Vulnerable |ˈvəln(ə)rəb(ə)l| adjective; susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to be vulnerable in my professional life. Feeling vulnerable is scary. Because it feels like a loss of control.
It feels like a loss of control because being vulnerable opens the door to judgement. Judgment that others won’t like what they hear and see. That I will get feedback that I won’t like. At least, that’s the story I told myself.
I had to make a decision
Last year, I was compelled to make a decision if I was OK being vulnerable.
I had recently joined Facebook after spending 5 years working at various startups. After 6 months at Facebook, I got feedback that my interactions were transactional and that I wasn’t actively seeking to collaborate with others to get feedback. It was like a punch to my gut.
Acknowledging underlying emotions
My defense mechanism kicked-in. I mothballed the feedback under “large company B.S”.
Then, I attributed it to learned helplessness.
I told others that founders learn to get shit done with no resources. Time is the only currency a founder doesn’t have. There is no one to go to for help. The fastest way to get any outcome is to go do something. Even if it means doing something small and alone. I believed that this is THE way to operate and win. Therein lay the danger.
Dogmas have the power to harm
They prevent us from taking a fact based approach to solving problem.
I felt that asking for help meant that I couldn’t get something done by myself. I was afraid of losing my sense of accomplishment and pride. I would no longer be the Superman in my story. What if they had feedback for me that ran counter to my beliefs? It was as if I wanted to preserve my misplaced self-perception of superiority.
Notice the feelings; fear, unhealthy pride, blind-spot inducing urgency.
None of these are healthy underlying emotions. So how do you build positive, underlying emotions?
Vulnerability creates a positive feedback loop
As counterintuitive as it sounds, by being vulnerable we have the opportunity to create a feedback loop to build positive underlying emotions.
By being open, transparent and sharing publicly how I felt privately, I could build a direct and continual channel for feedback. Constantly seeking feedback helps adapt pre-existing mental models.That is powerful.
Strength is to vulnerability as winning is to practice.
It’s like forging a sword in the fire; one couldn’t come into being without the other. They are two sides of the same coin.
Deep down we are all afraid; we tell ourselves stories of everything that could go wrong if we are open and vulnerable. It’s OK to feel that way; I know I do. But not addressing that fear head on is like driving with one foot on the brake and one on the gas.
If you have read this far, then I have a question for you :-)
What are some “safe” ways to experiment with being open and vulnerable that have worked for you?