About 3 years ago I bumped into a friend and fellow entrepreneur while walking through the busy streets of Johannesburg CBD.
“Hey Mush, how’s it going?” (He’s the only one who calls me that)
Without hesitation, “Things are great man, you know how it is, hustling!”
I had just finished a horrible meeting in which a client sold dreams of a huge deal with stories of big name connections and leveraged relationships if, of course; I did this one job for almost nothing. I had walked 4kms from my flat to get there under the guise that I wanted to experience the bustling city life. But truly, it was because my beloved car was in the shop, and funds were too low to speed it up. To make matters worse, I had used the last bit of cash for the month to pay for this guy’s lunch as he had conveniently “forgotten” his wallet!
I stopped myself… “You know what, I’m lying… Things are rough man…”
Our business was undergoing a lot of challenges. We had just lost a big account due to unfocused project management; and got bullied out of another large invoice from a massive unconquerable entity. We were a few months late in rent, all of our fridges were empty and we really didn’t know where to go. It was a dark time and I as the leader felt that I had failed my team, my business partner, my family and myself.
I let it all out to that poor guy for 30 minutes on that corner. He looked at me wide-eyed and I began to regret my random outburst.
“Mush, I’m so glad you said all that. I also don’t know where to go either.”
Something that day possessed me to open up, to be vulnerable and to share my story. It brought an immediate honest connection shifting a casual acquaintance into a fellow brother in arms.
As entrepreneurs we are often guilty of faking the funk. You know the conversations:
– How you doing?
– Great, business is picking up
– We’re just going through growth period
– Offices? Or we’re currently in between, you know, construction.
– We’re going back to bootstrapping.
– I just ran out business cards this morning!
– Oh, I love the daily struggle! I live for this.
We are in constant competition with one another and we feel we always need to be seen in the best light, with the most success and as the most put together. No one wants to open up, to expose a weakness, to share the low down dirty truth.
But there’s incredible power in vulnerability. Contrary to popular belief, vulnerability is not weakness, but the exact opposite… It is courage. And it is the pathway to success.
Here are a few points why:
Vulnerability forces honesty to oneself.
First and foremost we have to stop lying to ourselves. A mentor once told me of my struggles and financial hardships, “You have to own it. Right now. Fronting will only slow you down.”
Digging in, assessing your situation and accepting it, is the first step.
We often think we’re better at life than we really are. We tell ourselves, we’re smarter, work harder, are more knowledgeable, more creative, more powerful. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, I can still fix it, I can still do it, I just need to last a little longer.
Cutting the BS is necessary. Take a step back and sincerely look at your life, your path and your bearings. Theodore Roosevelt said, “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and the confidence in the doing.”
Put it all on the table. Own it.
Vulnerability allows authentic connection to others.
This week I came across the new word, “sonder.” Created by designer John Koenig, author of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
It is defined as “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own —populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you…”
There is pure authenticity in understanding that everyone around you has his or her own challenges, difficulties and situations. Vulnerability should remind you everyone else is just as vulnerable! And most of us can’t seem to share that moment and opportunity to “sonder” together.
Just like that random street corner run-in, humans naturally find ways to empathize and relate to one another.
Vulnerability opens the forum for shared advice and understanding.
We get caught up the in lies that we’re self-sufficient. That no one else gets it. That we’re too tough to get advise. Sharing challenges (and successes) allows for a two-way learning opportunity to occur. The honest opening up says this is what I’ve been through, this is what I did, this is how I got through it, what did you do?
Entrepreneurship is a lonely path and we forget that it’s just as lonely for the next guy. Unlocking that you’ve both been there or are still in it kills that seclusion.
Vulnerability gives us freedom!!!
Freedom to remove the shackles. To kick off the shame. To shake off the dust. To create! To pivot! To innovate!
And the freedom to continue to tell your story. When times are good, on the way back up from the bottom, and during the most difficult moments.
It’s an everlasting process of being aware of your own situation and the value of being able to share it unadulterated for the sake of the next individual.
Give us, us free!
For more insights, rants and motivation tune into our weekly show, The Opportune Time, telling the stories of Joburg’s entrepreneurs, Wednesday 4-6pm CAT on jozimabonengradio.co.za.