Vulnerability: making the best out of imperfection

Nik ended his vulnerability blog with “vulnerability … requires bravery and courage.  Bravery and courage are the attributes of warriors.  So, to remain steadfastly curious, you need to be a warrior.” It reminds me that there is also a cost to not showing vulnerability.

HeartI remember one banking CEO recounting a stay in an exclusive hotel of minimalist design. Even the light switch was hidden. Finding himself frustrated, he decided to remove himself when he spied light seeping beneath his colleague’s bedroom door. Naively, I asked if he knocked on the door to find out where the switch was. To which he replied “no” and his body replied “course not.”

In time, the encounter came to be an illuminating moment, spotlighting a dimension of vulnerability I’d never considered. Behind projection of power and supreme confidence, and carapace of invincibility, lay the same sense of vulnerability that singe the edges of my existence. To me it would have represented a small small social risk but to the CEO, it was an unthinkable.

On another occasion I was teaching a class in not-for-profit management. The group included a large number from one organization. Comparatively, the organisation was on the ascendance as the provider of choice. As we discussed the value of a S.W.O.T analysis1)A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture. in the face of disruptive change, these students told of an organisation wide strategic planning day on that very theme. When I asked what became of the work from that day, they replied the notes were still up on the walls. As I pondered the reasons for the waste of time and engagement by the leadership, I came to see another dimension: the tyranny credibility imposes on our capacity to risk success.

I try to be curious about my own hubris. One day, having lived in Toronto for over a year, I became aware of my glancing connection with the same few characters who populated my preferred routes in my neighbourhood. Of course, I smiled and said hello; it was always in a closed way. I set about remedying my pattern. I made a point of stopping to speak with one elderly street homeless man, who always greeted me kindly. In examining my visceral response, I discovered a knot of judgment I had imposed on Daniel. I came face to face with  my hypocrisy. Within my story of vulnerability, I kept to my victimhood and veiled over my role in perpetuating it.  

Like an unguent, unworthiness coats our very existence. It spurs us into creating and recreating situations we perceive as safe while at the same time spurs us into acts micro-aggressions against others as temporary analgesic for our unworthiness.

Therein lies some of the a buried elements to the story of why over 85% of innovations and 70% of change projects fail.

I find the discipline of kindness and curiosity to be powerful countervailing force and a demanding taskmaster. In the face of belittlement, it helps shape warrior attributes to go in search of the sources of vulnerability in each encounter.  I try to keep the John Osborne’s rebuke in his play Look Back In Anger close: “If you can’t bear the thought of messing up your nice, tidy soul, you better give up the whole idea of life and become a saint, because you’ll never make it as a human being.” Kindly curiosity is the salve to the lacerating dynamics of my unworthiness. It is the thing that keeps me going.

A curious inquiry into our encounters does lessen the hold vulnerability has to suppress a warrior heart.


References   [ + ]

1. A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture.

Our first workshop! Cultivating Competence in Curiosity

We held our very first workshop, Cultivating Competence in Curiosity, on October 1 – 2, 2015.  A full-scale test run you could say.  Our first cohort were fantastically engaged and engaging, smart, honest and generous, and we were just plain lucky.  Thanks folks!!

Cultivating Curiosity Workshop Crew, Oct 1-2

Cultivating Curiosity Workshop Crew, Oct 1-2

We learned a great deal from our session, and will modify a number of the elements in the workshop based on our own experiences, and from the feedback we received.  The workshop also elicited questions which we look forward to following up on; ‘following the question’, which is the basic dynamism of curiosity.  One was about the role of vulnerability in curiosity, and another was about how the word ‘educe’ had transitioned from meaning the discovery of intrinsic knowledge or potential, to the filling up of a person with information, as if they are an empty vessel.