The idea of being vulnerable doesn’t seem courageous, but in our business, courage and vulnerability are intrinsically linked. Every entrepreneur we work with will tell you they have gotten more wrong than they did right in the early days of their business. They had to be willing to fail and therefore put themselves in a vulnerable position to simply begin.
Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead spent 12 years researching this topic and defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. To name her book she turned to a speech that Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910. Roosevelt said:
"It is 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."
This powerful message is hard to ignore, both in life and in business. It is true that if you aren’t willing to show up or you wait until everything seems perfect you run the risk of sacrificing "opportunities that may not be recoverable" for fear of getting things wrong.
In advertising, we push to find unique ways to get our clients noticed and remembered. This means we need to be brave and vulnerable.
The Australian advertising industry is famous for favouring "creativity with a precedent". As a culture, we want to know an idea has been a success somewhere else before we will risk our brands. Brown would say this is us trying to ensure we are bulletproof before we enter the arena and show up for the fight. An interesting concept for brands and agencies to consider.
If vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity we should all be doing a lot more to feel uncomfortable and vulnerable as often as possible.
Go on, dare greatly.