How Being Vulnerable Gave My Life and Business Meaning


I am going to be blatantly honest. You have seldom if ever heard a “guru” or expert if you will be so frank. At the outset I am not experiencing the mental fatigue of pity and self loathing. I wanted to write a book for myself that was not self aggrandizing but honest. Authentic if you will.

I like being strong. I am viewed as being strong. I am guarded. Keeping my real self to only my dearest friends. That would be myself. I am seen as gregarious, opinionated, out spoken and the life of the party. Someone called, notice I cringe to say friend, the other day to ask why I hadn’t returned his call. I said I was traveling. He said, “You are a hard person to be a friend to.”

He is correct. In my intimate relationships I am learning this is particularly true. I have been hurt so much by trusting that I always hold just enough to keep myself safe. Keeping everyone at bay to I am never really exposed. So, I absorb myself into my work and exercise.

Men aren’t vulnerable. Leaders are invulnerable. If so, what are the personal and organizational repercussions? The personal ramifications are enormous.

Forgive me for using the pronoun, “I” too often. Certainly you will as well. After an excursion with a friend I was challenged to confront my vulnerability … again. The shame of my failures. My divorces and homelessness that skewed me from the sense of love and belonging I so wanted. Occasionally I admitted these vulnerabilities during meditation and prayer. But I did so often, while they were cloaked in whispers as though I feared to admit the truths to myself. The half-truths I could accept.

To accept it all meant I was not perfect. I was not in as much control as I imagined. What then to I ascribe my failures to? Would that imply I am not the success I projected? Would I no longer be accepted by others? By myself? Would my scars extract me from my warm snuggly “safe” place? It wasn’t as safe as I presumed. Only keeping me from growing.

After my divorce, a marriage because I sought the definition of happiness in serving rather than proclaiming I deserved to be happy I struggled with this for years. Financially successful but inwardly troubled. I could so many people to seem to get it right so easily?

I numbed myself to this person inside screaming to be known and loved. Now, you’ll see me pull the blankie back over my heads to become the guru again, wanted to find purpose and meaning.

I feared becoming another person with talent who died with his music in him. So, where are you? Wha masks are you wearing .. still? When will you grow up to become?

“Brene’ Brown’s TED talk see below was replete with negative comments after going viral. The “negative comments started to affect her process until a Theodore Roosevelt quote changed her entire perspective: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” Other insights from Brown’s talk by Behance:

  • Without vulnerability you cannot create. “There is only one guarantee,” Brown stated. “You will get your ass kicked.” Listening to criticism inspires you to stay small. Fear, self-doubt, comparison, anxiety, and uncertainty will keep you in the basement instead of charging into the arena. However, go too far ignoring criticism, she says, and you risk becoming numb and unable to create. Find a balance of when to listen to your detractors and when to keep charging forward.
  • The three critics that will always be there are shame, scarcity, and comparison. Know who your critics are and what they will say. Face your doubts on these three fronts and be your own preemptive critic by asking “What am I doing that’s original? What if everyone else is better than me?” Then, quickly move past it.
  • Don’t die thinking–”What if I’d stood up?” Say to the critics, “I see you, I hear you, but I’m showing up anyway.  I’m not interested in your feedback.”

Are you ready 2


Jim Woods is president of The Jim Woods Group. A management consulting firm. Go here to see his work He advises and speaks to organizations large and small on how to increase top line growth in times of uncertainty and complexity. Some of his speaking and consulting clients include: U.S. Army, MITRE Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Whirlpool, and 3M. See more at his website

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Posted in Brene Brown, Success and Abundance

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