Is it okay to be vulnerable in business?

A favorite client of mine wrote the other day asking about my thoughts on showing vulnerability in business. She’d been reading a ebook by Lissa Rankin called, “How to Change the World.” In it, Rankin says,

“Speak your truth. The more you allow yourself to be vulnerable, the more you’ll discover the voice of your truth, raring to be heard. Once you get over the fear of rejection that accompanies being vulnerable, you’ll find you have much more to say—and you’ll find a whole boatload of people who are dying to listen.”

I very much agree with this.

But how far does it go?

At the same time, my client and I have had exchanges over the years about how far to go — do we air our dirty laundry in public? Are we being disingenuous if we leave things out? Are there entrepreneurs out there who just go too far and give too much information?

My client also asked a great question, “If I’m trying to decide what level of vulnerability I’m going to show my audience, does that defeat the purpose of it?”

Be real

I think it’s incredibly important to be real — that’s the only way we find our true voice, especially in writing and speaking.

It’s okay to be private too

And, as a sensitive person, it doesn’t work for me to share deeply personal information in public in the name of being authentic and transparent. I need and want to maintain a degree of privacy and personal space. On the other hand, I want you to know me, so you know what you get when you work with me. I agree with Lissa Rankin that the way to find your audience is by speaking your truth and being visible and public about what matters to you.

Where does this leave us?

So is it a question of degree?

Or timing?

Does it mean ALL the truth?

My solution

My solution is to write raw, first. When I’m ready to share something, I core-dump the messy truth with the aim of finding and sharing a message of hope within it. It’s a cathartic process often — I learn just as much through the writing of my thoughts as (I hope) you do from my sharing of them.

I also think it’s a question of timing. If I share the despair and pain I’m in with my audience while I’m going through it, it’s like watching a train wreck. If I share it with you after the fact, and what I’ve gained from my lessons and experiences, we all benefit.

Sometimes I’m able to hold the broader perspective while I’m going through something. If that’s true, I’ll share it at the time it’s happening. If not, I’ll wait (someday you’ll see some work from me around the early days of parenting as an HSP, but not yet. *Grin*)

Bottom line

The bottom line is:

  1. I don’t go into detail about personal things that are no one’s business but my own — and I don’t think that means I’m not being real, rather being private, and,
  2. I don’t go into detail about vulnerable things when I’m in the middle of it, unless I feel like I can share it in a way that benefits me and others.

This is the path I’ve found that works for me so far.

Your turn

What do you think? What works for you in this area? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.




Coming Attractions


~> October 4th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group. SOLD OUT.

~> October 25th. Register by October 25th for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle (starts October 29th). Looking to feel passionate again about your writing? You must write to get there:


What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Working on rewriting my script, Progeny, with my mentor Chris Soth after finishing the ProSeries.*

~> Sacred writing time. My schedule is in flux right now but I’m writing regularly nonetheless.

~> Reading: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows with my son — so close to finishing now! I think we’re going to read Eragon next. Or maybe Narnia, or The Belgariad. I can’t wait. I’m deeply enthralled by Homeland, finally saw the finale of Weeds (weird), and I’m so happy Castle is back on the air. *Grin*


* Affiliate link





It Takes An Act of Courage to Be Seen

This weekend I was in the thick of two major things that put me in a vulnerable place: Hosting a party and being creative under pressure.

On Saturday, I was trying to make a cake and a party for my son that he would love and one of my friends said, “This is kind of an over-the-top birthday for a three year old, isn’t it?” and I said, “Is it?” because I thought I was doing a great job of having it be low key and fun and cool AND make him an amazing cake he would love.

Then on Sunday, while writing my entry for the third challenge of the Short Screenplay Challenge 2010, I felt like I was trying to corral all these ideas into behaving themselves and into doing what they were supposed to be doing and they were all over the place and at the same time I was trying to meet a deadline AND be creative under pressure AND keep my head at the same time. (Jeez.)

Plus, layered on top of that, I’m in the midst of getting a hold of the slippery direction I’m heading in with my work. It’s changing, evolving, I’m doing it as I go along, but people (Read: naysayers) keep implying that I’m not doing it enough or fast enough or that I’m trying too hard to get it right before I proceed. 

All these things add to the quality of self-consciousness and second-guessing coming up that makes me feel like my slip is really showing. (I hate that.)

But right in the thick of all of this, I had the pleasure of watching Brené Brown’s brilliant TED talk on vulnerability. (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it right now, you’ll be glad you did.)

Since then, I’ve been immersed in thinking over the ways in which I hold myself back from truly connecting, being wildly, deeply creative and joyful, and just plain-old enjoying my life more and how it takes an act of courage to be seen.

Truly seen by yourself, your spouse, your children, your family, your audience.

The thing is, I want to have a LOT more fun. I’ve hacked my life in key ways over the last several years. I know how to trust my intuition, how to work with my sensitive nature rather than against it, how to Get Stuff Done and do it well and effectively, how to make a great living doing work I truly enjoy, how to run a business, and how to work from home and raise a small child (still working on that one).

And there is so much more for me to work on. (I’m an Enneagram Four; there’s ALWAYS more.)

But at the end of the day, what is the point if I’m not enjoying it?

Brené Brown tells us that being vulnerable is the key to making REAL connections, feeling more creative, and having more joy in our lives.

How can we be more real, more vulnerable, and more seen?

I’m trying.

How about you?

If this sparked anything for you, please share it in the comments section below. I always love to hear from you.

What’s Jenna Up To?

~> January 21st & 22nd, 2011. Voice Your Vision Mastermind Retreat. In-Person Workshop in Berkeley, California. Clarify your unique vision to implement your Life Purpose in a specific, step-by-step plan. TWO SPOTS remaining. This small group retreat is perfect for you if you know your purpose but you’re wondering, “What’s next?” Details:

~> January 27th & 28th, 2011. Powerful Strategies to Slay Your Inner Critic Demons So You Can Leap Into the Creative Spotlight.” Appearing as a guest expert at Baeth Davis’s “Claim Your Spotlight” program in Los Angeles, California.

~> NEW DATE: February 10 22, 2011. Virtual Workshop: Claim Your Calling: 5 Steps To Get You Back On Track With What You Were Put Here To Do. Details. Early registration ends January 13th January 27th.