Friday, September 12, 2014

You Can’t Take Someone Where You Aren’t Willing To Go

His big, tear-filled eyes looked across the table at her. I thought my heart would explode from the cuteness.

Mom, I don’t want to eat my broccoli. Please don’t make me.”
Mom replies, “Honey, I told you if you want ice cream for dessert you have to eat all of your vegetables.”
But you didn’t eat any dinner and only had ice cream.”

The kid had a point. We laughed from the irony.

I see a bigger lesson for myself in this, and not just about broccoli or ice cream. For most of my life I think I gave people advice I wasn’t willing to take or I challenged them to do things I had never had the balls to do.

I don’t think I’m alone in that, I think it’s quite normal.

I wonder how many times we make judgments about what someone should do or say, or offer advice we have no experience in. Don’t we tend to believe we are an expert when it comes to someone else’s life? On the other hand, how often do we get challenged to do something the other person has never done?

How many books do we read where we question if the author actually lives what they write?
How many teachers have we had who teach something they’ve never lived?
How many speakers do we see where they sound good but somewhere in our gut we smell bullshit?
How many parents tell their kids something just to make them feel better or avoid conflict?

Brene Brown turned this idea on its head for me, truly. That woman is one of the strongest people I can imagine, not because she’s super badass and puts people in their place but because she actually lives what she preaches: vulnerability. I see it in her work, I hear it in her podcasts and talks, and her examples continuously expose those parts of myself I try so hard to cover.

Simply put, her biggest gift is that she gives permission to be messy.

See, the overarching problem with us is not that we judge others but that we don’t share openly and without fear, which then teaches others to shield themselves and the cycle perpetuates itself.  If we had no fear of what people thought, we’d all be living life very different. Social media wouldn’t be a competition, every conversation would be honest and exposing, and we would hold fewer resentments because the air between people would be clearer.

We muddy things by hiding behind our personalities and resisting vulnerability. It's hard. 
Vulnerability is a practice, a lifestyle... an art.

I gave a talk at a conference last summer titled “The Art of Vulnerability." As the Universe so humorously does, I had a lesson in vulnerability before speaking it. I battled through writing the talk because the desire to appear strong, collected, and together was significant. I didn’t want to show the soft parts of me. I wanted to sound competent and articulate...  I wanted to ‘wow’ the audience. Well, when the topic is vulnerability I think we have to throw all other layers of ourselves aside and be uncomfortable in our truth. And that’s just what I did.

I shared about my life’s journey, my brokenness, my wholeness, and a bunch of honest stories that related to the idea that we cannot take someone where we aren’t willing to go. Wouldn’t you know that a hundred people came up to me after the talk to ask about more conversation about vulnerable living?

I am by no means an expert in this, but I spread some goodness there. Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

Relate this to work, school, business, leadership, or relationships. You have no foundation for an experience you’ve never had. Start experimenting and growing and inviting others for the ride. And eat your vegetables. I do.

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