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More of that prickly, uncomfortable stuff: being open to vulnerability and daring greatly

October 17, 2012

One of the most significant books that I have made time to read this year is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D.  If you’re busy with other resources from #cfhe12,  #oped12, #fslt12, #ds106, #change11 or #cck12 and don’t make time for the entire book, please consider some of the quotes that I have transcribed at the bottom of this post for further reflection.

The author is a well-researched expert on developing shame-resilience and expressing vulnerability, which she is able to link explicitly to their impacts on learning, leadership, culture change, (dis)engagement, innovation and creativity within workplaces, schools, families and other relationships.

My biggest take-away from this book, so far, is about leaning into discomfort because learning and leading are inherently uncomfortable, messy and vulnerable tasks, if we’re doing them right.  I’ve learned a great deal about the wonderful messiness of learning from participating in eight connectivist moocs to date and I am forever grateful to their creators, guest speakers and participants for inspiring me in this regard.

For learning professionals, in particular, we hold tremendous responsibility for figuring out how to recognize and live through our discomfort, rather than withdraw from it, in order to develop ourselves personally and professionally and to model excellent learning habits for others.

For the past three years, I have been on my own journey to discover and maintain my vulnerability as a learning professional and introvert.  If you would like to share your journey, I welcome your comments.


“Vulnerability is like being naked onstage and hoping for applause rather than laughter.”  – p. 39

“This notion that the leader [or teacher] needs to be ‘in charge’ and to ‘know all the answers’ is both dated and destructive.  Its impact on others is the sense that they know less, and that they are less than.  A recipe for risk aversion if ever I have heard it.  Shame becomes fear.  Fear leads to risk aversion.  Risk aversion kills innovation.” – p. 65

“We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.” – p. 137. 

Editorial note: please see The Busy Trap for more on this mindset.

“The space between our practiced values (what we’re actually doing, thinking and feeling) and our aspirational values (what we want to do, think, and feel) is the value gap, or what I call ‘the disengagement divide.’  It’s where we lose our employees, our clients, our students, our teachers, our congregations and even our own children.” – p. 177

“No corporation or school can thrive in the absence of creativity, innovation, and learning, and the greatest threat to all three of these is disengagement.” – p. 187

“…feedback thrives in cultures where the goal is not ‘getting comfortable with hard conversations’ but normalizing discomfort…Periods of discomfort become an expectation and a norm…The big challenge for leaders [and teachers] is getting our heads and hearts around the fact that we need to cultivate the courage to be uncomfortable and to teach the people around us how to accept discomfort as a part of growth.    – p. 196-199

“In businesses, schools, faith communities – any system, even families – we can tell a lot about how people engage with vulnerability by observing how often and how openly you hear people saying: I don’t know.  I need help.  I’d like to give it a shot.  It’s important to me.  I disagree – can we talk about it?  It didn’t work, but I learned a lot.  Yes, I did it.  Here’s what I need.  Here’s how I feel.  I’d like some feedback.  Can I get your take on this?  What can I do better next time?  Can you teach me how to do this?  I played a part in that.  I accept responsibility for that.  I’m here for you.  I want to help.  Let’s move on.  I’m sorry.  That means a lot to me. Thank you.

…[author quoting Seth Godin] ‘Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.  This scarcity makes leadership valuable…It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.  It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.  It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.  It’s uncomfortable resist the urge to settle.  When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed.  If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.” – p. 210 

Editorial note: for more on leadership, please see The Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto.


From → Smarter worker

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