There is probably no better time than the start of the year to be thinking of how you are going to develop your High Performance Mindset for the challenges you will shortly face. One key point to remember is that a High Performance Mindset is made up of many different skills. We use the term skills because skills can be practiced, improved upon, and even mastered. One critical skill that is often overlooked is vulnerability. At first look you may think that high performers know how to avoid vulnerability but nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainable High Performers know how to embrace vulnerability to become better.
One of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs is, “Everyone just accepts the walls and boundaries set up by society. When I realized that everything that has ever been created in our world was created by other human beings who were no smarter than me, I knew I could create something great.” This quote shares the natural fear of the unknown which can be overcome by embracing your own vulnerability and then trying the untried. In every step along the way of developing his products, Steve Jobs was extremely vulnerable.
Carol Dweck, the author of the book Mindset, talks about the importance of having a “Growth Mindset” verses a “Fixed Mindset”. She is talking about a mindset that embraces the vulnerability of being wrong, being uncomfortable, and being willing to take a chance. This mindset is one that is constantly willing to challenge its own assumptions, to learn, and then to grow. This is in contrast to the “Fixed Mindset” which stays within its own beliefs and comfort zone and therefore never grows.
Recently, while at Stanford University, a colleague Professor William Barnett made a comment that really resonated with me. He said, “When you reach the point where you are skeptical and uncomfortable, embrace it because learning is about to occur.” This statement helps us to understand that if we were to stay in our comfort zone and avoid being vulnerable, we would not learn, we would not be able to solve difficult problems, and we would not be able to look at new solutions.
Vulnerability is a tough skill to develop because it plays on both of our primary fears: fear of failure and fear of greatness. On one hand our brain weighs the pain of failing and thinks - why take a chance? On the other hand the brain has to face an even greater fear which is the fear of the unknown - in this case the unknown of how great we can really become. Building the skill of vulnerability means facing both of these fears, embracing that feeling of unease, and taking the next step of learning, growth, and potential greatness.
As you read this, you may be a little nervous as you think about all the known and unknown challenges that you will face. One Performance Mindset skill that will help you in all of your relationships, help you as a leader, help you build your resilience, help you be a problem solver, and help you be more innovative is practicing embracing your vulnerability. After all, if you try and fail, something great may happen - learning and growth. If you try and succeed, something great may happen - learning and growth. As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
By Scott Peltin
Founder/Chief Performance Officer