What's Vulnerability Got to Do With It?

Back in January, I wrote about vulnerability and work, and the post sparked some great conversations with my friends and colleagues. Vulnerability was a key theme in my Social Media Week presentation as well, with some key quotes and research from the preeminent vulnerability researcher and all-around badass Texas woman, Brené Brown.

The more I learn about writing and entrepreneurship, it’s clear to me that storytelling and communication are the keys to success in any pursuit. Employability is less about a fixed set of skills and more about a capacity for learning and growth: how well can you connect the dots in your mind — and then communicate those connections? How good a problem solver are you? As I’ve shared in every talk I’ve given as a self-employed person, you can’t be a halfway decent writer unless you’re willing to get vulnerable, think deeply, read frequently, and listen constantly.

As a writer who works to help others find and articulate their truth, I do my best to practice what I preach: getting vulnerable about my struggles and shortcomings in my own writing to encourage others to do the same. In my writing for Pass/Fail, I’ve unpacked some deeply rooted personal stuff, and in so doing, I learned a crucial lesson: that vulnerability is learning; it’s the gray area we all live in when we’re just trying to get from point A to point B. Vulnerability is just like curiosity: it’s more of a practice than a state of mind.

Curiosity also helps us become more vulnerable: asking “yeah, but why?” about our own beliefs and choices will ultimately lead us closer to our own truth. For me as it relates to work, the further I veered from my truth, the more miserable I became. When I was in the corporate sector, I was earning more money than I needed, but it was never enough to distract me from the fact that I was fundamentally unhappy and unfulfilled in the work I was doing, a truth that took me years to fully acknowledge. (Related: if you’re someone who’s able to compartmentalize your life and become a completely different person at work than you are at home, good on you, but I can’t do it. Chalk it up to personality type, but I need to be doing work I legitimately believe in for people I care about or I just can’t be happy.)

We can’t be afraid to find and say the words we want to say; to be vulnerable and speak our truths without shame or fear of retribution. Finding human-centered work that we can believe in is the best we can hope for in our professional lives: work that is based around the thing that makes us unique, helpful, and fully human (enter: workplace actualization). In any company I’ve worked for and in any role I’ve ever had, the people have always been the best part, and in acknowledging this truth through getting curious and vulnerable about my search for meaning in the work that I do, it led me to the work I do now. Communication forms the connective tissue that underpins my “why”: I believe in the power of language and in its ability to change the world, and in my work, I help to unlock this power for others.

So what’s vulnerability got to do with it? Well, everything. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the more open we are, the more the world opens itself to us. (We get what we give: it’s just like the New Radicals said!) This is why I write this blog for my business: to share openly and vulnerably so that others might benefit and share more of themselves. So thank you, kind readers, for your support and encouragement in my ongoing vulnerability practice. I hope this inspires you to share more of yourself and become more vulnerable in all facets of life.

(The image for this post is from Jeff Tweedy’s memoir and was an unexpected delight to read: he tells his story so openly and beautifully, and I learned so much about a musician whom I knew nothing about going in. Many thanks to my pal Bobby for lending it to me!)