Closing The Gap

The two-word mantra Brené Brown uses to overcome career obstacles

Brené Brown attends "Brené Brown: The Call To Courage" at NETFLIX on April 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Joe Scarnici | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Brené Brown is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker and research professor at the University of Houston who has spent the last 20 years of her career studying the impact of courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy.

Though she's experienced a lot of success throughout her professional journey, Brown reveals on an episode of Glassdoor's podcast, "IN PURSUIT," that she's also taken significant detours in her career. "[I] only had two aspirations growing up," she tells Glassdoor editorial director Amy Elisa Jackson. "I'm a fifth-generation Texan — I wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader married to a quarterback, or I wanted to drive an eighteen-wheeler and have my own CB [radio], like Breaker 1-9. 'This is Brené Brown.'"

Brown didn't become a professional cheerleader or an eighteen-wheeler driver. She traveled through Europe for a few months after graduating from high school, and later returned to Texas where she worked as a waitress and enrolled in a local community college. She was eventually accepted at her dream school, the University of Texas at Austin. She says that the detours she experienced early in life led her to develop a simple two-word mantra.

Brene Brown, vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston is a guest on KATIE, airing THURSDAY, SEPT. 13, distributed by Disney-Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Domestic Television.
Ida Mae Astute | Walt Disney Television | Getty Images

"I graduated from college with my bachelor's degree when I was 29, and if there's one mantra that I live by it's 'nothing wasted,'" she says. "I learned more about empathy and people in that 12-year journey of bartending and waiting tables and hitchhiking through Europe than I ever could in classrooms."

In an interview with Texas Exes, Brown said that she was rejected from college several times. Initially, she says, she started her post-secondary journey at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, before applying to the University of Texas at Austin and getting denied. "I basically had a 0.1 GPA and had stopped going to classes at St. Mary's without formally withdrawing," she said. "When I heard, 'You can't come here,' I was devastated."

Determined to make her dreams of becoming a UT student a reality, Brown moved to Austin, got a job waiting tables at a local seafood restaurant and enrolled in Austin Community College. During that time she started meeting with a UT dean after each semester to show him her grades. After her third semester with a 4.0 GPA, Brown says she was finally accepted into the university at the age of 27.

"It wasn't the traditional experience, but I really think all of my experiences shaped who I am," she said. "I wouldn't change anything about my time at UT and the way that I got there."

Today, Brown is a world-renowned speaker and five-time New York Times bestselling author. Earlier this year, the wife and mom of two released a Netflix special, "Brené Brown: The Call to Courage." She tells Jackson that though she's known as a success now, she still remembers "every painstaking step" she took to get to where she is now.

"It's so funny because people in interviews will say, 'Let's talk about your meteoric rise,'" she said. "And I'm like, 'Oh, this is year 22 for me.' That's a slow-ass meteor."

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