The High Lonesome

The High Lonesome


“We don’t derive our strength from our rugged individualism, but rather from our collective ability to plan, communicate, and work together. Our neural, hormonal, and genetic makeup support interdependence over independence… we are wired for belonging” — Brene Brown

As I went to type this post, a friend shared a video of a lecture Dr. Brown gave at the National Cathedral, that is essentially this portion of her book in a 20-minute clip. Therefore, if you are a listener, rather than a reader, just go here and we’ll see you next time.

If you’re still here, hello! And welcome back to our book discussion on Braving the Wilderness, our guiding text for this month’s intention. The main thrust of this chapter is to face two facts: we, as humans, are wired for connection, and we, as Americans, like to pretend we’re not. BB (as I’m going to call her in these posts) meticulously presents research data from both her own team and other scholars talking about human connectivity. As the quote above argues, we are hard wired for interdependence. The cowboy/bootstrap narrative that Americans have bought into is completely contrary to how humans have lived and should live. When you mix that piece of American culture in with the other dividing factors at play in the world right now – social media, echo chambers, politics, etc – and we’ve all gone so deep in our own trenches that it’s hard to see how we’ll come back from it.

But we have to.

Because this is not the way we’re meant to live.

It’s not sustainable.

This spiritual crisis we’re in as a culture – she calls it the High Lonesome. The crisis of disconnection is real and it is having real consequences. It’s driven by fear – fear of others, fear of the unknown, fear of fear. The only way through this crisis is through it and we, as leaders, have got to reclaim connectivity.

Over the next several chapters, BB is going to lay out how she proposes we do that and those chapters are the meat of this book. We’ll be diving through them slowly, as a meditation, and inviting other voices into how we make it all practically work. For now, I want to leave you with this:

You are not capable of doing it alone. “Doing it alone” is not impressive, it’s imbalance. Embrace connectivity – which is driven by authenticity and vulnerability. It’s hard. Doing life alone is sometimes easier in the moment, but crippling in the long run.

In an organization, this may seem easier since people have tasks and roles, but the loneliness can be just as crippling. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re not sure how to make payroll next week, there is someone in your life who can walk through that puzzle with you. If you’re a parent and your kid is going off the rails, there are people who know how to get them back on. If you’re in an abusive relationships, there are people who can help you plan a new future. If everything is going so very well at the moment, there are people who want to celebrate with you. Opening yourself up is risky, sure, but for all that is holy, it is necessary.

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