Connection Course Series #5

November 9, 2020
Many of us have learned to associate vulnerability with weakness. We fear that being deeply vulnerable will open the door to being dominated or taken advantage of by others. What’s the difference between vulnerability and timidness, and how can unprotected vulnerability be a sign of strength and courage? Vulnerability is the V in VIEW; and the topic of today’s episode.

Episode intro:

The vulnerability is not something that can be like– It is not a morality. It is not like this is the place to be vulnerable. This is not– In every moment, you can feel where your fear and your truth are together. That´s the vulnerable action.

Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment, where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease.

My name is Brett Kistler.  I am an adventurer, entrepreneur and a self exploration enthusiast.  I am here with my co-host, Joe Hudson. Joe is a business coach who has  spent decades working with some of the world´s top executives and teams developing a unique model of human patterns that underpin how we operate with ourselves, each other and the world. A good entry point into this model is a mindset called VIEW, vulnerability, impartiality, empathy and wonder.  

Through understanding and cultivation we learn to easefully drop into the VIEW state of mind, deepening self awareness and increasing our connection with the world around us. To learn more about this podcast or courses, visit

Brett: Many of us have learned to associate vulnerability with weakness. We fear that being deeply vulnerable will open the door to being dominated or taken advantage of by others. What's the difference between vulnerability and timidness, and how can unprotected vulnerability be a sign of strength and courage? Vulnerability is the "V" in VIEW and the topic of today's episode. Joe, what do you mean when you use the word "vulnerable"?

Joe: What do I mean by the word, when I use "vulnerable"? It means speaking your truth even when it's scary. That's what I mean by vulnerable. If it's not your truth, it's not vulnerable. If it's not scary to say it, it's not vulnerable.

Brett: Semantically, how do we tell the difference between saying the scary thing and just saying something while scared?

Joe: Wow. [chuckles] That's a great question. The difference for me semantically is that in one of them I'm embracing the fear, and in the other one I'm trying to get rid of the fear. If I'm saying the scary thing, then I'm embracing it. I'm saying, "Here's fear. I'm going to actually feel this in my body. I'm going to open up to this thing. I'm going to jump off this cliff, if you will, and I'm going to say the thing."

It's not overcoming, but it's facing and feeling your fear, whereas if you're just saying something while you're scared, that's more like, "What do I say to get out of this situation?" In that one, you're trying to avoid the fear. You have it, but you're trying to get rid of it.

Brett: This embracing of fear, of learning of the fear, that's the benefit of a vulnerability practice?

Joe: It's one of them, yes. It's something that happens when we embrace the fear or we face it if we say, "Yes, I'm happy to feel this fear." One of the things that often happens is, it shifts to excitement, but also, it's a deeply empowering move. It's a deeply empowering move to say, "I can feel this, I don't have to cower to this emotional experience. I don't have to avoid it, and I don't have to push it away. I can actually embrace it. I'm powerful enough to embrace this emotion that most people want to reject." That's one of the benefits.

Another one of the benefits is that, when you know this often when you start, especially when it comes to judgment, when you start being vulnerable about things that you judge yourself on, which is one of the ways that you can be vulnerable, you start realizing that most people aren't going to judge you for it. You're going to be like, "Oh, I'm lazy." and then you notice that most people don't maybe even think you're lazy. Then those who do, maybe they´re like, "Yes, that's part of who you are and I'm okay with it."

The amount that we judge ourselves is far more, far greater than what other people judge us for, for the most part, and so every time we act vulnerably, we get to see that, we get to position what the voice in our head tells us is wrong with us compared to what the world tells us is wrong with us. That's another thing that's incredibly useful about a long term vulnerability practice.

The main thing that a vulnerability practice gives us that's outside of those two things that we just talked about is, that it allows us to find our truth. You find out that as you speak your truth, even though it's vulnerable, your world starts aligning around your truth instead of your presentation of yourself. All of a sudden, it brings you closer to yourself. The more you're vulnerable, the more you're setting up the world to see you for what you are, to respond to you for what you are.

Over time the world changes around you, because you're not going to accept certain things that you were when you weren't being yourself or you are willing to say things that you weren't willing to say when you weren't being yourself, then all of a sudden you can start understanding yourself more and more clearly, see yourself more clearly, because you're more in alignment and you're more aware of your subtle ways that you are not aligned. That's the biggest benefit of a vulnerability practice.

Brett: What you said about finding that others won't judge us for the same things we judge ourselves for. That seems true, but it also must be true that people will judge us for some of the things we judge ourselves for, and even some things that we don't judge ourselves for. It can't always be true that everything about us will be accepted. What do you have to say to that?

Joe: Yes, it's totally true. We're going to be judged all the time. I think there's a couple of things about it. The first thing that you notice is, that what people are judging you for is really not about you, it's about what they judge themselves for and that becomes pretty apparent if you allow yourself to open to their judgment.

Oftentimes I work with people and they're like, "People are judging me," I'm like, "Yes, look around there's somebody here judging you, no doubt about it." Just allowing that in for people changes something. It's like, "Oh, I've been running away from this my whole life and it's happening all the time." There's some way in which allowing yourself to be open for the judgement helps, is one of the benefits of the vulnerability.

The other thing is that there's kind of the current shame and past shame that happens, and oftentimes when you're being vulnerable past shame can be recognized and seen and people don't need to be ashamed of it.

A great example of this is, there are a couple of movies out there, one is called The Work and one is called What I want my words to say to you. There are kind of group process work in prison and you are sitting there with these prisoners in this movie who are telling you their innermost work and you know they're killers. You know they've slashed people open and you're just sitting there like you have this empathy for them, you don't want them to feel ashamed. They are doing the work.

There is a way in which that past shame, which is what is really not useful for us as people. It really helps resolve that and heal that, because generally a lot of people have some acceptance for that if you are being vulnerable about it. If you're being all harsh and hardcore about it, they may not, but current shame is the more likely place where people aren't going to immediately not judge you, like I'm stealing from your house at this exact moment.

That's because current shame is actually quite useful. It's our signal that what we are doing right now isn't what we want to be doing. It's not in alignment with who we are. That's what current shame is for. Past shame is this idea that if I brutalize myself, then it will somehow change the way that I act in the future, which tons of studies show that that's just not true. It's not really useful and it's what really condemns us to repeat that pattern. It's a form of resistance and so that pattern persists.

On one level, yes, people are definitely going to judge you and there's some benefit in that, because you get to see that they are really just judging themselves, especially in the past shame. Also, the other benefit is, it really helps you point out the current shame that's going on. The shame for what you're doing in this moment or in this day, so that's another way to look at it.

Brett: This is interesting to me, because a lot of the expected reactions that for somebody that we might imagine, can receive criticism and can receive judgment, the expected response you think of from a strong person is just to let it roll off their back and that's not vulnerable. That's like they are protecting, so what is it really that makes you be able to-- What's the difference between letting judgment in a way that doesn't produce unnecessary shame or just trigger and bring up and dredge up past shame and bring into the present moment?

Joe: It's letting it break your heart. If you're feeling your body any time that you're judging somebody, you can feel the discomfort of it. You can feel that it's an avoidance of feeling your own emotions or your own insecurity or your own deeper feelings. There's an exercise that we do, where people basically say what they are judging somebody for and then they identify the feelings underneath that judgment is holding at bay.

What it is, is to actually feel your feelings, feel the judgment, is to let it in, and when you see somebody rolls it off their back, that seems like a strong thing for us. It's strong when it's natural. You're not like, "Okay, I'm going to let that roll off my back, whereas you just don't notice it." It's like that famous saying that, if you're trying to be patient, you're not patient. It's just as strong, if not stronger to lean into it and feel that judgment and let it break your heart.

It doesn't mean that you have to grovel at the floor for the person, which is immediately what people's brains go to. Now you're just a groveling, weak, pathetic person which is incredibly far from the truth. One of the greatest strengths that most people don't have is the ability to actually just feel their emotions. They're just constantly trying to manage them because they're really scared shitless of their emotions.

Then the other thing just to say is, that, if you think about vulnerability and you think about-- The Catholics have confession and AA has its version of making amends and talking about all the things that you did while you were drunk. This is a huge part of almost all healing work, vulnerably admitting to yourself to others what you've done and to see that you're not doomed for it, to see that there is salvation or repentance or whatever you want to call it. That you can still be loved despite this. If we don't share those things, there's no way that the shame can come out of the closet and be seen and be loved.

Brett: One big facet then of vulnerability is, letting judgment in a way that breaks our heart open instead of sending us into a shame cycle, and also there is the vulnerability and feeling the pain behind the judgment that we have for others. What other kinds of vulnerability are there?

Joe: Asking for what you want, that one is usually really vulnerable for people. Drawing boundaries can be incredibly vulnerable for people. Expressing yourself, singing, or sharing your poetry can be very vulnerable for people. I think the most vulnerable thing for almost all of us is letting the love in. It is really dropping our guard and dropping our wall of protection and really allowing love to come in. That's an incredibly vulnerable thing to do, especially if we've been taught, which most of us have, that love is criticism or love is abuse or love is rejection.

Also, speaking of rejection, it's just allowing yourself to be rejected, like you said, with the judgment really. When you allow judgment in and you feel it all the way, it's the same thing as saying, I'm allowing myself to be rejected, and you let that break your heart open, and as you do let that heartbreak what happens-- This is the weird part about it, is that if you really let that heartbreak in and you really feel the pain of it, what happens is it just starts to not bother you.

I had several experiences where there's been something where let's say, it's a lot like judgment, where I noticed that when people judge me, my defense goes up, my chest expands a little bit, and I'd maybe look down on them or something, and I'm like, "I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to really let that break my heart." I did. For weeks, months, I'm trying to think. It's probably about six weeks, and I'd be crying in odd places and all that crazy stuff, and now when people judge me there's just no, very seldom a reaction.

There's still sometimes a reaction when it's somebody who I deeply love and respect and they do it, and then I'll notice maybe I get defensive, or maybe my heart still breaks, but the tremendous amount of judgment that you get, particularly in a position like this. Tons of people have an opinion and want to judge what you're saying and doing, which is absolutely their right. It doesn't even cross my consciousness anymore, and that's what the heartbreak provides. It provides you the courage to love more deeply.

Brett: Now, there seem to be good game-theoretic reasons to keep our fears and intentions closer to our chests sometimes. How do we speak our truth and share our internal world like this without being taken advantage of?

Joe: Right. Well, the first thing to say is that, like I said, just a little bit earlier boundaries are vulnerable too. When you draw a boundary, you draw it in the way that I think about boundaries, which is not asking somebody else to be different, but saying what you're going to do differently. Like, "Hey, if you're going to yell at me, I'm going to leave." In that kind of a boundary, often what you're saying is, are you going to reject me for being myself? That's what the boundary is saying, and accepting that they might do that.

It's incredibly vulnerable to draw that boundary and also when you're really capable of stepping into that vulnerability, you're less likely to be taken advantage of. Most people are taken advantage of, because there's something in them that says, "No, this isn't right. I know this isn't right, but if I say that, I might get rejected." The vulnerable thing is to say it and find out if you get rejected. Vulnerability actually protects you.

One other way to look at this a little bit is, that most of the time when people are taking advantage of it's because they're avoiding their fear. "I might be poor my whole life and therefore I'll listen to this person or I'm scared that I'll procrastinate my whole life. I'll buy this thing from this guru or I want to make the money. I believe that my boss is going to promote me when they don't promote me." It's fear that allows us to be taken advantage of, not vulnerability.

If you really vulnerably say, "Wow, I just noticed that I'm curious if I'm going to be taken advantage of here." Wow, the chances of you getting taken advantage of are a tremendous amount less. My experience is that people think about differently is, because when they were young, they loved unconditionally, and it hurt, and so they think that they're going to be hurt if they're loving, and vulnerability in the end of the day is an opening up to your love, to your openness, to your truth of who you are, and so people associate that with the pain, but it's actually the fear that drives the being taken advantage of far more.

Brett: What makes this-- You touched on this just now, but let's dig into a little bit more about what makes this so counterintuitive to most of us. If vulnerability really is strength and vulnerability and embracing our fear is the way out of being taken advantage of, what makes so many of us have this block? It may have been the case when we were kids that something happened, but we've grown up now, what makes that persist?

Joe: Yes, when we're kids, and we're not accepted for who we are as kids. Very few if any people get just fully accepted for who they are, "Don't have a temper tantrum, don't cry, don't get angry. Don't get sad. Don't be scared. Man up, lift up your chin." It's like what we are is not fully accepted. "Calm down, don't get so excited, blah, blah, blah."

What that makes us feel is, it makes us feel helpless as kids. It's this deep, helpless feeling of, "This is who I am, and I'm not supposed to be this way and I am having love removed from me if I'm myself," which feels really bad to not be yourself and it feels really bad to get love removed from your parents where your entire biology is designed to get the love from your parents, and so you start to feel scared, and you also feel like you're wrong, and so that's the memory that lives with us, and it controls us. We don't want to feel that.

As I think we've discussed before, there's different brainwaves. There's alpha and beta and theta. Theta is that dream state. It's where you go into hypnosis and kids from zero to seven, zero to eight, they're in theta all the time. This is the programming, the programming is, "Don't be yourself in these ways because if you do, you're going to feel really helpless. You're going to feel scared and you're going to feel wrong," and so when we start to be ourselves, that's the feeling that we have to move through.

When you move through it two or three times, it's done. You just got to move through it three or four times, two or three times, you're finished. It's not very many times that you have to move through it, and then the system has changed itself. It's like muscle memory more than anything else.

Brett: Right. This muscle memory, our relationship to vulnerability is imprinted on us when we're young by other people, and a lot of things seem like it's about other people and their effect on our imprint of vulnerability, but now when we're doing this work from the inside out, do we need somebody else around to be on the same page with us, to be vulnerable? How do we develop this vulnerability from the inside out when it was patterned on us from the outside in?

Joe: Yes. One of the things that I've noticed is that, when people have really strong access to their emotions, they care less and less what other people think. People who have a really strong ability to feel their anger, have fluid anger and a fluid sadness and fluid fear, that they care less, and it's because they're incredibly related.

The vulnerable thing to do when you're by yourself is to allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling. Right now, in this moment, you can close your eyes and there's something in your system emotionally uncomfortable, and you can lean in and open to it, embrace it and welcome it, and that's the same feeling of vulnerability. If we got rejected as a kid, we've rejected it internally as well, and so allowing ourselves to feel it and embracing that intensity. It can be done in really, literally every moment of the day.

That's showing yourself that these feelings that you have, this truth that you have, is acceptable. It's a great way to grok that like, "There is nothing wrong with me." The thing that we think is wrong with us is resisted emotion, emotion that we think we're not supposed to have. Internally, it's jumping off the same cliff, it's like, "Oh, I'm going to allow myself to feel this feeling." It's the same when you're being vulnerable and you're speaking your truth, you're like, "Oh, I might feel rejected. Oh, I might feel judged. Oh, I might feel abandoned," and it's allowing yourself to feel these feelings, whether it's internal or external.

Brett: What's a specific example of one of these feelings, these uncomfortable feelings that we might find if we do this exercise, and then a vulnerable action that might come from embracing that feeling?

Joe: The feelings are some of the ones I've mentioned, like rejection or abandonment or anger. It can be different for everybody, but what can be even more different is what the action is that's vulnerable.

For me, it was very easy to move to fight if I felt attacked, and what was far harder, more vulnerable for me some years ago was to say "Ouch." to say "That hurt." to say "I'm sorry.", those were far more vulnerable actions, because I felt like I would be attacked if I did that, but there's some people who always say I'm sorry and they're more vulnerable action might be to stand up for themselves.

It's really different. The vulnerability is not something that can be like-- It's not a morality. It's not like this is the place to be vulnerable. This is not. It's in every moment you can feel where your fear and your truth are together and that's the vulnerable action. It's really a very personal thing.

Brett: You're talking about the fight part, how does vulnerability look in the face of outright direct hostility? Perhaps there's no physical danger that you're in, but you're in the face of strong aggression.

Joe: Yes, again, that's different for everybody. The story goes, say Gandhi got shot, and he forgave the person before he died, that might be a great act of vulnerability, but it might not, that's the crazy part. That might have been second nature for Gandhi.

It's really about seeing what your truth is. If you're in outright attack, the vulnerable thing might be to say, "I don't want to engage with you." That could be really like-- If you learned as a kid that walking away from somebody was something that was going to get you attacked, then that might be the really vulnerable thing, and you might do that five, six, seven times and find out, "Oh, I can do that now," and then now it's not vulnerable anymore and then now, now it's vulnerable. Now it's vulnerable, might be like, "Oh, my goodness, yes, please share all that, I see you're really angry at me. Please share that all with me."

You might do that for five or six times, and all of a sudden that's not vulnerable anymore and then the vulnerable thing might be like, "I love you and it hurts that you're attacking me and I love you, I'm not going to stop loving you." You just can't determine what that is for a person. It's very much what it is for you. It's your truth, it's your fear, it's not anybody else's and it could be, stop it. It could be, I'm not going to accept this from you right now. It could be literally yelling back.

It's very different for every person, but if you don't feel like you have the freedom to do all of those things, then you're not free. There's a saying that says, if your hand is always in a fist or if your hand is always in a receiving position, both of them are cripple. You really want that flexibility, and vulnerability gives you that.

Brett: A lot of the examples you gave there wasn't really a clear– like it's really person-dependent. People could find themselves using-- I've seen this happen before, people will use vulnerability as a defense, or as a way to attract attention or manipulate a situation, and maybe it'll be a false vulnerability, or maybe they will truly feel that that's vulnerable for them, because it's just making them feel the fear that they’re patterned to feel. What's going on with that?

Joe: Yes, I've got a big smile on my face. This is again, this belief system that weakness is vulnerability. What's happening there often is that people are using-- they're saying, "Look, I'm weak." It's making you feel guilty or making you want to take care of them or making you feel like you've done something wrong. It's really not vulnerability at all.

If you think about those moments when you've done it, when you've played weak to manipulate or-- we all have on some level played weak to get someone to help us. I think guilting people is one version of this. We're neither in our truth nor are we scared when we're doing that. It's just confusion over again that vulnerability and weakness are the same thing.

Brett: How do you know if you're in one of those situations, how do you know if you are really being vulnerable or you are having bad boundaries or you are trying to control? What's the pointer to that?

Joe: It's when you are in your truth and when you are embracing fear, and not feeling it, but embracing it. A good way to know when you're not being vulnerable is that there's guilt involved, because almost all the time when we're manipulating somebody, there's something that kind of feels dirty in us and that's like a guilt feeling. That's another way to know if you're doing this to control. You see this all the time nowadays where people control by saying, "I don't feel safe."

They say, "I don't feel safe," and that's like, "You have to change for me." We can turn anything into control. We can turn boundaries into control. We can turn vulnerability into control, and you see people do this to where they were like, "I was vulnerable with them and they weren't vulnerable back," as if it's an exchange, it's as if we're keeping score, and that happened, you won, because you get to be vulnerable. If you're keeping score, if it's guilt, then you know that you're not in a vulnerable state.

Brett: Got it. Vulnerability is already widely accepted as a directionally correct heuristic for personal relationships, notwithstanding the challenges and different relationships people have are the definitions of vulnerability, but what about in the workplace? What happens when we bring vulnerability to the workplace, where it often seems like vulnerability should be or is expected to be reduced in a workplace?

Joe: What happens, you manage people better, you sell better, you build better products. That's what happens when you're vulnerable in a workplace. It's interesting to hear you say it, ask the question, because I know that so many corporate environments are built on a lack of vulnerability, but it doesn't matter what you look at. If you look at the people who are outstanding performers, that are really outstanding performers, there's a way in which they're vulnerable in their work. It's even-- I know it's kind of crazy to even say this, it's even in rap music.

If you look at rap music, and all the belligerents and all fronting and saying how cool they are, and how they're going to get everybody else. The people who are most vulnerable in their raps are the most successful, the ones who actually show themselves like Eminem, whatever they are. They are kind of revealing a part of their psychology that would be hard for anybody else to reveal if it was in them.

Those are often the most successful and it's just like that all the way around if you-- There's tons of stories, there's a woman in Brazil who had her company work without a paycheck for six months, because she was so vulnerable and let them know there's reinventing organizations.

There's a story of a CEO of a company, they lost a third of their business and he vulnerably went to everybody and said, "I don't know what to do." The whole company was like, "Hey, let's reduce our salaries for a third until we can get another customer in," and they got a customer relatively quickly.

There's just so many stories. They talk about brand authenticity. That's a vulnerable thing. I saw the head of the COO of Patagonia get up and speak one time and he said, "For brand authenticity, I want to tell you what we're not doing for the environment that we could be doing." He just listed it out. That's how he started. Immediately, everybody was just like, Oh, wow, you really do care about the environment. [laughs]

Whereas other people are like, “This is everything I'm doing.” You know, like greenwashing. Vulnerability works. If you even think about the great presidential speeches and they're evoking a vulnerability of, I am responsible for this. After all, I'm the president. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

Those sentiments are all these vulnerable sentiments of opening up our humanity, because it's our humanity that creates connection. All businesses is connection. It's a connection to our thoughts. It's a connection to each other. It's a connection to our customers. The deeper we are in connection with ourselves, with our ideas, with our emotions, with our customers, with the product, those levels of connection, it just makes us better in business.

Brett: What tends to happen if somebody who's embarking on this journey right now and bringing more and more of themselves and their vulnerability to their workplace, what can they expect? What's that going to look like?

Joe: Probably a bumpy ride. [laughs] I would say that it's a bit of a bumpy ride at first, because one of the main reasons people fight is the question of who's in charge. If you've been acting like you know everything all the time and you start being vulnerable people might be like, oh, is he not in charge anymore? They might test that for a while until they realize that no, you're still strong. You still are determined. You're just also being real. You're just creating connection. Also, most of the time when people start being vulnerable, they oscillate between vulnerable and defended, and that creates a confusing signal for the company. It can be a little bit of a bumpy ride, but it definitely turns the corner relatively soon if you commit to it.

What happens is, you know yourself better. There's a famous Drucker quote, which is basically, "You can't manage others if you can't manage yourself." Self-knowledge happens. People are more prone to trust you, because you're actually real with them. You create, like I said, deeper connections and people they follow authenticity. If you really look at who we pick as our leaders, they can be assholes. They can be kind. They can be saints. They can be incredibly intelligent, but the people that we pick are the people who are authentic. The less authentic say, a presidential candidate is, the more it feels like they're putting on a show, the less likely they are to get elected.

Brett: I like that you pointed out the people that we pick as our leaders because, in the workplace, there's often an assumption that we didn't pick our boss, but we really did pick our job and pick who's going-- we did in a sense. Now as a leader, as a boss, and you had mentioned that as people show up to the workplace with more vulnerability, they go back and forth between clean vulnerability and then being messy and that can be really disorienting for people around them. As a leader, how can you create an environment that allows people that space, that slack for messiness as they show up and try to bring more vulnerability?

Joe: That's a great question. A question that a lot of people never get to. I would say that the real way to do this is to have really clear boundaries. No emotions at people, you take accountability for the mess that you make. Those are the things that are most useful for the people who are there. Somebody says, I'm going to be vulnerable, and they are vulnerable and in a normal business, maybe they would say, that was unprofessional, we need you to be professional. Basically, take that part of yourself and stuff it. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but it's just not the most efficient thing.

If you're choosing to be vulnerable and somebody does that same really big mess, it's like, I really understand and again, at the end of the day, these are still your responsibilities and it's still your job to treat your employees or your peers with respect. How do we accept this part of you and still make sure that all the other expectations are met? I think a lot of the times when people start being vulnerable– It can allow people to get messy and too entwined in trying to save each other. If somebody is vulnerable with you and then you try to save them, it can get really quite messy.

It's really the thing is, if someone's vulnerable with you, it's how do you empower them? How do you turn it around so that they see that there's actions that they can take responsibility for? As an example of this, I was recently working with somebody, I was very explicit, "Please do not do this. It will hurt a lot of our customers if you do it." They went ahead and did it. I basically said, "Oh, I noticed that I've lost trust and I don't want to work with anybody that I don't trust. The way that I could see rebuilding trust is that you identify what created that behavior in you and you tell me how you're addressing it so that I can be confident it's not going to happen again."

It's just an incredibly clear boundary and holding them accountable, which is the deep form of empowerment and there was no anger. There was no shame. There is no you've been bad. There was no me trying to save them. There was just [laughs] I actually appreciated them for showing me some things in the conversation that we had prior. Where I was like, "Oh, I really appreciate that you showed me these things and these are ways that I can improve, and I still notice that I don't have trust in you."

Brett: Something you got to a little earlier was, vulnerabilities seems to be contagious. If you show up to a relationship or a workplace becoming more vulnerable, it seems that often others will become more vulnerable too. You can just expect that to happen and that you can expect them to be messy. Maybe if you're doing it from the framework of VIEW in our course, you might have more theory to fall back on on how to let your messiness be and they might have less.

It seems like as we are preparing ourselves to experience being more messy as we become vulnerable, we can just expect other messiness to show up around us and vulnerability. What´s your advice for that?

Joe: Well, first of all, yes, messiness is going to show up, but it's not going to be more messy than what's happening now. It's just going to be added, it's just going to be raised to the surface. It's not that vulnerability just is going to make your world a mess for a while. It's just going to shine light into the corners you haven't swept.

Every one of those messes if it's approached with more vulnerability and boundaries and that kind of thing, then the world gets more and more clean, and then there's less and less friction and then everything happens more and more smoothly.

The question that you're asking though is still a good one, which is, “What do you do when you shine the light and see that there's a whole bunch of dirt?” The response is, you clean it out and VIEW conversations are a great way to do that. It's really working with each other and holding each other accountable with vulnerability, impartiality, empathy, and wonder.

Brett: As we continue to practice vulnerability, how does the way that we express it change over time? Beyond this early shifting that seems like it might be higher magnitude, what then happens over a longer period?

Joe: A deep authenticity shows up. I think about my wife all the time in this. Particularly other women, I watch them just sit in awe of my wife often, it's almost like they're watching a puppy. The same kind of awe that you see a puppy with. You've met her. You know. She's just so much of herself. She's just like, “Oh, tea, flowers.” She's so in her world of joy and everybody's like, “Oh, and that's what happens is that you're more yourself and more yourself means you're more in love. It means there's more joy in your life.”, and people want to be around that. People are fascinated with that and it creates awe in people.

Think about it this way. Think about a friend that you have, that you like very much, you have a deep love for and there's just something that bothers you about them. You put that person in your mind and imagine if that thing that they bothered you with, they were just super vulnerable. They are like, “I noticed that I am constantly bragging and I'm really sorry for that. It's not how I want to be with you. I don't want to have to try to make myself feel good or make you feel bad.” That's one example. Just imagine you have a friend like that. What happens in your system if they're vulnerable like that with you? You immediately want to be around them more.

Brett: You drop the defense. You drop the judgment.

Joe: Exactly, and that's what happens. The more you're vulnerable, the more that happens.

Sales is the same thing. There's good studies about people who care more about the relationship, who are actually really driven by serving the people through sales, and how much better they do performance-wise. It's not the only thing that makes a good salesperson for sure. There's definitely data that challenging people can make you a better salesperson, but challenging people is a form of care. Asking questions helps sales. We know that but asking questions actually shows a concern for them as well.

In a weird way, if you look at all of the things that make great salespeople, they're all based on the fact that they're centered on the other person, that they're not about closing the deal. It's about building the relationship. It's about helping the person discover something. It's about entering into their world. In sales, it's the same thing. It's like all those things are very vulnerable moves.

If you look at creating relationships generally, or you think about the people in business that you want to work with the next time you're in business. You're starting your company and you can handpick 10 people that you want to work with. How many of those are based on some level of connection that you feel with that person? It's probably something like 7 out of 10, and then the other three are highly competent in something. That's another way to look at it.

Brett: A point you brought up about challenging people was interesting. There are vulnerable ways to challenge somebody and there're invulnerable ways to challenge somebody. Let's assume that you've done it in the most vulnerable way. Let's say, it's sales business, something relatively high stakes, and other people are depending on it. You are authentically vulnerable in a way that challenges somebody. What if that is received as an attack?

Joe: Then you apologize. Then you say I'm so sorry I had no intention of attacking you. I was just hoping that we could discover something together. If you're challenging, asking scary questions is a huge part of VIEW and that is challenging. Almost always when that question is really scary, it's really challenging.

If you do it with vulnerability, which is the scary part, the impartiality, empathy, and wonder, then it's far less likely to be seen as an attack. Still, it can be seen as an attack, and then you just go, “I'm sorry, I had no intention of attacking you.” Or you double down and you say, “What's making you defensive. I don't understand. What are you defending?” Which would be another scary question. If you're actually in wonder, not in judgment. If you're not trying to prove yourself right.

Brett: That points back to the state of being that VIEW is, because you could say, “What makes you so defensive?” Or you could say, really, “What makes you defend against that?”

Joe: Yes, exactly. Or you can say, “Oh, I see that I have offended you. I really don't want to offend you. Can you help me see what it is that I've attacked in what you're defending?” Because you must really care about it if you're defending it.

Brett: We talked a lot about what vulnerability is and what it looks like. Let's talk a little bit more about the state of being that all of this points to. How we can know when we're in it and when we're not in it. What are some compass points that point towards this vulnerability, so that we can use as we walk away from this episode?

Joe: That's great. Intellectually, like we said and probably several times now that you're inviting your fear and you're saying what's true to you. That's the intellectual. I guess part of that's emotional, inviting your fear. There's also a heart-opening– and the fear can often turn to excitement, if you fully embrace that vulnerability, or it does maybe through the process of saying the thing that you want to say. There's that heart openness that happens.

From the guts perspective, it's very much like, yes let's do this. There might be a no in the nervous system but the gut is like, yes, this is true, this is it. That's what you can feel. Those are the ways to feel the vulnerability but the easiest is just to say, oh, what's the scary thing that's true for me right now?

Brett: I think one of the things that's in both, the fear and the excitement of saying the vulnerable thing, is knowing that your idea or your authenticity is about to be tested. Knowing that the relationship you're about to find out how real it is for the other person, or how much connection there actually is here. Or you're about to find out if you're going to be rejected or not instead of continuing to wonder for a long time while you pretend to be somebody else.

Joe: Yes, that's such a beautiful way of putting it. It's true. The interesting thing your mind does in these moments is, that what your mind does is, it seems like that's the end of it. Like, “Oh my God, I'm going to see if I get rejected, and then they reject you.” You can double down on vulnerability and you can be like, “Ouch. I was really hoping not to be rejected and I don't want to push you into not rejecting me.” Then they might go, “Wait, hold on. I'm not trying to reject you here. I just want to be seen in my truth. What am I missing?” It doesn't end.

The thing is it just never ends, but the fear tells us that there's this cliff and it's over that cliff. Oh, we're going to be rejected. I can't tell you how many times–

Today at lunch, there was an old babysitter of ours and her mother was sitting there and I saw them. I'd seen the babysitter maybe two or three years back, and she didn't look happy. I saw her today and she looked great. I said, "Wow, you look great." She said, "Oh, Thanks." I was like, "Yes, the last time I saw you, you looked like you're wilting a little bit and it's just great to see you look so good."

I'm sitting at lunch with my daughter, 11-years-older and the mother comes over and chastises me for saying what I said to her daughter. I could feel rejected and I did for a moment. I was like, “Oh, ouch.”, and then I walked over and I looked at the daughter and I said, "I'm sorry, I had no intention of offending you and I'm sorry if I offended you." Then she said, "Oh, it's no problem. I just couldn't figure out a time recently where I've felt withered or whatever, felt bad." I was like, "I don't think I've seen you for two or three years." She was like, "Oh, okay." The mom was still twisted about whatever what was going on, but the daughter, she thanked me, "Oh, thank you for apologizing." I'm like, "Yes, no problem." There's no end. There's just when you want to stop. Sometimes it's really vulnerable to say, "I can't do this anymore."

Brett: There's two directions I want to go with that. One that reminded me of a story from about 10 years ago, working on a commercial production job. The key actor who was a famous musician at the time showed up to set and just looked like death. Everybody on set tiptoed around that and just coddled and then he sits down, and the makeup girl walks up, and she's just like, "Wow, you look like shit." He was just like, all of a sudden all this tension just released. He's like, "Oh, my God. Yes, I just feel like crap. I've been having these personal issues and this and that and the sleep–" He just got to just let it all out.

Joe: Yes, exactly. I don't know how many times I've said, "Wow, you're being an ass." But with just total joy and no judgment in the system and the person's like, "Oh, yes, I kind of I am, fuck." Then we have a real conversation. It feels vulnerable to say that though.

Brett: Which brings another thing to be excited about with vulnerability, is the dropping of pretense. You're about to find out. This is probably where part of the fear comes in, that you're going to have to revise your model of reality because you're testing it.

Joe: Yes, exactly. All the time. Yes, that's it. That's beautifully said.

Brett: Well, this has been a great episode, Joe. Thank you so much for your time.

Joe: A total pleasure. I look forward to the next one, Brett.

Brett: Likewise. Take care.

Thanks for listening to The Art of Accomplishment.  If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe & rate us in your podcast app. We would love your feedback, so feel free to send us questions and comments. To reach out to us, join our newsletter, or check out our courses at


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