How We Became Manlier Through Vulnerability

Do you have a friend who enjoys similar books as you? To the point, it’s slightly eerie that you two are reading the same book at the same time?

The above describes Alejandro and I. Many times, we ask what the other is reading, and shockingly, we are consuming the same book. Then at other times, we recommend books the other would enjoy. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is one of those which Alejandro said I must read.

He was correct! I know we are late to the party as the book has been out for years and Brown is a world-renowned researcher, speaker, and author. However, the book is new to us and has transformed the way we think.

If you have not read the book, we highly recommend it, and if you are more of a visual learner, then check out her TED Talk which is still one of the most viewed of all time.

Her work is second to none, and what Alejandro and I would like to do is add to it slightly, specifically, from a male’s perspective. Brown admits, for years she solely researched the idea of vulnerability and shame from the female’s perspective. We won’t spoil the book, but there is a great story of how she started to look at the topic from a man’s point of view.

We would like to expand on the topic, specifically as two men from different backgrounds who have taken her ideas to heart. What becomes apparent from the book is that vulnerability is a fundamental element of a full life personally and professionally.

Below, we examine vulnerability and the misconceptions of vulnerable men.

Are You Vulnerable?

Matt:

“Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you” ~ Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

As a marketing professional, I constantly hear the word “authentic” thrown around when clients start a marketing campaign. You and I have become fine-tuned to people BSing us that we are automatically turned off when a company or person is fake. Yet, how often are we really authentic with others?

Most of us demand companies and people to be “real,” but many times we walk through life wearing multiple masks depending on our environment. While at home we act a certain way, at the office we change our personality, and with friends we morph once more. Now, I am not advocating you go to work and start dropping f-bombs if that’s how you speak around your closest friends. However, we should examine how we act in various scenarios.

Do we fight vulnerability to protect ourselves from honest conversations, potential failure, or other moments of discomfort? Most of us fall into this trap. As Brown explains, “we love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us.”

It’s true, we expect others to be open with us while we remain hidden from them.

Here is what happens when you are vulnerable in your professional life. People will ridicule your ideas, you will fail over and over, there will be disappointments, and if you really put yourself out there, specifically in a creative field, you will be criticized daily (I get it, my grammar isn’t perfect).

But there’s more.

Being vulnerable in your career will allow you to go to bed knowing you were true to yourself, you will eventually do something great because you are trying harder than others, and you will experience highs others never know.

See here’s the thing, most people go through life trying to maintain an equilibrium. They don’t want to be vulnerable which, on the positive side, means they will not be completely disappointed. Yet, on the negative side, they will not feel the same exhilaration as someone who is vulnerable.

There are few feelings in life which compare to the times of true vulnerability paired with success. It could be a project you spearheaded when everyone thought it was crazy, a creative endeavor you saw through to the end while others would have quit, or working with someone labeled as a lost cause but you believed in them. These are the moments which make life amazing.

The question becomes, are you vulnerable?

Alejandro:

When was the last time you cried?

When was the last time you were about to cry but you stopped it?

Most of us have a mythical concept of what a man should be. The strongest, the biggest, the wealthiest, no cracks in the armor, and never weak.

Think about what the world sells to us as “the man.” Just think about the best TV series and movies, and focus on the picture of “the man” that they paint.

Leonidas faced and killed thousands with just 300 men. Leonardo Di Caprio, in The Revenant, fights a bear and survives. These are just a couple of examples, there are much more.

Even if we are aware that it is an influence tactic, it can still have an effect on us. The worst part of this is that striving to minimize your weaknesses, or show no weaknesses, may actually be the thing that is stopping you from achieving your full potential.

Working hard to show no weakness may actually be a shield, a way to protect yourself from failing, and if you don’t fail you don’t learn. Failure is one of the best teachers.

Not so long ago I was getting to know Matt. He was the president of the MBA Consulting Club at Bauer at the moment, and the more I learned about him and his accomplishment, the more impressed I was. Yet, you would never know about these accomplishments when you meet him because there is no sign of an ego.

The best leadership actions I have seen from him are when he doesn’t try hard to be strong.  

You see, I used to think leadership was being the strongest and most vocal, that it was about stepping up and telling others what to do because you had a better idea or because you knew more. When we had the first opportunity to work together, because most of us were MBA rookies and Matt was in his 2nd year, I was expecting him to lead.

He did, but not in the way I was expecting it. Now I understand. He was a leader because he allowed everyone else to do what they were passionate about, and he led us by doing and by asking questions. Yet, at the moment I wasn’t clear about what was happening. I kept expecting him, when the group wasn’t agreeing on something, to speak up and set the course we should take.

Matt never told anyone what to do, he was never the loudest voice in the room, because he led the way by doing. He never tried hard to be the strongest or loudest, yet his voice was always heard.

Enough about Matt, now let’s focus on you. What is your definition of a man and strong leader?

Who comes to mind?

Sit down and describe what you think a great man is. Then compare that to a superhero or a movie character. If both are close then you will clearly understand that your thoughts may be stopping you from realizing your full potential. Because you are aiming at something that is a fantasy.

Don’t get me wrong, real heroes exist, and the real heroes are the ones that show their weaknesses to the world and dare greatly every day.

Be a Man!

Go read Daring Greatly!

That may be the most valuable piece of advice within this post.

The rest is Matt talking about me, and me talking about Matt. Seems a bit like we are dating ourselves, but there’s also value here. Look to build this kind of relationship with people around you. The kind that makes you get comfortable with uncomfortable, be vulnerable and grow together. As millennials, we need to push each other, so that we can change the face of our generation together.

There might be a close friend that is struggling with something but is afraid of sharing his situation. You can help them by taking the first step. Show your weaknesses, share your struggles, and dare greatly by showing the cracks in your armor.

Make it your goal to have one uncomfortable and vulnerable conversation this month. It could be with a family member, a friend, your significant other, or a trusted coworker. They will appreciate it because by doing so you will be stating that you trust them, and that relationship will go to the next level.

Beware, there is a big difference between being vulnerable and oversharing. We will continue to explore this topic in the upcoming posts. Stay engaged in the conversation if you want to start building stronger relationships by being vulnerable.

Man up and be vulnerable!

Alejandro I. Sanoja & Matt Avery