really want to democratize that, I want coaching to feel like it’s something that it’s an everyday skill for everyday people, because staying curious a little bit longer just opens up so many good things.

BB: God, I love the whole idea of staying curious a little bit longer, we’re going to have a complete nerd out on curiosity, I’m sure before this conversation’s over.

MBS: Brilliant.

BB: So, how long have you been running Box of Crayons?

MBS: Well, Box of Crayons is closing in on 20 years as a company, but I stepped away from being CEO of that two years ago. It’s been one of the great learning moments of my life is handing over the role of CEO to a brilliant woman who I hired from behind the bar of my local pizzeria, and she’s just brilliant. And so in three or four years, she’s become CEO of Box of Crayons. So, now I watch Box of Crayons in admiration as Shannon and her team think about it and reinvent it and help make it a bigger, better place to be. So, yeah, 20 years at Box of Crayons and I still own it, but it’s now run by other people, and I’m trying to reinvent who I am and how I show up in the world.

BB: That’s powerful. And probably the universe put you right in front of me today, Michael. So, that’s really good to hear. How would you describe to listeners what Box of Crayons does?

MBS: The way we talk about it now is we help organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. And if people are then interested, because some people go, “I’m not interested in that conversation at all,” and they move away, and I’m like, “That’s great.” But if they are interested then we get into a conversation about what curiosity brings and what it can open up. And for me, curiosity is a bit of a super power. I know you write about it in Rising Strong as well, but not only does it help drive business success because you get to spend time figuring out what you really need to focus on, what really matters. But honestly, it’s a way of increasing humanity in organizations, Brené. If I’m banging a table, that’s what I care about, because I want organizations to be places where people flourish.

MBS: And there’s a way that the default of an organization is not to allow people to flourish, you have to work really hard against that.

BB: God, yeah.

MBS: And curiosity is a way that you bring the very best of people forward, you get to see them as human beings. You get to allow them to be themselves. So, if you’re in an organization and you care about two things, a culture where people are engaged and flourishing and focus so that you’re working on the stuff that really matters, then you’ve got a better chance of having a company that is really succeeding.

BB: It really does come down to culture and focus, doesn’t it?

MBS: Yeah, culture and strategy, strategy and culture.

BB: Let’s just jump right into the book. So the name of the book is The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever. I just think there’s truth on the cover of that book.

MBS: Thank you.

BB: Especially it’s so aligned with the work that we do around Dare To Lead. So, let’s start with this question, “What goes wrong with advice giving?” So, I come to you, and I’ve actually come to you before for advice, and it’s interesting because you just ask me 30 questions and I didn’t even know at the end of it what I was really calling you about, as it turns out, but… So, I come to you and I’m like, “Hey, Michael, I need some advice.”

MBS: Yeah. Well, first of all, every part of my body wants to give you advice, in fact, my memory of when you called up for the conversation, my memory of it is I just gave you a whole lot of bad advice and that makes me put my head in my hands and go, “Thank God she didn’t follow any of that advice, it was probably lousy.” But the first thing just to acknowledge, Brené, is like when somebody goes, “Hey, Michael, can you tell me about… Can you help me with… ” There’s just one part of you that just wants to do that so badly because, A, you’ve been trained all your life that that’s what you do and B, you actually care about that other person and you want to help them. But there are three ways I think that advice giving can kind of go off the rails a little bit. First of all, you might be solving the wrong problem because so often the thing somebody comes to you as the challenge is not the real challenge, it’s just the first thing they thought of, it’s the symptoms.

MBS: It’s the way they’re talking about it right now. And so often you’re working really hard to solve something that doesn’t really matter or isn’t the real problem. So, that’s the first challenge, but even if, let’s just say for the sake of argument, Brené, you really figure out what the real problem is. They come to you with a perfectly presented problem, “This is the thing I need to crack.” Well, then the second challenge with advice giving is honestly, your advice just isn’t as good as you think it is. There are so many cognitive biases that are wired to make you think you’re a better driver and a better advice giver than you actually are. And the truth is not so much your advice is biased, slanted, prejudiced based on the last thing that you did, based on the first thing that you did, based on your own history, and it’s really worth while you’re thinking, “Maybe my advice isn’t quite as powerful and as useful as I hope it would be.”

BB: Is that true for those of us who think our advice is really, really good?

MBS: Possibly even more so. No… I mean, Brené, you got to admit, there are times when advice giving is really helpful. If I come to you and I go, “Hey, Brené, where are the tea bags? I need to make myself a cup of tea.” And you go, “Michael, how are you feeling about tea?” That’s just irritating. So, this is not saying advice is wrong, or you should never give advice at all. My mantra is, can you stay curious just a little bit longer? Can you slow down the rush to action and advice giving? Because you want to be able to give advice, that’s a key part of how we work, just less often and less rapidly.

BB: Okay. So, if you think you’re really, really good, like really good at advice giving you’re probably… I read where it’s really hard too, because if you assume that you’re better than you are, and you go fast and furiously, the best case scenario is you’re wasting people’s time and resources, but the worst case scenario is you’re pointing them in a really dangerous direction.

MBS: Yeah. And there’s effectively those two problems with those first two challenges, which is A, you may be working on the wrong problem and B, your advice actually isn’t as good as you think it is. Well, then it’s just a whole kind of mélange of messiness there around wasting time, wasting effort, maybe doing something dangerous as a result of that. But all in all, it’s certainly a waste of time, effort, money, energy, all of that.

BB: Okay, what’s the third thing?

MBS: And I think this is the most powerful one, because we can all recover from wasting a bit of time trying to solve the wrong problem, we’ve all done that before.

MBS: The third is the impact on the other person, because even if you know what the problem is, and even if you have a stonkingly good idea, it’s gold dust, it’s a pearl of wisdom. The question you’ve got to ask yourself is, “What’s the right leadership act right now?” And is it to give them the advice and get them going, and it might be, but more than you might realize, the leadership act is to hold the space for them to figure their stuff out themselves. Because there’s something that happens, this work is inspired a lot by a writer called Ed Schein, who is just masterful around this and his series of book around helping, just wonderful, and curiosity. When you give somebody advice, you are one upping yourself against that other person, you’re saying, “Look, I’m better, smarter, faster, more experienced, wiser, cleverer, younger, faster, slower,” whatever it might be, you’re saying.

MBS: But I am saying, “I’m better than you, I’m better than you.” That’s the hidden statement in this kind of reactive advice giving. And even if you think to yourself, “Look, they’re probably not going to have as good an idea as I have,” it still may be the right leadership act to have them come up with their own idea. Have them figure out what the real problem is. Because that’s what empowerment is, that’s when you help people increase their competence and their confidence and their self-sufficiency and their autonomy. And these are all things that you want in your life, not just if you’re in an organization, but with your spouse and with your kids and with everybody. You want people to be more complete human beings around you. But we so often trade that short-term, I feel good because I’ve given them advice, for that longer term price that we pay.

BB: Yeah, I guess on the flip side of that, you talk about this too, on the flip side of making someone doubt their own competency, you also take on kind of this exhausting role of the fixer.

MBS: Exactly.

BB: You’re the savior, you’re the fixer of all things, your value in a relationship is about your ability to fix and solve. And one of the things we found in our research is, “God, does that get in the way of really good problem identification processes.” We always talk about the Einstein quote, “If I had an hour to solve a deadly problem, I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and five minutes solving it.”

MBS: Right. Exactly, right. There are these two dynamics, that go on, Brené, and you’re pointing to both of them. One is the price you pay for actually not figuring out what the real problem is, so you’re not actually working on the stuff that matters, and that’s just a diminishing experience at a human level and at a team level and a business unit level and at an organizational level, because you’re wasting time and you only get one kick at this can.

MBS: So when you read the research that says people are disengaged, it’s like in part it’s just because they’re not making progress on anything that matters, but there’s also just the human cost, which is if you’re into that kind of rescuer, that fixer role, A, if you’re on one side of it, it’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, you’re trying to fix your life and their life and everybody else’s life around you, and that’s a hard row to hoe. But if you’re also being fixed, then there’s that diminishment of that… I mean, I love the model of the Karpman drama triangle, I don’t know if you know that, Brené.

BB: No, say more.

MBS: It’s got its roots in transactional analysis, which is the model that gives us things like adult-to-adult relationships and parent-child relationships, but Karpman, who is a student of the founder of Transactional Analysis, said that’s a bit confusing and it’s hard to go to your boss, “Hey, I think we have a parent-child relationship,” that’s weird. So he says, “Look, when things get dysfunctional and they always get dysfunctional, three different roles play out, there’s the victim, there’s the persecutor and there’s the rescuer.” Victim, persecutor, rescuer.

MBS: And you can find yourself bouncing around all three of those roles with a person, even in a single conversation, an interaction, you can be bouncing around all those roles. When you’re in the Drama Triangle, you are in a reactive mode and you are not showing up as your best. Now, I’ve asked, honestly, tens of thousands of people, let’s look at the Drama Triangle, which one do you think you play most often? And Brené, I reckon 90-95% of people self-identify as rescuers, the jumping it in, fix it, let me solve it. Let me make it better. Let’s not fight. Let me take this on. And the challenge is with both, all three of these roles, there are prizes and punishments, there are wins and there are losses, and the wins are short-term, and they feel okay, but we all pay a bigger price for this, that rescuer role is ubiquitous. But here’s the killer, the rescuer, if you’re playing the rescuer role, you create victims. You create persecutors.

MBS: So, your frustration as a rescuer, as a fixer that, “Why can’t they sort this out?” Well, you’re part of that dynamic, you’re actually driving that dynamic perhaps in that role.

BB: God, that makes sense. That’s painful.

MBS: Exactly.

BB: That makes sense. It makes sense, it’s almost like in order for me to spotlight what I think I’m good at, I need to force other people into these roles.

MBS: That’s right. So we spend our lives being triggered into the Drama Triangle, and if you’re lucky, you get wiser to it and you spend a little less time out of the Drama Triangle. I think it’s a very human thing. I think we… Honestly, I suspect we spend our whole lives being sucked back into it. I’m back here living with my parents at the moment, and the Drama Triangle shows up all the time. All the time.

BB: For sure.

MBS: But it’s part of the work I’ve been doing on myself over the years is going, I’m just trying to notice it, I’m just trying to notice when I’m sucked into it, I’m just trying to notice how I can get out of it faster and see if I can resist it a little bit longer.

BB: And there’s so much reactivity in that role, and there’s so much, God, just the old shit comes right up, the old patterns come right up.

MBS: Absolutely.

BB: That’s important to understand. I have to say, just to pull back a little bit, the advice-giving monster that you call it, it’s a pretty insatiable dude. It’s so seductive. Advice giving is so seductive.

MBS: Yeah. It makes us feel better. We like giving advice because it makes us feel good, it makes us feel smarter, it makes us feel in control, it makes us feel that we’re the people who are serving everybody around us, it strokes a lot of ego.

BB: Yeah, and in a world that feels so uncertain and vulnerable and volatile, it does grant you a little bit of control. I kept thinking about a quote from Anne Lamott when I was reading the book, and this is from the 12 Step rooms, I’ve heard this in AA a million times, that help is the sunny side of control.

MBS: Right.

BB: And so it does give you a sense of power, but I think it’s not power with and power to or empowerment, I think advice giving gone awry is very much power over.

MBS: I agree, Brené. And I think that’s a key distinction you’re making, because I want people not to hear what we’re saying is, “Never give advice,” because it doesn’t work in reality. It’s advice giving gone astray. It’s reactive advice-giving.

MBS: Here’s what I really… I saw a study years ago about how GPs on average will interrupt their patient within the first 17 seconds of a conversation. And I always thought, “That gives GPs a bad name,” because I think it’s human. I think most of us interrupt people within about 20 seconds, I go, “Okay, I get it, Brené. Let me just tell you what I think you should do here.”

BB: Oh my God, yeah, it’s not just the doctors, it’s not just the general practitioners, right?

MBS: Right. It is a very human thing to go, “Look, I’m trying to help, I’m feeling the pressure of time, I’ve got an answer that’s showing up in my head right away, and I think the best way of being helpful is to tell you that solution that I’ve come up with in my head.” And it might be, but just not yet, just slow it down, stay curious a little bit longer.

MBS: But as you say in Rising Strong, Brené, that act of curiosity is an act of vulnerability. Because when you stay curious, it means that you step into a place of ambiguity for a little bit longer, where you’re like, I’m not totally sure what’s happening here, I’m not totally sure who has control, I’m not totally sure if I’m being a helpful, valuable, or important person in this conversation. I’m not sure where this conversation is going. The act of empowerment, which is what curiosity is, empowerment means also giving over power.

BB: That’s right.

MBS: You’re giving the other person power, and everybody kind of nods their head in agreement in theory around empowerment, but the act of stepping away from power and going, “I could be the star here, I could be in the spotlight, but I’m stepping away from the spotlight and allowing that person to step forward, to take control, to take ownership,” that is hard. And I think that’s part of the powerful work of leadership.

BB: To use the language from our research, stepping away and believing that curiosity between two people and thought partnership brings the most power, that’s definitely daring leadership where the kind of ego-driven let me solve this is definitely armored leadership, because I think advice giving can be armor too.

MBS: I think it is. I absolutely think it is. I think the advice monster is a metaphor, another way of coming at some of the great research you’ve done around armored leadership versus daring leadership, which is when you’re in advice-giving mode, you’re protected, you have status, you have authority, you have control, and all of those are characteristics of armored leadership.

BB: Tell me about tell it, save it, control it.

MBS: Right. The origin of The Advice Trap book came from The Coaching Habit. So, The Coaching Habit was the book I published five years ago, and turned out to be a big hit, much to my surprise and delight, because I’d spent three years trying to get it published with a regular publisher. They kept turning it down, so eventually I self-published and it went on to have this great success. So, not only was that satisfying, I also felt deeply smug about that.

BB: Amen. As someone who self-published their first book, Amen Brother.

MBS: Yeah. Exactly. I get messages all the time about people going, “You know what? That’s really helpful. That’s really practical, it’s changed the way that I show up with my team or with my kids or with my spouse.” And I also have got messages from people going, “I like it, but I’m finding it really hard to actually put it into action, to put it into play. Why is it so difficult? Because it seems so easy.” It’s like, can you just stay curious a little bit longer. How hard is that? Well, it’s hard for lots of us, it’s actually hard. And even though in The Coaching Habit book, I’m like it’s just seven questions, if you can just bring these seven questions into your working life, that’s going to make a difference. Tell me, why is this so hard? When everybody gets this in theory, why is it so hard in practice?

BB: Do we want to pause here before we ask that question and go through the seven questions.

MBS: Oh, sure.

BB: Because I’ve got both books in front of me, do we want to just do a pause because I think people are listening in, and I’m thinking as you’re walking or driving to work or on the bus, both of these books are incredible companion books, and I think you should start with The Coaching Habit. So, give us a little primer on that and those seven questions, if you don’t mind, Michael.

MBS: Yeah, absolutely. So, as I was writing The Coaching Habit, I was like, “Questions are King.” If you want to be curious, you’ve got to have a bank of questions, and so I spent years collecting good questions. And then I’m like, “Okay, what are the best questions and what are the most essential questions?” And it took me some years to figure out what I thought were seven key questions that, not for every situation, but for many situations, can find a place. So, if you’re listening to this, I wouldn’t worry about trying to remember all of these questions, because if you can take one or two of these questions that feels most relevant and most powerful for you and go, “Maybe I’ll try that,” that would be my recommendation. But let me go through them.

MBS: Number one is the KickStart question, the Kickstart question is, what’s on your mind? What’s on your mind? It’s a really simple question, but its power is that it accelerates you into an interesting conversation. One of the key reasons people resist this whole idea of coaching or being more coach-like is like, “I don’t have time for that. It takes too long.” The assumption is that coaching has to take 30 or 40 minutes or an hour and everyone’s like, “I’m so busy. That’s never going to happen.” And I’m like, “You’re right. That will never happen.” You’ve got to get into the meat-y stuff fast. And what’s on your mind says, “Look, the power’s with you, you tell me what you think is most important for us to talk about, but don’t tell me everything or anything. Let’s get into it. What’s on your mind? What are you excited about or worried about or anxious about, or needs to get looked at right away to make this conversation most helpful for you? So, what’s on your mind?

MBS: And then there’s what I would call the best coaching question in the world, and I know that’s slightly hyperbolic, but that’s my style, slightly hyperbolic. And the best coaching question in the world is the awe question. And awe is awesome but it’s also an acronym for And What Else. If people are going to take one question away, Brené, this might be it, because and what else recognizes that their first answer is not their only answer, and it’s rarely their best answer. So, when you ask a question and they come back with an answer, honestly, your advice monster goes nuts, you’re like, “Great, we’ve got a question, we’ve got an answer, let’s get going on this.” But and what else is a very, very powerful question to help you stay curious a little bit longer, so that’s the second question, and what else? The third question is the focus question, and the focus question is, what’s the real challenge here for you?

MBS: And Brené, I expand this a little bit in The Advice Trap because I just found that this was an unlocking question for so many people, and it gets to this heart of, “How do we solve the right problems around here?” And it recognizes that the first challenge that somebody brings to you is rarely the real challenge. And the way this question is constructed matters, because you could say, what’s the challenge? And that’s an okay question. When you go, What’s the real challenge? It amps it up. It gets to the heart of it. It starts going, “You need to think this through. There’s more than one thing going on here. What’s the real challenge here?” But Brené, when you add those last two words, What’s the real challenge here for you?

BB: For you. Yeah.

MBS: There’s something magical that happens because the spotlight swings from the problem to the person solving the problem and now what’s happening is they’re going, “How am I part of the system? What’s hard about this for me? How am I going to figure this out for me?”

MBS: And what you find when you start adding for you onto the end of questions, people make progress on the challenge at hand, but they also learn and they also grow and they also expand their capacity and their capabilities. So, what’s the real challenge here for you is a really powerful question. Then there’s a foundation question, so the foundation question, which I think is the hardest question, the hardest question to answer anyway, and it is simply, “What do you want? What do you want?”

BB: That’s such a tough question. It’s such a tough question to be asked. Because a lot of times what I’ll say, if I called you and say, “Hey Michael, I need some advice.” And we get all the way to this question. And you say, “Brené, what is it that you really want? What do you want?” I’m going to say, “I don’t know, can you tell me what I should want? Can you tell me?” because so few people ask that question.

MBS: Yeah. I almost call it the goldfish question because when you ask that question, often people start making that little guppy thing with their mouth and their eyes pop open, because they’re like… You can feel their brain slightly exploding.

BB: It’s true.

MBS: Because they’re like, “Yeah, what do I want?” I learned this question actually, Brené… I know your background is in grounded research and spending lots of time talking to people. I have a weirdly different but similar background, is that my first job was in the world of new product development and innovation. I played a tiny, tiny role in helping to invent stuffed crust pizza for Pizza Hut, which by the way, which is when I knew I had to get out of that job because I did not want that to be the high point of my entire career.

BB: My kids would say thank you, and you’ve already peaked.

MBS: Already peaked. So, I’m on the gradual downhill slide here, I’m leaning to that. But asking that question, “What Do You Want?” was always the thing that created silence and introspection and power in the room. And so too now, it’s like a really opening question because actually when people get clear on what they want, everything opens up.

BB: No, things fall off, don’t they? Things fall away.

MBS: Yeah. As an aside, I have a belief around people giving feedback, which is like a sister or cousin to this whole idea of coaching, and people find it hard to give feedback because it’s risky and it’s dangerous and it’s personal and all of those things. And I think that’s true. I also think that often people resist giving feedback because they don’t know what they want to ask for. And I think if you want to give somebody feedback, if you can get clear on the request you want to make, the rest of what needs to be said in that feedback conversation becomes much clearer and the conversation becomes much easier to step into, so that “What do I want?” is really powerful.

BB: I think that’s right, because a lot of times the focus is, what did they do wrong? And I’ve seen this even with my kids, there’s like, “But I don’t understand what it is that if I stop doing this, I get it. But what is it that you want me to do?” And then you’re just kind of standing there thinking, “God, I have not thought this through.”

MBS: Right. And if you haven’t thought it through, the feedback can feel more like a punishment or a shaming or a diminishment, rather than an understanding of where you stand now and an understanding of where you might want to get to. And now we can have a conversation, even a coaching conversation about how to get there. The fifth question, a really good for helping to tame your advice monster and the question, this is a lazy question, which I know is a kind of provocative title, but the lazy question is, “So, how can I help?” Or a slightly blunter version is, “What do you want from me?” Here’s how it might show up, Brené. Somebody comes into your office or through your Zoom screen these days and go blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and they’re coming at you, and you can feel the hunger, that desire to leap in and fix things and solve it and try and help out and be a good person in their lives, and rather than resisting that, one of the most powerful things you can say is like, “Wow, Brené, there’s a ton going on for you. How can I help? Or what do you want from me here?”

BB: We have a very similar question that has been really life-changing for me, which is, “Tell me what support looks like.”

MBS: That’s great.

BB: Because so many times people say, “I have no idea. I’m just losing my shit, actually, I don’t know what support looks like.”

MBS: And sometimes I go, “I just needed you to hear that.”

BB: Amen.

MBS: In which case, you can go, “Brilliant, well, I think our work here is done,” and you’ve just saved yourself for like three hours of some intervention that was not required.

BB: It’s true.

MBS: You’re actually able to go, “Brilliant, I’m glad you got that off your chest. Now, I’ve got stuff to do, go away.”

BB: It’s interesting too in terms of ownership and power, because when I ask someone, tell me what support looks like for you right now, it really puts some power and ownership in them getting really clear, I think probably at least 50% of the time when I ask that people will say. “I have not thought about that. Just talking about it is helpful, but can I give it some thought?”

MBS: Right.

BB: I’m like, Absolutely.

MBS: Effectively, you’re asking them, “What do you want?” So it comes back to that earlier question, which is, this is great, I understand the struggle, I’m empathetic for how hard this is for you, but unless you can tell me what you want, I’m reluctant to move because, A, what I come up with might not be the right thing and B, I’ve got plenty to do. So, I don’t want to be spending time incorrectly serving you and supporting you when I could be doing my own stuff. And then as soon as you come back and let me know what support looks like, then we can have a conversation about whether that’s something I can help you with, or somebody else could help you with.

BB: That’s right.

MBS: I also love, Brené, this is one of the things I really admire about you is your commitment to de-center yourself from the conversation. I’m projecting a whole bunch, but when I go into your website, I really notice that there’s not a kind of huge Brené Brown photo at the heart of your website, I feel like the very message you put out in the world is, what does support look like? Not, I’m Brené Brown, the hero of the show. And I love that you use that question in your every day work because it really feels that’s the message that you put out to the world and how you serve the world as well.

BB: Thank you, I appreciate it. It’s definitely something that I have to stay super aware of all the time because ironically I’m uncomfortable with vulnerability, and so I like the control that advice giving gives me, I can be very almost Machiavellian in that. And as the oldest of four, I also can find value in being the fixer, so it is definitely intentional.

MBS: Yeah, I’m the oldest of three, so I suspect I have a similar path.

BB: Yeah. Are we on number…

MBS: Two more questions. Number six is the strategic question, and the question is, if you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to? And the power of this is, it forces choice. In some ways, the act of strategy is simply the courage to make choices, the thing is saying yes to what you want to say yes to, but also the courage to say no to the things you want to say yes to.

BB: That’s right.

MBS: And that’s why many organizations, maybe even most organizations have too many KPIs and OKRs and all of that sort of stuff, but just in life, that courage to say, “This is what I’m saying yes to, and here’s the opportunity cost. And I’m acknowledging it and I’m still willing to say yes.” So, it really forces your understanding of the equation rather than what many of us do it just keep adding yeses to our lives, so it’s just even more overwhelming and we’re falling short even more of the commitments that we might make.

BB: I know nothing about this. Nothing.

MBS: I know, you may have heard of SOS, the shiny object syndrome. I have the shiny object syndrome as well, so we’ve got all these structures built around me so that my team would be terrified any time I was on a long airplane trip, because I’d come back going, “Hey, I got some ideas.” They’re like, “Oh my God, this is not what we want to do here.”

BB: I don’t have SOS. I’m pretty good with the shiny object, but I have like STWS, save the world syndrome.

MBS: Oh yeah.

BB: And any time I’m on an international flight, I’m sitting in the room with Barrett right now who’s not only my chief of staff but my sister and she is laughing her ass off because when I get off of a long flight, anything over four hours, I’m like, “We’re starting all over. This project, it’s going to take us six months.” They’re like, “No, that’ll take three years, it’ll cost $100,000. No, it’ll cost $2 million.” I’m like, “But somewhere over the Atlantic, God spoke to me.” And they’re like, “Okay, alright.” So, I have the save the world syndrome, and it’s terrible. I wrote The Daring Way curriculum on a flight home from Sydney, and then we’re going to train people. This is when I called you for advice, by the way. And so they should give us some melatonin or something and knock us out before we get on those long flights, Michael, it’s not safe.

MBS: Well, you’re over the Atlantic and God’s speaking to you, God’s speaking to Barrett going, “Be warned. She’s coming, prepare your defenses now.”

BB: Now, she goes with me now, and she’s like, “Let’s watch movies together.”

MBS: That’s great. Let me give you the final question. It’s the learning question.

BB: Yeah.

MBS: If you are committed to the people in your life, whether it’s an organization or beyond an organization, to help them be the best versions of themselves, one of the most powerful ways you can think of yourself is as a teacher, somebody to help get people to be smarter. And to do that, you’ve kind of got to understand how people learn and they don’t really learn when you give them advice, kind of goes in one ear and pretty much out the other ear. Think of all the advice you’ve forgotten over the years, because that’s happening to your advice as well.

MBS: It doesn’t even really happen when they do the stuff, a little bit, it does, but not so much. The moment of learning is when you create a moment of space to reflect back on what just happened and to extract the learning. So, the learning question, which you can ask at the end of almost anything, at the end of a workshop, at the end of a meeting, at the end of a podcast, is “What was most useful or most valuable for you here? What was most useful and most valuable for you?” And the power of it, if you’re in conversation with somebody, the power of it, Brené, is A, you have them take away what was helpful, so they have to do the work to embed the inside in their own brain, but then what’s also great about it is you get feedback really, you hear what was most useful or most valuable, because there’s sometimes, you’ve probably had this, I’ve certainly had this. I’ve had meetings where I was like, “God, that was useless. I was utterly hopeless in that whole meeting, I don’t think I did anything that contributed at all. I just dragged us down every time I opened my mouth.” But if you ask the question, “What was most useful and most valuable?,” it is almost always surprising as to what lands. And that in a bigger meeting, different things land for different people.

BB: Yeah, it’s a great question. We ask it just very routinely, any time we’re getting feedback on trainings that we’re doing in organizations, “What was useful? What meant the most to you?” And not five things, just one thing.

MBS: Yeah, what was most useful is a forcing function that helps people, not just give a bit of a bland canned answer.

BB: Okay, so tell me how these seven questions are related to tell it, save it, and control it, which are the three types of advice giving monsters, right?

MBS: That’s right. Yeah, some people took those seven questions and went, “I got them, I’m using them. I love it. This is awesome, things are different. Boom, fantastic.” Some people go, “Ah, I’ve got the seven questions, I’ve printed them out, I’ve tattooed one on my forearm, it still doesn’t work, I still forget to ask questions. Why is that so hard?” And the starting point, Brené, is understanding how change works, so I’ll do this really quickly, but I think there’s two types of change, there’s easy change, and there’s hard change. Easy change, we’re all masters at, we do it all the time, you figure out something needs to be different, you learn a bit, you practice a bit, you adjust things a bit, you do it a bit more, and then you get to a level of mastery. So, we’re doing that on a kind of daily basis. A new phone, you learn how to figure that out, you have to figure out how to do Zoom calls, you figure that out, you’re cooking a new recipe, you figure that out, so easy change, you’ve got.

MBS: Hard change is a thing that we all bump up all the time and you’re like, “Why can’t I crack this?” And it’s the performance review you get every six months or every year, and they say, “Hey, Michael, you know how we wanted you to be a better communicator, you still kind of suck at communicating,” and I’m like, “I know, and I don’t know why because I’ve done the course and I watched the TED Talk and I’ve listened to podcasts, and I’ve bought 16 books and even read some of them, I can’t seem to crack it.” And what hard change requires is you needing to understand what you get from carrying on your current behavior, what are the prizes of not changing. And those are often unspoken, and what I try to do with the advice monster is I try to articulate three different ways that we have short-term wins from giving advice. So, the three advice monsters are tell it, save it, and control it.

MBS: So tell it, definitely the loudest of the three advice monsters. Tell it has convinced you that the only way that you really add value is to have all the answers. You need to have all the answers to all the things all the time. Now, there are some obvious short-term wins to that, you feel the smart person, people come to you for advice, they look up to you, even though you’re kind of getting on, you’re still “adding value” to there, “you still get a place at the table,” all of that short term stuff. You feel in control, but of course there’s a price that gets paid for that, which we’ve kind of talked about, your advice isn’t that great. You’re solving the wrong problem, you’re disempowering other people. But you have to see the wins not wins, hashtag, or the short term ego-driven benefits to start understanding the choices that you’re making. So, that’s tell it. Save it, a little more subtle, and we kind of talked a bit about this with the fixer and the rescuer, but save it is I’ve got my arm around you and I’m saying, “Hey look, your job is to make sure that nobody ever struggles or stumbles or falls or finds it difficult or has a hard time, you’ve got to protect everybody all the time.”

MBS: Your job is to rescue to everybody. And just as we said before, there’s a way that that actually feels great in a short-term, look at you, the noble martyr, bleeding out to save the world, and look how grateful people are, you think that you’re coming to help them out. And by the way, look how many fingers you’ve got in how many other people’s pie, isn’t that great? So, that is the short-term ego stuff, but there’s a price you pay, we’ve talked about disempowerment, we’ve talked about how rescuers create victims and rescuers create persecutors, and then control it. Control it is like, “Look, the only way you win is you keep your hands on the steering wheel, don’t let anybody else in, there’s no leaning in around here,” it’s like you make sure you control it from the start through the middle to the end. Don’t give up control of this conversation, of this situation.

MBS: And of course, the short-term wins are pretty obvious, which are you’re in control, you’re the boss, people do what you say, you minimize randomness, you minimize chaos, but the price that gets paid is disempowerment, exhaustion. And also just not ever allowing the kind of the serendipity of life in the future to come in and change the way that you work.

BB: I’ve got tell it with control rising.

MBS: For me, it’s control it, with save it rising. I’ve kind of learned to slow down on my advice just because I’ve got such a long track record of giving people terrible advice, you being one of those people, Brené, but those other ones I’m still seeing showing up on a pretty regular basis.

BB: I have to say that you gave me great advice on that call. I mean, you did, you asked me a bunch of questions, and then I do remember you asking me a question that we haven’t talked about today, but I remember you saying something like, “What is your greatest fear or concern if you move forward in this direction?” I think is what you asked me. It was a really good question. And I think I said, “The degradation of the work, every circle it’s removed from me.”

MBS: Yeah, exactly.

BB: And you said, “In my experience, that can and will happen.”

MBS: Exactly, that’s right.

BB: But I did it until it did happen, but you did ask me a lot of questions, you didn’t launch into a tell it or you certainly weren’t controlling it or saving me. But you did share your personal experience with me, but you did ask me what my fear was, and I didn’t even know what my fear was until you asked me that, so it was helpful.

MBS: Thank you.

BB: Yeah, so here’s the thing, taming the advice monster is all about, can you stay curious a little bit longer? I thought in our last time together before we get to rapid fire, I would like your advice on something, and so I’m wondering if we can role play that.

MBS: Sure.

BB: Would you be willing to do that with me?

MBS: Totally. Tell me what’s on your mind.

BB: I hold a million pieces of context and connective tissue about what’s going on across the organization, and not sharing it is getting in people’s way of doing great work, and it’s making people feel less connected in what they do every day to the bigger picture.

MBS: Yeah.

BB: I don’t know how to fix it.

MBS: No, and that feels like a hard thing, I feel that myself, so I totally get that. What’s the challenge for you, in this, do you think, Brené?

BB: Honestly. I thought I was going to say time. But I don’t think that’s the challenge and I don’t know if I can articulate the challenge well. It’s the energy it takes to translate what makes total sense to me and is perfectly connected and in context, to articulate that in words to other people. It’s like it’s almost an energy issue as much as a time issue, does that make sense?

MBS: It totally does. So, you’ve got, I think maybe even two things there, one is just the energy it takes, second is the articulation of it as well, and they’re kind of connected. What else is a challenge here for you, do you think?

BB: This is a challenge, at least feels like a challenge to me. I think my primary role at this point in our organization is context and connective tissue and adding color and helping people understand how a million different things that we’re doing fit together, and I’m failing at it.

MBS: Right.

BB: I’m just not doing it. And then I can get resentful because people don’t understand the bigger picture.

MBS: Right. Damn it, can’t you just read my mind?

BB: Yes, that’s it.

MBS: Do a mind meld?

BB: Yes, the mind meld, I need a mind meld.

MBS: That by the way is not my advice, because I’m not sure how to pull that off.

BB: Yeah, but if it was, that’d be good.

MBS: Yeah, it would be good. Those are all real things. Is there anything else here that feels like a challenge for you, Brené?

BB: I have a real expectation that everyone in the company stops for what we call the five Cs, which is context, connective tissue, color, cost, and consequence and I’m not modeling what. I want people to do.

MBS: Got it.

BB: And they don’t even have the data to do it if it’s not starting with me.

MBS: Oh, I hear you. So, look, all of those feel really real, if there was one of them that feels most real at the moment, there’s energy, there’s articulation, there’s the time, this kind of sense of failure for them, but also the sense of struggling to role model it yourself. Is there one of those that feels kind of most hot for you right now, most important?

BB: I’m thinking. This should be a primary part of my job, what am I doing every day that’s not allowing me the time and energy to do it?

MBS: So, what’s the challenge for you in finding the time to do this? Or the challenge for making this a primary part of your job.

BB: A lack of discipline, around prioritizing.

MBS: Yeah.

BB: Okay, well.

MBS: Anything else?

BB: No. No, that’s hard, that’s hard. I wonder how much harder we’re all working because we’re not prioritizing the time to do that, so that’s hard. Yeah, it’s discipline.

MBS: It’s interesting the distinction between time and discipline, and they can maybe be the same, but they could be different as well.

BB: Yeah.

MBS: If I pause for a moment, Brené, and I go look, part of what’s happening here is you got to a place and an insight around discipline for you, and part of how the conversation has shifted is it started off by going, “This isn’t happening within this organization,” and now the for you questions have helped you go, “But it’s my discipline around this.” If we had more time or we could do it, if you’d like, I could go, “So what’s the challenge for you in finding the discipline to do this?” And you can see that we can just keep going a little bit further around here.

BB: Yeah, no, I think… Yeah, I mean, that’s the question I’m going to leave this conversation with is, “What is the discipline? What would it look like? And what’s the cost?” I mean, time is finite. And so I think it’s left me with a very different question than when I started actually, because I thought you were going to give me an acronym.

MBS: Right.

BB: I thought you were going to say, “No. What you need to do is there’s a great hack where you start meetings with, you stand on your head and spit nickels. And then if you do that twice in a row, then everybody already knows the context.” I thought you were going to give me a hack, but it…

MBS: I have that hack, Brené, but I see that as my competitive advantage over you, so there’s no way I’m sharing that with you.

BB: I have to say that one of the things that I find so interesting about your work and about this whole, can you stay curious a little bit longer, is how effing generous it feels on the receiving end of someone asking thought-provoking compelling questions that most of the world doesn’t give a shit about asking you.

MBS: Yeah.

BB: Do you know what I mean?

MBS: I do, and also, I hope… And people listening may have seen this, is just also the generosity of allowing silence to be there.

BB: Oh yeah.

MBS: Because silence makes lots of people uncomfortable, it makes me uncomfortable. Honestly, I’m sitting here sweating slightly after that conversation, because there was silence, but I’ve just learned that one of the most generous acts you can do is just give people three minutes of thinking time. Just about in a maybe three or five minute conversation, and it was just time for you to figure stuff out in your own brain, and me chipping in with stuff just dilutes that, diminishes that. And so my job is just to sit there and try and feel the discomfort of your silence, and the discomfort of me going, “Oh my God, I do this, too. I have some ideas, I have some things that I’ve tried around this,” so wanting to give advice, but going, it just doesn’t really serve the other person.

BB: No, because I think. I think I need to grapple with time and energy and discipline.

MBS: Of the seven questions we talked about, the question I’d ask you to sit with is, “So what do you want?”


BB: Yeah, that’s… I don’t know. The first answer that came to my head, I know you’re going to be like, “Huh,” if you were my therapist, I could say this but I’ll talk to my therapist about this tomorrow morning, I would say “To play pickleball and rest.”

MBS: Right. And do you know you have an obsession with Pickleball at the moment, so I get that. So that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because that suddenly becomes another conversation.

BB: Yeah.

MBS: And one that fits in the context of, how do I help connection and context work across a diverse company with a ton of different initiatives going, people being busy and committed and working hard, and there’s a hunger you have for pickleball and rest, and then you can go, “Okay, man, that’s a great answer.” What’s the challenge for you here then, in creating context and finding pickleball and rest?

BB: I’m looking at Barrett who’s sitting with me who’s just grinning like, “Don’t look over here, stay focused on the podcast,” like I don’t know, but I think that is the… I think it would lead me to thinking that… I don’t know. I’m really going to have to think about it, Michael, because it’s a question where probably coming out of COVID, I’m tired, and I need some down time because I haven’t had time off in a really long time. And I think I need to be thoughtful about the highest and best use of my time, what can I and only I do, and what are things that I’m doing that I should be trusting other people to do? And what’s getting in the way there, and now we’re right in my personal shit.

MBS: Exactly, and it’s a much more interesting conversation than, “Here’s a quick acronym on how to communicate context differently.”

BB: I’m going to go with door B, the acronym.

MBS: Okay look I appreciate you even doing this and role modeling it for people, it’s really powerful for people listening in.

BB: Yeah, the role modeling is so helpful for me when I hear other people do it. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t make up this problem and I didn’t make up the, what do I want, pickleball and a nap.

MBS: No.

BB: So, I think it’s important to understand, and I just have to say that the word that just keeps coming to me is I don’t leave normally when people give me advice feeling deeply grateful, and I was the… This has a real servant leadership feel to it, it has a real generosity feel. And I can feel just not hear, but I can feel the subtext of you trust me to be able to not just identify what my challenges are, but you trust me to know the answers better than anyone else, given the space and thought partnership to do that.

MBS: Yeah, I do. And I also want to know that you and anybody who I work with, I don’t want you to feel like you’re walking this alone. I just want to walk beside you rather than in front of you, and you may not actually have all of the answers, and that’s fine. But if you figure out what the right question is, then getting the answers is actually much more helpful. If there’s something here and you kind of land on, this is the nut we’ve got to crack. Now, you’re getting advice about something that really matters, so you can go to Barrett, you can go, “Barrett, help me with this. Let’s think about this, you’re a trusted resource you’re my Chief of Staff, give me your suggestions and thoughts around that.” But because you’re now working on the thing that matters most, the advice when it shows up is going to be advice that lands.

MBS: Now, if I was Barrett and you guys said, “Barrett, we’ve got the problem now, this is great, what should we do?” If I was Barrett, I’d be going, “Brené, we do have the problem. What do you reckon, what’s your first ideas on how we should solve this?” And you’ll have some for sure. And then Barrett will go, “And what else could you do?” And you’ll have some more and then Barrett will go “Brilliant, what else could you do?” And you’re like, “I’ve got this idea as well,” and then Barrett might go, “These are all great. I’ve got a couple of ideas as well.”

MBS: So there’s a way that she can bring advice and contribute, but it’s still allowing the other person to hold the weight and responsibility of their own life. And if you can contribute to that while still allowing them to keep holding that precious object, then that is something that nourishes everybody.

BB: That’s really good, man. It is so good. I love reading these two books together. So, The Coaching Habit first, and then The Advice Trap, this is really good, Michael, and I’m so grateful that you jumped into this role play. I know we didn’t talk about it ahead of time, but it’s interesting because you didn’t have to have prep because you didn’t have to have answers, you just had to have some genuine care and affection for me, and a willingness to listen and ask questions and get curious.

MBS: That’s right.

BB: I think we all have that. I think if we don’t care for or have a connection with the people we lead, we probably shouldn’t be leading them.

MBS: I love that episode you just recorded, which is around if you don’t have affection for the other person, you can’t lead them, I thought that was really powerful to hear.

BB: No, because holding space is no joke.

MBS: Yeah, yeah.

BB: Alright, you ready for the rapid fire questions?

MBS: Totally.

BB: I should say number one, how do I share context without using…

MBS: I see what you’re doing there, Brené, I see it.

BB: Okay, I’m just bullshitting you. Okay, you ready? Number one…

MBS: Yes.

BB: Fill in the blank. Vulnerability is…

MBS: Just a terrible idea, and everybody should stop listening to Brené immediately about… No, I’m kidding. I’ve been thinking about it. It’s a phrase from a song, it’s like “Beyond the breakers, it’s a deeper water calling you on.”

BB: God. It is the deep water, isn’t it? Beautiful. Okay, what is something that people often get wrong about you?

MBS: In my small circle of people who I really care about and who know me, unfortunately, they don’t get much wrong about me, I wish they did, but they see me all too clearly. And then outside that, I don’t really know and I don’t really think about it too much because it’s like people make stuff up and sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s not… And that’s all okay, I can’t do much about it.

BB: Amen. Okay, this is a funny question, given that we’re talking about The Advice Trap, what’s one piece of leadership advice that you’ve been given that’s really remarkable, so remarkable in fact that you need to share it with us or so shitty that you need to warn us about it?

MBS: The piece of leadership advice that was most powerful that I heard was a boss of mine saying, “Michael, you are a force for good.” And what I take from that is, it was a moment of feeling very seen and seen in a way that I couldn’t yet see myself, and kind of calling me forward to that, so that ability to speak to who somebody is rather than what they’re doing or what they’ve done, is a really powerful leadership act.

BB: Amen. Okay, what is the hard leadership lesson that the universe just keeps putting in front of you that you have to keep learning and relearning and unlearning and relearning?

MBS: I listened to your interview with Neil Pasricha in his 3 Books podcast. One of the phrases that you talked about was, “You’ve learned to be kind, not nice.” And I love that in part because kind has an etymology, a root around family, and is a way of a commitment at that level… And I’ve just had to learn that… I’m still learning endlessly that lesson, which is, I just don’t like conflict a whole lot, and when things aren’t going that well, my preference is just to go, “La La La La La” with my fingers in my ears, and hope that it’s somehow magically resolves itself. And I’m just trying to be more and more courageous about naming the thing that’s not working, and with a spirit of generosity going, “We need to do something here.”

BB: I love that. Okay, what’s one thing that you’re really excited about right now?

MBS: There’s a lot of things I’m quite excited about. Right at this very moment, I’ve just submitted the second draft of the next book, which is called How To Start, and it actually doesn’t suck too much…

BB: Oh, God, yes.

MBS: Second drafts normally suck worse than first drafts…

BB: Yes.

MBS: But actually I’m like, “You know what? I can feel the shape of this book.” I feel like it’s got an arc to it and a story to it, and leanness to it. So I’m pretty excited about that.

BB: I love that feeling. I love that feeling when you’re like, “There’s a book inside this book, I see it.”


MBS: Exactly. There’s a lot of hacking away yet to go and polishing and sanding, but there’s some there there.

BB: There’s some there there. Well, we can’t wait to read it.

MBS: Yeah.

BB: Okay, tell me one thing you’re deeply grateful for right now.

MBS: It’s just such a freaking miracle that I exist in this planet at this time, it really is… I’m not a religious person, but I can’t help but think… There’s a book by a guy called Bill Bryson it’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s about science.

BB: Oh yeah…

MBS: And I love it because in part it just speaks to how ridiculous it is that Earth exists… I mean, so here’s a random thing, I’m grateful for the moon. Why am I grateful for the moon? Well, it’s beautiful, for sure, but how moon is the biggest moon in our solar system. It’s massive compared to all the other moons against all the other planets. Why does that even matter? Well, the Moon is what keeps the Earth’s axis stable. Why does that matter? Because if it didn’t have a stable axis, we wouldn’t have seasons, if we didn’t have seasons, we wouldn’t have civilization because we couldn’t grow food and we couldn’t have cities and we couldn’t end up being on a podcast with Brené Brown. So there are so many things that are just like ridiculously unlikely, and yet they’ve happened, and I’m grateful for basically all of that.

BB: God, a sense of wonder is a really powerful thing, isn’t it?

MBS: Yeah. Yeah.

BB: Okay, we asked you for five songs that you can’t live without…

MBS: Yes.

BB: So we can put your mini mix tape up on Spotify…

MBS: Yes.

BB: Here are your songs, “Picture in a Frame,” by Tom Waits, “Boots of Spanish Leather,” which was originally sung by Bob Dylan, but you like the version by The Lumineers, “Deeper Water,” by Paul Kelly, “Sweet Dreams,” by Annie Lennox, and “Kiss” by Prince. In one sentence, what does this mini mix tape say about you?

MBS: Well, you might say that I stop listening to new music after about 1984, but…


MBS: Which is embarrassing, but here’s what I think it says, it says about me that love is about knowing what to hold on to and knowing what to let go of, and dancing.

BB: And dancing. Michael, thank you so much for being on the podcast, and thank you for dancing with me in this role play, and thank you for helping us understand our advice monster, and maybe what’s driving it and some tools to shift from… “I got this because I need to have it, because it fulfills a need in me” to “Staying curious a little bit longer.”

MBS: Thank you, Brené.


BB: Okay. What about this role play? What’s on your mind? I mean, let me tell you, I’m going to do things different. After this conversation, I’m going to think about things. I have a big ass advice monster, big, big, and it’s not a… You don’t have to be Freud to think, “Wow, it can be very dangerous for me because I can sometimes see my value based on how much advice I can give and not helpful, I want to be known for my great questions, not my great answers.” So I loved this episode, you can find Michael online at on Facebook, and Michael Bungay Stanier on LinkedIn. His websites are and He leads a program called The Year of Living Brilliantly, a 52-week no-cost program with 52 diverse teachers with two to six minute videos each week, we’ll include all this information and how you can find him on our episode page on brené Just a reminder that all of our episodes, both podcasts have episode pages on brené where you can download links, resources, and grab transcripts, thanks for being here and thanks for bearing witness to my vulnerable role play.

BB: Now you know what I’m struggling with, which I think, don’t, I guess this is not new news. I guess this is really not new news, I think I tell you pretty much what I’m struggling with. Alright, awkward, brave, and kind in solidarity always, I’ll see y’all next time.


BB: The Dare to Lead podcast is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown, produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and by Weird Lucy Productions, sound design by Kristen Acevedo and Andy Waits. And the music is by The Suffers.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, April 26). Brené with Michael Bungay Stanier on The Advice Trap and Staying Curious Just a Little Longer. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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