As a male being vulnerable is a hard characteristic to espouse and exemplify. We are taught throughout our childhood, teenage years and adulthood to be tough, suck it up, be a man, etc. As Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly states “The perception that vulnerability is weakness is the most widely accepted myth about vulnerability and the most dangerous.” As I read her musings on vulnerability and how it really is the key to developing meaningful relationships I wonder how the current generation can develop the necessary trust in their relationships to truly be vulnerable and be able show their strength of character. In today’s world, where social media and the internet in general make it easier to develop many relationships, they tend to be shallower than what past generations may have experienced. So vulnerability on top of the historical peer pressure to “be a man” has an even tougher time in this shallower world.
Social Media Vulnerability
I asked myself the question “am I truly vulnerable” in how I hold myself out to others – especially in the social media world. I don’t mean in that “let everything hang out” way – but do I fairly and accurately represent who I am. The day I asked that of myself was also a day that I was inquiring about becoming a Mentor in the British Columbia Innovation Council (“BCIC”) who has a mission of accelerating the commercialization of BC technologies, www.bcic.ca . As I reviewed my LinkedIn profile, as I knew that would be one of the first places they would go to get a feel of who I am, it hit me that I had not entered the one technology deal I have been involved with. In fact, it was the only deal that I had not entered and the question I asked myself was “why”? Well, in my original data entry a few years ago when LinkedIn was first launched I wanted to make sure that anyone looking at my track record would be duly impressed – so the inclusion of a technology deal that failed during the “dot-com meltdown of 2001” would not add credibility and therefore conveniently omitted from my profile.
Entrepreneurial Failure is a Right of Passage
I have learned since then that successful entrepreneurs fail, sometime a lot, before they get it right and have success. It is the perseverance that entrepreneurs have to get back up, dust themselves off and move forward that help create successful entrepreneurs in the long run. So by avoiding the vulnerability of disclosing a failed deal I had inadvertently made my profile weaker rather than stronger – I not only wasn’t showing that I could persevere, but for the review by BCIC for my mentorship I was negating to show that I have experience in the technology realm. So now my LinkedIn profile shows my full background, the good with the bad!
Proud Fathering Moment
As I thought of examples to share in this topic of vulnerability the greatest one involved my youngest son, Eli. Being the youngest of three very athletic boys he always had big shoes to fill and I think at times struggled with how to live up to the success of his two older brothers who both received athletic scholarships to NCAA schools in the US and have their basketball and track and field jerseys retired in their high school gym. Big shoes indeed!!! However – Eli is the most natural and gifted athlete of the three so as he rose through the ranks of basketball players in his grade 7 to 10 years he looked like a natural for getting a NCAA scholarship as well. His last two years of high school play were still successful but not with the same level of success as earlier progress and as he accepted a basketball scholarship to Trinity Western University, a CIS school in BC, he found out he would also have his jersey retired in the gym. When the day of the Awards ceremony came for his jersey to be retired I could tell there was something bothering him as we were getting ready to go. In the car on the drive to the gym I probed him to find out what was bothering him and in a flood of emotions he said he didn’t feel he deserved to have his jersey retired – that it was being done for the wrong reasons, as the other jerseys represented NCAA bound athletes. So we took a few minutes in the parking to talk about it and I let him know that it was more important for him to do what felt right in his heart than to let an ego-honouring action of his jersey being retired not feel right. So an hour or so later when he was asked to come up to the stage, in front of all his peers, their parents, his coaches and the school administration he respectfully declined to have his jersey retired. It was an amazing moment of pure vulnerability that as a father will always bring tears to my eyes when I think of it and one of the proudest moments of my life to witness such strength of character.
So now during business and personal moments in my life when there is an opportunity in the right context to be more vulnerable I know it is the right thing to do!!!!