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5 Reasons to Embrace Vulnerability

5 Reasons to Embrace Vulnerability

In 2010, Brené Brown gave a TedTalk revolving around the concept of the power of vulnerability. She discusses the importance of expanding one’s comfort zone, and the many positive effects doing so can have on a person. Despite being quite nervous about giving the talk herself, Brown accomplished her goal of proving the power of vulnerability not just by giving the speech, but also through the response the public has had to her video. The most important effects vulnerability has on people are:

1. Vulnerability allows advancement

Of course, trying something new is always scary. Whether you’re a kindergartner on your first day of school, or a recent college graduate wondering what to do with your life, you’re most likely going to feel some unease about taking the next step forward. It’s natural, and it’s totally okay to feel this way. However, what’s not okay is letting this fear stop you from forging ahead. Expanding your comfort zone is an important step, not just for your own life, but for humanity as a whole. The most important social reforms and technological advancements occurred because a single person stepped out of his comfort zone, and ended up changing the world.

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2. Vulnerability leads to increased abilities

Those who embrace vulnerability are not scared of the unknown. In fact, they strive to learn and do everything they possibly can. Instead of their inner voice telling them “You can’t do this,” their voice says “You can’t do this…yet.” They view that which they cannot do as a challenge to be overcome, rather than an insurmountable obstacle. Of course, they know it won’t be easy, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. On the contrary, those who embrace vulnerability tend to welcome challenges, and get bored when life is too easy. By acknowledging their shortcomings, they always have goals to accomplish, and will continue to grow on a daily basis.

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3. Vulnerability allows openness with others

People who accept their own vulnerability are incredibly open about their lives. This accomplishes two goals: For one, being open with others results in finding true compatibility. For those with high expectations of their own lives, it’s important for them to surround themselves with friends and family who support them, and continue to push them further. On the other hand, being open with superficial friends who might not be so receptive of such behavior is a good way to weed out the toxic relationships in one’s life. Although they might be considered friends, it’s important to realize that getting along with someone doesn’t necessarily make them good for you or your life goals. It’s important to known who will really be there for you in the long run, and who’s only around for the fun times.

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4. Vulnerability allows openness to self

It seems counterintuitive, but embracing vulnerability can build self-confidence. By putting yourself on stage for all to see, physically or metaphorically, such as Brené did during her TedTalk, you’re inviting your audience to comment on your performance and abilities. Of course, this can be incredibly scary and intimidating, but it can also be truly rewarding. Especially in today’s connected world, in which billions of people could be reading this right now (I wish!), it’s a given that there will be a large percentage of people who disagree with what you’re saying. Aside from the trolls obviously looking to get a rise out of you, listen to those who disagree; they’ll teach you a lot about a variety of perspectives, and will help you grow. Of course, there will definitely be those who completely agree with you, and you can always fall back on their supportive comments when you feel discouraged.

5. Vulnerability makes discomfort comfortable

Again, just writing that makes it seem counterintuitive, but the more you embrace vulnerability and the state of being uncomfortable, the more comfortable you will be with expanding your comfort zone. Confused? Sorry about that. Maybe this anecdote will clear it up: I remember a year ago speaking with a colleague on a Monday about what we did over the weekend. At the time, my boring answer was “I did absolutely nothing and I loved it.” She responded with, “Oh man, I’m not like that at all. I have to keep moving or I feel worthless.” I then found out that not only is she a teacher, mother, and wife, but she also helps run a deli. Sure, she complained about being tired like we all do, but she finds being tired a worthy trade-off for all the other amazing things she has going in her life. To her, sleeping comfortably until noon would actually be uncomfortable. And it makes sense: Why waste the life you’ve been blessed with when you can take full advantage of all of your abilities, and change the world, and yourself, in the process?

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

It’s no secret: to get ahead, you have to promote yourself. But for most people, the thought of promoting themselves is slightly shady. Images of glad-handing insurance salesmen or arrogant know-it-alls run through our heads.

The reality is that we all rely on some degree of self-promotion. Whether you want to start your own business, sell your novel to a publisher, start a group for your favorite hobby, or get a promotion at work, you need to make people aware of you and your abilities. While we’d like to think that our work speaks for itself, the fact is that usually our work needs us to put in some work to attract attention before our work can have anything to say.

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The good news is that self-promotion doesn’t have to be shady — in fact, real self-promotion almost by definition can’t be shady. The reason we get a bad feeling from overt self-promoters is that, most of the time, their efforts are insincere and their inauthenticity shows. It’s clear that they’re not building a relationship with us but only shooting for the quick payoff, whether that’s a sale, a vote, or a positive performance evaluation. They are pretending to be our friend to get something they want. And it shows.

Real self-promotion extends beyond the initial payoff — and may bypass the payoff entirely. It gives people a reason to associate themselves with us, for the long term. It’s genuine and authentic — more like making friends than selling something. Of course, if you’re on the make, that kind of authenticity makes you vulnerable, which is why the claims of false self-promoters ring hollow: they are hollow.

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The main rule of self-promotion is to be the best version of yourself. That is, of course, a little vague and is bound to mean something different to everyone. But here’s a few more specific things to keep in mind when working to get the word out about you and your work:

  1. Add value: What separates you from everyone else who does what you do is the particular value you bring to your clients, customers, or users. The same applies to your marketing efforts — people tune out if you’re just blathering on about how great you are. Instead, apply your particular expertise in demonstrable ways — by adding insightful points to a discussion or blog post comments, by creating entertaining and informative promotional spots, etc.
  2. Be confident: If you are telling people something that adds value to their lives, there’s no reason to feel as if you’re intruding. Stand up tall and show that you have faith in yourself, your abilities, and your work. After all, if you don’t have confidence in yourself, why should anyone else?
  3. Be sensitive to context: Always be aware of and responsive to the person or people you’re talking to right now, and the conditions in which you’re relating to them. You can’t just write a pitch and deliver it by rote every time you meet someone — you need to adapt to changing environments (are you at a cocktail party or a boardroom meeting?) and the knowledge levels and personalities of the people you’re talking to (are you describing your invention to an engineer or a stay-at-home dad?). The idea of talking points is useful here, because you have an outline to draw on but the level of “fleshing out” is based on where you are and to whom you’re talking.
  4. Be on target: Direct your message towards people who most need or want to hear it. You know how annoying it is to see someone plugging their unrelated website in a site’s comments or in your email inbox — if we only got legitimate offers for things we had an immediate need for, it wouldn’t be “spam”. Seek out and find the people who most need to know about what you do; for everyone else, a simple one-line description is sufficient.
  5. Have permission: Make sure the people you talk to have given you “permission” to promote yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to start every conversation with “Can I take a few minutes of your time to tell you about…” (though that’s not a bad opening in some circumstances); what it means is that you should make sure the other they’re receptive to your message. You don’t want to be bothered when you’re eating dinner with your family, in a hurry to get to work, or enjoying a movie, right? In those moments, you aren’t giving anyone permission to talk to you. Don’t interrupt other people or make your pitch when it’s inconvenient for them — that’s almost guaranteed to backfire.
  6. Don’t waste my time: If you’re on target, sensitive to context, and have permission, you’re halfway there on this one; but make sure to take no more time than you have to, and don’t beat around the bush. Once you have my attention, get to the point; be brief, be clear, and be passionate.
  7. Explain what you do: Have you ever come across a website or promotional brochure that looked like this:

    Advanced Enterprise Solutions Group has refactored the conceptualization of power shifts. We will rev up our ability to facilitate without depreciating our power to engineer. We believe we know that it is better to iterate macro-micro-cyber-transparently than to matrix wirelessly. A company that can syndicate fiercely will be able to e-enable faithfully.
    (With thanks to the Andrew Davidson’s Corporate Gibberish Generator)

    Some people (and corporations too) have a hard time telling people what they do. They hide behind jargon and generalities.

    Don’t you be one of them! Explain clearly what it is you actually do and, following #7 below, what value you offer your audience.

  8. Tell me what you offer me: Clearly explain what’s in it for your audience — why they should choose you over some other freelancer, business partner, employee, or product. How is what you have to say going to enrich their life or business?
  9. Tell me what you want from me: You’ve made your pitch, now what? What do you want your audience to do? Tell them to visit your site, read your book, but your product, set up a meeting with you, promote you, or whatever other action you want them to take. This is rule #1 for salespeople — be sure to ask for the sale. It applies just as well if what you’re selling is your talents, your capabilities, or your knowledge.
  10. Give me a reason to care: Be personal. Explain not only what you do but why what you do will make my life better. Both iPods and swapmeet knock-off mp3 players play music; but iPods make people’s lives better, by being easier to use, more stylish, and more likely to attract attention and make their users look “cool”. Part of this is showing that you care about the people you’re marketing to — responding to their questions, meeting and surpassing their needs, making them feel good about themselves. With few exceptions, this can’t be faked; even when it can, it’s far easier to just genuinely care.
  11. Maintain relationships: Self-promotion doesn’t end once you’ve delivered your message. Re-contact people periodically. Let people know what you’re up to, and show a genuine interest in what they’re up to. Don’t drop a connection because they don’t show any immediate need for whatever you do — you never know when they will, and you never know who they know who will. More importantly, these personal connections add more value than just a file full of prospective clients, customers, or voters.

Self-promotion that doesn’t follow these rules comes off as false, forced, and ultimately forgettable. Or worse, it leaves such a bad taste in the mouths of your victims that the opposite of promotion is achieved — people actively avoid working with you.

In the end, promoting yourself and your work isn’t that hard, as long as you a) are genuinely interested in other people and their needs and b) stay true to yourself and your work. Seek out the people who want — no, need — what you have to offer and put it in front of them. That’s not so hard, is it?

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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