Showing up

Brené Brown and Chase Jarvis

“Most of us are brave and afraid in the same moment, all day long.”

[Brené Brown]

We underestimate the power of feedback. It's useful to learn how to provide it, and to understand the types of feedback that are well suited to each situation. When we engage in a creative endeavor, by necessity, we need to show ourselves.

Since each of us has their own filters through which we see the world, this makes us vulnerable to criticism. And criticism hurts — especially when hurled at us from a high perch.

But, says Brené Brown channeling Roosevelt from his Sorbonne speech in 1910:

“It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Because they are the ones who do not dare attempt. Since much of our work today is knowledge work, this applies to even more fields and activities. So when we receive feedback from people who are just sitting on the sidelines, we can't be open to it, says Brown. 

Beyond it hurting, it's important to understand for people like us who engage in creative work — and creativity is an important, even vital aspect of many professional lives today — it changes who we are. We may put on a brave face and say we don't care about what people say. “That is its own kind of hustle,” says Brown.

Like many things in life, we are called to navigate a fine line.

The dilemma is that when we don't care at all about what anyone thinks, we lose our capacity for connection. Which automatically opts us out of the many joys of life. When we're defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Which diminishes our ability to create something original.

We want to learn to walk this tight rope. To care about what people think, but not be defined by it. One useful tool to do that is to write on a postage-stamp sized piece of paper the names of the people whose feedback matters to us; so we can remember.

The people who love us because of our imperfections and vulnerabilities are those who qualify to be on that small piece of paper. Says Brown, “most of us steamroll over the people whose opinion should matter to get acceptance and approval from people who should not matter at all.”

Humor helps.

For more stories and context about this conversation with Chase Jarvis, watch the video below.


For more about navigating that line between caring and filtering, read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown.

Each and every one of the things we want from work — engagement, trust, adaptability, innovation, the list goes on — activates through vulnerability. We need to understand what vulnerability actually means to benefit from its impact.