Dare to Lead: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of Dare to Lead containing key details about the book.

What is Dare to Lead About?

Dare To Lead teaches us that daring leadership requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts. The book intends to answer the question, "How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?", with the use of research, stories, and examples gathered by the author herself.

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Who is the Author of Dare to Lead?

Dr. Brené Brown is a bestselling author and a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. She also holds the position of visiting professor in management at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business.

What are key takeaways from Dare to Lead?

Takeaway #1: Vulnerability Is An Asset

Feeling vulnerable is a common human emotion felt during times of uncertainty as well as when we open ourselves up to others but it’s not anything to be ashamed of. Rather than thinking of vulnerability as a weakness and allowing the feelings of self-protection to take over, the key is to think of vulnerability as being an asset.

In practical terms, it’s impossible to carry out a courageous act without first stepping into vulnerability. In 2014 Brené Brown asked a room full of special forces military personnel whether anyone had carried out or witnessed a courageous act that did not require them to feel vulnerable. None of the tough soldiers could come up with an example of being courageous without also feeling vulnerable first.

Being vulnerable is paramount to our creativity, our health, our relationships, and our growth. Unfortunately, due to our Western culture believing that being vulnerable means being weak, most of us struggle to embrace (what we perceive as) failure, learn from it, and use it as a stepping stone to success.

Takeaway #2: The Truth Hurts But Is Necessary

All leaders should be honest and clear in their daily communications whether at work or at home but unfortunately, it’s something that many of us shy away from, not wanting to upset or anger the other person or make ourselves feel uncomfortable. We may think it’s kinder to give people a half-truth but just as we have been misled to think vulnerability equates to weakness, by avoiding confrontational yet honest conversations, we’re reducing productivity and setting the other person up for failure since we usually blame and resent people for not delivering later down the line despite us having never told them clearly and concisely what we want of them.

As well as being honest and clear, leaders also need to spend a significant amount of time discussing fears and feelings with their team and truly listening to the feedback they give. In order to get the truth from people rather than just what you want to hear / what they think you want to hear, you need to keep quiet as much as possible, leaving the other person with enough time to speak. A little silence goes a long way as it will make them feel uncomfortable enough to want to fill that silence with their true thoughts on the matter. As they speak, don’t automatically come up with a response whether in your mind or said our loud - you need to concentrate on truly listening to and understanding their concerns. Allow some time to ponder the subject before jumping to an answer.

Takeaway #3: Core Values Are Needed for Daring Leadership

The strength to carry on, try again, and face the office the following day comes not just from grit and determination but from your core values. The most successful and courageous leaders are risk-takers who are clear about their values, these values acting as a ‘guiding light’ during dark difficult times.

Make a list of your core values and then highlight the two that are the most important to you. Brené Brown selected courage and faith as her two key values but yours could be very different. Two is the magic number due to Brené discovering that leaders with 10 or more values were less able to demonstrate vulnerability and courage due to feeling overwhelmed on what action to take, none of the core values being the driving force of their behavior and just a bunch of words written down that made them feel good.

Takeaway #4: Failure Teaches Bravery

In the same way that you wouldn’t teach a skydiver how to land after they’d jumped out of a plane, leaders shouldn’t be taught resilience after a crisis. Teaching resilience early on, as part of a wider training course or during an onboarding process, means that employees are going to be more confident, courageous, and therefore, more successful due to knowing that failures are normal but that they can handle and bounce back from any setbacks they encounter.

Rather than worrying that you’re teaching employees to have low expectations due to a ‘you will fail’ attitude, know that resilience training is not about setting someone up to fail but about setting them up for bravery. Be mindful of the “Fail Fast” mentality - you do not want your employees to fail without the so-called safety net of resilience training as this could scare and shame them into never feeling confident enough to be brave again and therefore never reaching their full potential.

Takeaway #5: If You’re a Perfectionist You’re Not Courageous

We learn as kids to protect ourselves from feeling hurt, disappointed and diminished by using our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to build a protective wall around us. One of the most prevalent self-protection mechanisms comes in the form of perfectionism but great leaders are not perfect since you have to be vulnerable to be courageous - something the perfectionists fear the most!

We are taught that striving for excellence (perfectionism) is a good thing at school but in reality, perfectionism is dangerous with the constant need to win approval and people-please not to mention the fear of criticism and failure which leads to missed opportunities and mental paralysis plus anxiety, depression, and addiction.

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It is possible to have a healthy drive for success without being a perfectionist though, you just have to take a chance and jump into life.

Takeaway #6: Elevate Trust

There are 7 behaviors that encourage trust and that should be deployed to improve working relationships and our strengths. They can be remembered with the acronym BRAVING:

B = Boundaries. Respect other people’s boundaries and if unsure of those boundaries, ask the person if it’s ok. The other person needs to feel comfortable with you enough to say no if it’s not ok.

R = Reliability. Do you do what you say you will? Are you aware of your abilities and limitations? Leaders should not overpromise nor under-deliver on the commitments they’ve made.

A = Accountability. Own your mistakes, say sorry, and make amends wherever possible.

V = Vault. You’re a vault of information that people have shared with you but it’s vital you don’t share information given to you in confidence.

I = Integrity. Practice what you preach - Choose courage over comfort and do what’s right over what’s easy, immoral, fun, or improper.

N = Non-Judgement. People need to be able to tell you the truth or ask for help without you judging them.

G = Generosity. Always be generous with your words, actions, and intentions towards others. Look for the best in people, not the worst.

Book details

  • Print length: 332 Pages
  • Audiobook: 8 hrs and 10 mins
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Leadership, Business

What are the chapters in Dare to Lead?

Part One: Rumbling with Vulnerability
Part Two: Living into Our Values
Part Three: Braving Trust
Part Four: Learning to Rise

What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • Vulnerability as a Strength: Brown emphasizes the importance of embracing vulnerability as a leader. Rather than seeing vulnerability as a weakness, it can be a source of strength, connection, and authenticity in relationships and leadership.
  • Courageous Leadership: The book encourages leaders to show up with courage and embrace discomfort. Courageous leaders are willing to take risks, make difficult decisions, and have tough conversations, even when it feels challenging or uncertain.
  • Empathy and Connection: Brown emphasizes the significance of empathy and fostering genuine connections as essential aspects of effective leadership. Leaders who can understand and relate to the experiences and emotions of others can create a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation.
  • Building Trust: Trust is a crucial element in successful leadership. Brown discusses the importance of trust-building behaviors such as reliability, accountability, integrity, and maintaining confidentiality. Trustworthy leaders create an environment where people feel safe to contribute and take risks.
  • Setting Clear Boundaries: Boundaries are essential for leaders to establish and maintain healthy relationships. Leaders need to communicate expectations, clarify roles, and set appropriate boundaries to create a respectful and productive work environment.
  • Cultivating Resilience: Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and failures. The book explores the importance of cultivating resilience as a leader, learning from failures, and encouraging a growth mindset within teams.
  • Wholeheartedness: Wholeheartedness refers to showing up authentically, embracing imperfections, and being vulnerable in relationships and leadership. Leaders who lead with their whole hearts are more likely to inspire and motivate others.

Dare To Lead Summary Notes

Here are some detailed summary notes from the book:

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#1. The importance of vulnerability in leadership

Brené Brown argues that vulnerability is essential for leaders who want to build strong relationships with their team members. She uses colorful language to describe the various ways that vulnerability can manifest, from sharing personal stories to asking for help when needed.

Brown emphasizes that vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather a sign of strength and courage. Brown encourages us to embrace vulnerability as a strength, highlighting that it takes courage to show our true selves and be open to the possibility of rejection or failure. She challenges us to reframe our thinking and view vulnerability as a way to connect with others and build deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Vulnerability is like gravity – it's a natural force that we can't escape. Just as objects are pulled towards the earth by gravity, we are pulled towards vulnerability by our own innate human nature. And just as we can't escape gravity, we can't escape vulnerability either – it's a fundamental part of who we are as human beings.

By embracing vulnerability, we can cultivate a sense of authenticity and live more fulfilling lives. She urges leaders to embrace vulnerability and use it as a tool for connecting with others and creating a culture of trust and openness.

#2. navigating our emotions with grace

The book argues that in order to be effective leaders, we must learn to recognize and engage with our emotions in a healthy way. Brown explains that emotions are like the warning lights on a car dashboard - they signal when something is wrong and needs attention. By learning to pay attention to our emotions and understand what they are telling us, we can make better decisions and communicate more effectively with others.

However, Brown also acknowledges that engaging with our emotions can be difficult, especially when we are dealing with challenging situations. She provides practical strategies for managing difficult emotions, such as taking a pause and reflecting on our values and priorities. By learning to navigate our emotions with grace and self-awareness, we can become better leaders and build stronger relationships with those around us.

#3. Using "Armory" effectively

Most often than not, we armor ourselves against vulnerability but that armor can prevent us from being effective leaders. Brown argues that we all have an "armory" that we use to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or exposed. This armory can take many forms, such as perfectionism, cynicism, or even aggression.

One of the key points that Brown makes is that the armory can be both helpful and harmful. On the one hand, our armory can protect us from emotional pain and discomfort. But on the other hand, it can also prevent us from being open and honest with ourselves and others. In order to be effective leaders, we need to be able to recognize when we're using our armor and when it's preventing us from connecting with others.

Just as a turtle has a hard shell to protect itself, we all have emotional armor that we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability. But just as a turtle needs to be able to come out of its shell in order to move and connect with the world around it, we need to be able to take off our armor and be vulnerable in order to be effective leaders. By acknowledging our armor and learning to be vulnerable, we can create deeper connections with our teams and inspire them to be their best selves.

#4. Empathy as the antidote to shame

Brené Brown argues that shame is a powerful emotion that can hold us back from living our best lives. Shame can make us feel unworthy, unlovable, and disconnected from others. But empathy, on the other hand, can help us break down these barriers and connect with others on a deeper level.

Brown describes empathy as the antidote to shame. By showing empathy towards ourselves and others, we can begin to break down the walls of shame that hold us back. Empathy allows us to recognize our own struggles and those of others, and to respond with kindness and compassion. It's not always easy to show empathy, especially when we're dealing with difficult emotions like shame or fear. But according to Brown, empathy is essential for building meaningful relationships and creating a more connected world.

#5. Living into our values

In order to be effective leaders, we need to be clear about our values and live into them. But what does that mean, exactly For starters, it means taking the time to identify our core values. This can be a difficult process, but it's an essential one. We need to reflect on what really matters to us, what drives us, and what we stand for. Once we've identified our values, we need to make sure that we're living into them in every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally.

Living into our values requires courage and vulnerability. It means being willing to stand up for what we believe in, even when it's difficult or unpopular. It means being willing to have difficult conversations and make tough decisions that align with our values. But when we live into our values, we create a sense of authenticity and integrity that inspires trust and respect from those around us. And that's what true leadership is all about.

#6. BRAVING trust

BRAVING trust is a framework developed by Brené Brown to help individuals understand the key components of trust and how to build it in their relationships. BRAVING is an acronym that stands for boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity. According to Brown, trust is essential to effective leadership, and BRAVING provides a practical roadmap for building trust with others.

Boundaries are the foundation of trust, and leaders who set and maintain clear boundaries are more likely to earn the trust of their team members. Reliability is also crucial, as leaders who consistently follow through on their commitments demonstrate that they can be counted on. Accountability is another key component of trust, as leaders who take responsibility for their mistakes and make amends when necessary build trust with their team members. The other components of BRAVING, including the vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity, all contribute to building trust and creating a culture of openness, honesty, and collaboration. By focusing on BRAVING, leaders can develop stronger relationships with their team members and create a more positive and productive work environment.

#7. Boundaries as a bridge for trust

Boundaries are extremely important in building trust and fostering healthy relationships. Brené Brown emphasizes the need for leaders to be clear about their boundaries, and to communicate them effectively to their team members.

Brown argues that setting boundaries is essential for building trust because it demonstrates a willingness to be honest and assertive, even when it may be uncomfortable or difficult. By setting clear boundaries, leaders can avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that can undermine trust and erode relationships over time.

At the same time, Brown acknowledges that setting boundaries is not always easy. It requires leaders to be clear and consistent in their communication, while also being open to feedback and input from others. But by taking the time to set clear boundaries and communicate them effectively, leaders can create a culture of trust and respect that benefits everyone involved.

#8. Demonstrating reliability

Reliability is also a crucial aspect of building trust in relationships. Brené Brown argues that reliability is about doing what you say you're going to do, over and over again. It's about being consistent and dependable, and following through on commitments.

To be reliable, Brown explains, you need to set clear expectations. This means being clear about what you can and can't do, and being willing to say no when necessary. It also means being proactive about communicating with others and keeping them in the loop about any changes or updates.

Reliability is especially important in leadership, where others are counting on you to lead by example and set the tone for the team. By demonstrating reliability, leaders can create a culture of trust and dependability that leads to greater success and collaboration.

#9. Creating a culture of responsibility

Dare to Lead explores the importance of accountability in building trust. Brené Brown argues that accountability is a crucial component of effective leadership, as it allows team members to rely on one another and to trust that everyone is working towards the same goals. However, accountability can be a challenging concept to implement in practice.

One of the key points that Brown makes in this chapter is that accountability requires vulnerability. Leaders who are willing to admit their mistakes and shortcomings, and hold themselves accountable for their actions, are more likely to inspire their team members to do the same. This requires a willingness to be honest and open, even when it's uncomfortable or difficult.

Another important aspect of accountability is, as mentioned, setting clear expectations and boundaries. Leaders who communicate their expectations clearly and consistently are more likely to build trust with their team members and to avoid misunderstandings. This requires a willingness to be assertive and to hold team members accountable for meeting their obligations. By doing so, leaders can create a culture of responsibility and ownership that leads to greater success for everyone involved.

#10. The importance of the Vault

What is the Vault, you ask? Well, according to Brené Brown, it's a metaphorical container that we use to hold the stories, secrets, and struggles of others. Essentially, the Vault is a way of demonstrating that we can be trusted with sensitive information and that we will keep it confidential.

Brown argues that the Vault is an essential component of BRAVING trust, which stands for Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment, and Generosity. Without the Vault, we can't build trust with others, which makes it difficult to lead effectively. Brown provides a number of strategies for maintaining the Vault, including keeping confidences, avoiding gossip, and being mindful of what we share with others.

By building the Vault, we demonstrate our commitment to building strong relationships and earning the trust of our team members. It's not always easy, and there are certainly times when we may be tempted to break someone's trust, but by staying true to our commitments and demonstrating our reliability, we can build lasting trust and create the right culture.

#11. Nonjudgment as a key component of building trust

Nonjudgment, as defined by Brené Brown, is the practice of assuming the best intentions of others and approaching them without preconceived notions or biases.Brown argues that practicing nonjudgment is essential for building trust and creating a culture of openness and honesty. When we approach others with a nonjudgmental attitude, we create a space where people feel safe to be themselves and share their ideas and perspectives without fear of criticism or rejection.

Practicing nonjudgment can be challenging, particularly in situations where we feel threatened or vulnerable. However, by making a conscious effort to assume the best intentions of others and approach them with an open mind, we can create deeper, more meaningful connections with those around us. Ultimately, nonjudgment is about choosing to see the best in others and fostering a culture of respect, kindness, and empathy.

#12. The importance of generosity in building trust

Brené Brown argues that generosity is not just about giving money or gifts; it's about showing up for others, being kind, and practicing empathy. According to Brown, generosity is closely linked to trust because it involves showing others that we are willing to put their needs ahead of our own. This requires vulnerability and a willingness to take risks, but the payoff is a deeper sense of connection and belonging with others.

Brown provides practical strategies for practicing generosity in our daily lives, such as expressing gratitude, listening actively, and offering help to others. By embodying these qualities, leaders can create a culture of generosity that inspires trust and fosters growth and success for everyone involved.

#13. The importance of listening and storytelling

Brené Brown argues that storytelling is a powerful tool for creating connection, building trust, and inspiring action. She highlights the role of vulnerability in effective storytelling, noting that it requires courage to share our own stories with others. Brown also emphasizes the importance of listening as a key part of storytelling. Leaders who take the time to listen to the stories of their team members are more likely to build trust and understanding. She suggests that leaders should seek out diverse perspectives and be open to feedback and criticism.

What are some examples of leaders who embody the principles in Dare to Lead?

Here are a few examples. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, is known for leading with empathy and compassion, as seen in her response to the Christchurch mosque shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, promotes a culture of empathy and inclusion in the workplace, while also driving innovation and growth. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has demonstrated grace under pressure and a commitment to sustainability. And Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has led the company to new heights while advocating for privacy and environmental sustainability. These leaders inspire us to be our best selves and to lead with authenticity and empathy.

How does Dare to Lead differ from other leadership books?

When it comes to leadership books, "Dare to Lead" stands out from the pack. Why? Well, for one thing, it's not your typical "do this, don't do that" kind of book. Instead, it takes a more holistic approach to leadership, focusing not just on the external behaviors of leaders, but also on their internal world - their thoughts, feelings, and values.

Another thing that sets "Dare to Lead" apart is its emphasis on vulnerability. Instead of telling leaders to be invincible superheroes, the book encourages them to embrace their humanity and show their weaknesses. It may sound counterintuitive, but research has shown that vulnerability actually makes leaders more effective and more relatable.

Finally, "Dare to Lead" isn't just about leading others - it's also about leading yourself. The book emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and self-care, recognizing that you can't lead others effectively if you're not taking care of yourself first.

What are some common misconceptions about leadership that Dare to Lead challenges?

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it means to be a leader, and "Dare to Lead" is here to set the record straight. One of the biggest misconceptions is that leadership is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. But the truth is, leadership is as unique as the individuals who practice it.

Another myth is that leaders have to have all the answers. But the reality is, the best leaders are the ones who are willing to admit when they don't know something and who empower their team to find the answers together.

And let's not forget about the idea that leaders have to be fearless. In reality, leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and who show their humanity are often the most effective.

How can Dare to Lead help us become better leaders?

To lead, we need to have the courage to take risks and make tough decisions. And that's exactly what "Dare to Lead" teaches us. This book gives us the tools and confidence to be effective leaders, ones who inspire and empowers their team to achieve great things. But it's not just about being brave and decisive, we also need to be empathetic and vulnerable. And that's where "Dare to Lead" really shines. This book shows us how to cultivate empathy, build trust, and create a culture of psychological safety that encourages our team to take risks and innovate.

What are some key practical strategies outlined in Dare to Lead for improving leadership skills?

One strategy that really stands out is the importance of vulnerability in leadership. According to Brown, leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and show their human side are more likely to gain the trust and respect of their team.

Another key strategy is the power of empathy. Leaders who take the time to understand and empathize with their team members are more likely to create a positive and productive work environment.

Finally, the book emphasizes the importance of courage. As Brown puts it, "courage is contagious." Leaders who are willing to take risks and try new things are more likely to inspire their team to do the same.

What role does vulnerability play in Dare to Lead?

According to Brené Brown vulnerability is a crucial ingredient in effective leadership. When a leader is willing to be vulnerable with their team, they're showing that they're human just like everyone else. It creates a sense of empathy and trust that can't be manufactured. Being vulnerable doesn't mean being a pushover, though. It takes courage to be vulnerable, and that's another quality that great leaders possess.

What is the importance of empathy in leadership according to Dare to Lead?

According to Dare to Lead, empathy is downright essential for effective leadership. If we can't empathize with our team, how can we lead them? It's like trying to drive a car blindfolded - we're bound to crash and burn. Leaders who lack empathy often struggle to build trust, inspire loyalty, and motivate their team.

But it's not just about being a touchy-feely, emotional mess. Empathy is a skill, and like any skill, it can be developed and honed over time. "Dare to Lead" offers some practical strategies for improving your empathy game, such as active listening, asking open-ended questions, and taking the time to understand your team members' perspectives.

And let's not forget about the benefits of empathy. When leaders show empathy, they create a culture of psychological safety where team members feel valued and supported. This can lead to increased job satisfaction, better performance, and lower turnover rates.

What are some examples of organizations that have successfully implemented the principles in "Dare to Lead"?

One organization that comes to mind is Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company. They've been a leader in sustainability and corporate responsibility for years, and "Dare to Lead" has helped them take their efforts to the next level. By focusing on the importance of empathy and vulnerability in leadership, Patagonia has been able to build a culture where employees feel valued and supported, which has led to increased creativity, productivity, and employee retention.

Another organization that has embraced the principles in "Dare to Lead" is Southwest Airlines. They're known for their fun-loving culture and excellent customer service, but what many people don't know is that they also prioritize their employees' well-being. By fostering a culture of psychological safety and creating opportunities for growth and development, Southwest has created a loyal and engaged workforce that goes above and beyond for their customers.

These are just a couple of examples, but there are, of course, countless others out there.

What is the role of courage in leadership according to Dare to Lead?

True leadership takes a whole lot of heart, and that means being willing to take risks, admit mistakes, and face challenges head-on, even when it ain't easy. As the saying goes, "Leadership is not about being in charge. It's about taking care of those in your charge." And that means having the guts to do what's right, even when it's scary. It means standing up for what you believe in, even when it's unpopular. And it means being willing to listen to feedback and make changes, even when it's uncomfortable. But here's the thing: courage ain't something you're born with. It's something you gotta work on every dang day. It takes practice, perseverance, and a whole lot of grit.

What is the significance of trust in Dare to Lead?

Trust is the glue that holds teams together. It's what allows us to rely on one another, to delegate tasks, and to communicate openly and honestly. But building trust isn't always easy, especially in a leadership context.

According to Brené Brown, trust is a crucial component of effective leadership. In the book, she argues that trust is built through a combination of competence, reliability, and empathy. Leaders who demonstrate these qualities are more likely to earn the trust of their team members.

One of the ways that "Dare to Lead" addresses the importance of trust is by emphasizing the need for vulnerability. Brown argues that leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and share their own struggles and weaknesses are more likely to build trust with their teams. By showing vulnerability, leaders demonstrate that they trust their team members enough to be honest and open with them.

Another key component of building trust is setting clear expectations and boundaries. Leaders who communicate clearly and consistently with their team members are more likely to build trust and avoid misunderstandings. This requires a willingness to be firm and assertive when necessary, while also being open to feedback and input from team members.

Ultimately, building trust takes time and effort. It requires leaders to be intentional about their actions and to consistently demonstrate their commitment to their team members. But by focusing on building trust, leaders can create a culture of openness, honesty, and collaboration that leads to greater success for everyone involved.

What is a good quote from The Black Swan?

“At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.” (Meaning)

― Brené Brown, Dare to Lead Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: "With Dare to Lead, Brené brings decades of research to bear in a practical and insightful guide to courageous leadership. This book is a road map for anyone who wants to lead mindfully, live bravely, and dare to lead.” — Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, founder, LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org

* The summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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