As I push through March, the month dedicated to the love of reading, with a list of books that have had the greatest impact on my career life, I land on this masterpiece….Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown.
I read it first back in 2018, right on the heels of reading her first book, The Gifts of Imperfection, which I also loved. But the reason why Daring Greatly has become my favourite of all Brown’s work is that it hit a nerve with me. I didn’t fully grasp to what degree. But I sensed there was something there…
It wasn’t until I hired my business coach that the weight of Brene’s work hit me.
“You know what your problem is Diane? You are afraid of humiliation,” is what she said.
It’s become very trendy to say that failure is part of success. And for me, fear of failure was never my quicksand. So those lessons about feeling the fear and doing it anyway never landed.
But fear of looking like a jackass, being laughed at…now that, that was something that my coach uncovered was getting in my way. And I realized that this lesson is what Brene had been trying to teach me all along. Daring Greatly is all about allowing yourself to become vulnerable. That is where the magic is.
And here are some other truths from the book.
Criticism is born out of avoidance of vulnerability.
We only criticize others when we aren’t entirely sure that our way of thinking is secure. Because if we were 100% sold on our own thoughts, what would we care if someone thought differently than us? No, instead. We criticize in such a way as to say…” well, I MAY not be sure, but I’m sure as Sherlock, that I’m in a better place than you are. See…I know what I’m doing. You don’t.”
And the other interesting thing about criticism, it almost never comes from someone above you. People above you will often lend a hand and help bring you up. But people below you…nah…your bravery shines a light on the absence of theirs.
Humans aren’t that different from lobsters. If you’ve ever seen a pot of lobsters boil, if one tries to get away, invariably those below, will grab on to a claw and tug hard with all their might.
People can be like that.
Vulnerability, in the role of a travel advisor
One thing that many advisors are afraid of, especially when they are touting themselves as experts in a particular field, is the fear of being stumped by a question from the client. It happens. Newsflash, I tout myself as an expert in marketing in the travel industry but do I know absolutely everything? Oh hell, no. But I know a lot.
There is nothing wrong with being fully transparent and telling your client that you don’t know. Instead of looking all sheepish and apologetic though, you stare back at them bold-faced…right between the eyes and you say…
“That is an excellent question, Gerald! I have to say…not too many people stump me but you’ve managed to do so today. I’m going to dig a little deeper and get that answered for you. Can I get back to you by tomorrow?”
Two things happen as a result.
- One, you’ve established yourself as honest. (People buy from who they know, like and TRUST)
- You’ve managed to stroke Gerald’s ego at the same time. Who doesn’t love to be the one who is smart enough to stump the expert?
It is true this is not an effective strategy if you are being stumped by >30% of the questions. And if that’s the case, maybe hold off on putting “(insert niche) Expert” on your business card.
Having the bravery to take responsibility
Being vulnerable also shows up when we make mistakes. I have yet to meet one travel advisor who has not made a terrible error that cost money to fix – not one. Our knee-jerk reaction is to try and cover our butt and make excuses for why the error happened. A better approach is just to apologize, make amends, consider the cost as operational and move on. It’s okay to be wrong, sometimes.
The truth about perfectionism
In the event, you are someone who struggles with perfectionism…Brene has some wise words for you too. We think that perfectionism should be an ideal that we all strive to achieve but the reality is…those who suffer the most with this malady, are also the same people who struggle the most with coming to terms with their vulnerability.
It’s all a guise we cloak ourselves in hoping that the truth doesn’t come out – which is that we don’t quite have our shit together.
Shame and leadership
Maybe you are a solopreneur but as you grow your business, there is going to come a time when you’ll want to expand your operations, even if it means hiring freelancers to help you meet your business goals.
Or, maybe you are an industry professional who has a team of people who report to you. For that reason, I wanted to share this nugget of wisdom from Brene.
Shame is like shit. It rolls down.
I’ve experienced leaders in my life who thought it was okay to shame their direct reports in the hopes of eliciting better behaviour in future. The truth is…shame rarely gets the job done. Instead, leaders who use shame as their encouragement tool don’t realize that there will be a knock-on effect.
Those who are shamed…shame others. The resulting experience will be customer dissatisfaction. Fortunately, customers choose where they spend their money and they will not put up with being shamed. They’ll take their business elsewhere.
A good friend of mine used to work for a woman who owned a small boutique travel company. On the wall of the sales floor, she had put up a giant-sized, floor-to-ceiling map of the world and each member of the sales floor had a cardboard cutout of an airplane, with their name Sharpied across the fuselage.
Every time someone did a good deed…the plane would move across the Atlantic Ocean. But, make an error, the plane would falter and move back to horrible North America.
The goal was…that the entire fleet of aircraft would have to touchdown somewhere over in the UK, at which point, the whole company would get an extra bonus. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Except if you are Aeroflot and you learn that YOU are the reason the entire company is missing out on padding their pockets.
I’m sure this woman had the best of intentions but I have to wonder if Brene might have guided her in a different direction given the opportunity.
In essence, this boutique travel owner was encouraging good behaviour, but also shaming failures equally.
The role of a great leader
One of the powerful women that Brene interviewed in writing Daring Greatly, was Christine Day, the former CEO of Lululemon. Christine said that one of the most pivotal moments in her role as the leader of the highly successful athletic wear company came when she realized what her role really was.
Up until then, she, like so many of us, struggled to be right. To be seen as someone whose opinion was so impressive that it floated above that of others. She thought it was what made a great leader. But what she learned was… the mark of a great leader is someone who is confident enough to sit back and make space for team members to allow their voices to be heard.
The problem with not creating a safe work environment where people feel comfortable to be vulnerable is that the best ideas often die a death similar to the ink toner on the office printer. New employees might come in with wild and crazy ideas, but if those areas aren’t given space, if they are ridiculed or belittled, all you are left with is a homogeneous ideology that matches that of the leader.
Innovation rarely comes from a lack of vulnerability.
Wasn’t it Steve Jobs who declared something along the lines of… “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the troublemakers? The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world. They are the ones who do?”
Thank God, there are people out there who are brave enough to stick their neck on the line, be vulnerable and take chances.
That is the core message inside the pages of Daring Greatly.
And I still am, you know….Afraid of humiliation. Wanna know how I know?
Because, to date, I have yet to receive one slanderous comment on any of my social media posts or in the comments on my blog. I don’t say this as a humble brag.
Criticism is part of the game. It’s not a question of if but rather, when. So that fact that I haven’t received any hate or ridicule, means I’m not fully in the arena, as Brene speaks so boldly about. I’ve not put myself out there enough. Sure, I’ve taken risks…just not big scary ones. So yes, I have some work yet to do.
It’s only when you dare greatly that you achieve your greatest potential.
And let me leave you with one final quote.
Hey, if you haven’t yet downloaded my 5-Step, No-Fail Strategy for How to Get More Quality Leads for your travel business, you really should grab your copy <Here>
If you missed any of the other books in this series dedicated to the month of March, which is also National I Love Reading Month. Here are my recommended reads for books that changed my life:
Week One: Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
Week Two: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Week Three: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Week Four: The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
Week Five: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.