Rationale: When students arrive at college, they present with a mindset molded by years spent in an education system that conditions and rewards conformity. They believe there is a prescribed route to success and any deviance from that path spells doom. They have been trained to provide correct answers and often punished for not knowing course content upon demand. Over time, students become fearful of making mistakes and taking risk. Hence, when they arrive in college, they feel a sense of impostor syndrome, believing themselves inferior to their peers. Dr. Brown’s book addresses the shame individuals feel when confronted with their own vulnerability. I feel, as she does, that to learn deeply and grow as a person, we must be willing to demonstrate vulnerability. While she doesn’t address students, specifically, I believe this book is an excellent choice for the college-bound.
For business students and future leaders, taking the time to understand and gain empathy for employees and customers is paramount. Effective leaders engage in a process of lifelong learning requiring acceptance and ownership of one’s limitations resulting in continuous observation and question generation. They adopt a position of vulnerability with the understanding that it promotes competence and creativity. Moreover, effective leaders model such behavior to those around them, thus increasing agility of the organization and innovative practices. There again, though, many business schools still teach traditional trajectories for business careers in highly competitive rather than collaborative environments. The most successful students and entrepreneurs recognize this and, nevertheless, continually demonstrate vulnerability through asking questions that elucidate profitable avenues to pursue.
I am currently writing a book, tentatively titled, “The First Law of Holes: What to do when you stop digging,” that addresses the challenges inherent in adopting a lifelong learning perspective. The first step involves becoming comfortable with vulnerability. Only then can we ask truly meaningful and insight-generating questions about how to construct a meaningful life path, reduce aversion to risk and failure, and banish impostor syndrome.
Contributor: Risa J. Stein | Twitter