It's interesting that the definition of vulnerable is being "susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm", because I've learned that there is actually a lot of strength and power in choosing to be vulnerable.
When a video I made went viral, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and kind words from strangers across the globe. It was uncomfortable, to be sure, but knowing that our own experience had moved so many people brought comfort and strength in the midst of a difficult journey.
As entrepreneurs, we're taught to have this public persona - to put our best foot forward. (And it's good advice.)
But when things go wrong in the middle of trying to do everything right, it can be so easy to go silent, keep up the happy outward facade. Sometimes having the courage to be vulnerable allows us to remain authentic and still move forward.
Brad Feld: Vulnerability Changes Public Perceptions
Brad didn't just write about founders who might face depression. He wrote about his very personal, private experiences with depression - the cycles of ups and downs, how it affected his relationships, what he'd learned helped, and what he'd learned exacerbated things.
I was both in awe at his decision to be that vulnerable and more than a bit envious. It was easy for someone of Brad's stature to open up about depression - something that is incorrectly perceived as a weakness or sign of instability.
He had "arrived", so he didn't risk any real consequences for sharing his story. But really, the stakes were just as high for him. He had even more to lose to the stigma of depression.
When there is some secret in our life that we are afraid others will discover, we give the power of our future over to protecting that secret. There is such liberation in being vulnerable, in allowing others to see us as we are.
Not, this doesn't mean we should continually gush about our flaws and weaknesses. There is a big difference between that and refusing to allow some diagnosis, mistake or other secret from keeping us from moving forward.
I have such deep respect for Brad's choice to be open about his own depression and that his vulnerability made it possible for other founders to feel less alone in their own battles with the mental and emotional demands of the startup world.
Ted Rheingold: Vulnerability Provides Clarity
I didn't know Ted Rheingold, the San Francisco-based entrepreneur, investor, advisor and mentor, before I read his essay on his recent cancer diagnosis. But something in his words, in his raw honesty, resonated.
Perhaps because it surfaced a fear within myself that something unexpected could derail my own plans.
I didn't have big goals as a child. I didn't see myself doing anything significant - certainly not growing a company the way I've done for the past few years. I would have been happy to be a mom at home. Or at least I think I would have. Who knows.
But when I launched APPCityLife and could see the future far beyond where we were - the global impact that could change the potential for people elsewhere - when I tasted that kind of vision and understood that with enough funding and time, it was possible - the fear of it being taken away, of it not being possible was something that kept me awake at nights.
When we're working on things that we believe matter, the stakes are higher - not just financially but personally. And Ted's willingness to share his unexpected journey with the world reminded me that being vulnerable sheds clarity on life, our goals, and what matters on our journey.
Sheryl Sandberg: Vulnerability Broadens Our Network of Support
When Sheryl Sandberg chose to speak about the very personal loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg, during her UC Berkeley 2016 Commencement Speech, her vulnerability and authenticity inspired and moved a global audience far beyond those who were graduating that day.
Sheryl has lived in the public eye for a long time as a role model for women in leadership and in tech through her Lean In initiative. Her TED talk on the subject has been viewed well over 6 million times, and her advice is still widely debated.
While her choice to talk openly about death and grieving and moving forward could not have been easy, in doing so, she metamorphosed from a highly respected icon of success into a woman the world can relate to.
When we choose to be vulnerable, we risk a lot. But we also gain the freedom to be authentic in our journey and to broaden the network of support - and whether we're famous or not, the power of a kind word is invaluable when we're facing dark days.