I recently met Sarah, a board level director in an international IT company. It was obvious she'd been successful in her corporate career and that she loved her work. Sarah just turned 40. She said a growing desire had emerged in the past couple of years: she’d love to start her own business and create a lifestyle on her own terms. Her dream was to do something that matters to her and also spend more time with her children who are still young.
Sarah knows what she wants, and she has a clear vision how her future business would look like if it became successful. But she’s unsure about her plan and how to take the first step.
I suggested Sarah to join DrivenWoman, but she said that though she loves what we do, it’s not for her. Fair enough, I thought, but decide to ask her why. “I don’t like sharing my personal experiences” she replied.
I suppose most of us don’t really enjoy sharing our journey with others. This is a shame.
One of the biggest obstacles for learning is one’s inability to process failure, feel vulnerable and admit that we are all imperfect.
Sarah has been very successful in her career and she knows exactly what to do in her job as a marketing professional. Now contemplating a new path, she’d like to keep that feeling of control. But her ego stops her from exposing her vulnerability in a new situation. Suddenly she doesn’t know what to do!
Everyone who tries to do something new or take a risk must admit to imperfectness. The common way to try to solve this is to keep working by yourself, do lots of research and trust that you will find all the answers without showing the world you don't know everything.
Most of us will accept that mistakes are part of the process and say that they are ready to learn if they fail. Unfortunately this is a very slow way to learn, and to succeed.
According to Shane Snow, author of ‘Smartcuts’, we don’t often learn anything from our own mistakes. The human nature, ie our ego, tends to externalize failure. You’ll think you failed because you didn't get any support or you didn’t have enough resources or the world wasn't ready for your idea.
By explaining our own failure with external factors our ego can maintain self worth which is linked to success and would be destroyed by admitting mistakes.
Snow explains that a surprising way to accelerate success is to expose yourself to other people’s mistakes.
Watching other people in a similar situation struggle helps us learn faster, he explains. Shockingly, however, we don’t learn as much from other’s successes. Why? Because our ego wants to externalize success to outside influences and blame luck.
So that sounds rather straight forward doesn't it.
Sarah should just join a confidential group like DrivenWoman and listen to other people’s failures, right?
Not so fast honey.
Consider this, you want a foot massage, but you are not willing to pay me anything to get it. Neither are you willing to offer me a foot massage in return. Do you think I’ll end up giving you a great foot massage? Or anything at all in the first place?
If you are not willing to help others in their search for success, how can you expect to get a lift yourself?
By sharing your journey and exposing your vulnerability you are actually putting your experiences out there for others to learn from. It's one of the greatest ways to help others, so why shouldn't you do that?
When a group of women engage in an open and honest exchange of experiences, they create a very powerful learning loop that will accelerate everyone’s learning, thus help everyone in the group succeed faster.
Sharing your personal experiences, fear of failure, mistakes and challenges is actually the greatest gift you can give to your fellow passenger on this journey of life. Girls, do you think we could learn to give more freely and let go of our shame of vulnerability.
And perhaps one day we will see Sarah in DrivenWoman too.
Have a great, vulnerable week girls!
If you want to learn how sharing experiences can help you grow, join one of the DrivenWoman Introduction evenings in London or Helsinki.