As a VC, I meet with many people who are starting their own companies. I often ask them why they’ve decided to leave a safe job and become a risk-taking entrepreneur. Underlying nearly all of the stories is this common theme, which I paraphrase as this: “I want to be happy.”
I want to be happy. Sounds simple, I know, but I’ve seen that many people, after starting their companies, are not happy. Even if the companies are successful, and even, after wealth and power arrive. It seems that happiness, I mean true and deep joy and peace, can be elusive.
I’ve been thinking about this since my executive coach recommended that I watch Brené Brown’s TED Talk called “The Power of Vulnerability.” Brown has a Ph.D. in social work, and her chat is one of the most watched TED Talks ever with 10 million views and counting. In the video, she talks about how vulnerability is key.
Her research indicates that the people who are most “whole-hearted” are in fact the ones who take on vulnerability. It’s the ability to take a risk, such as asking someone out on a date or being the first to tell someone that you love him/her. It’s being willing to have the courage to take on a new project, but knowing that you may fail.
Vulnerability is caring for your fiercely independent and elderly mother, whereby you go away for two weeks with your three young children to help her, knowing that she may in fact resent the help you’re offering (as a friend of mine is about to do). It’s showing love, when in fact you may be rejected.
The key, according to Brown is this: it’s natural to want to avoid vulnerability, but when we do so, we actually avoid happiness, too. That’s because we cannot selectively filter our world, and when we block out vulnerability, we block out upside, too. We have to take on all that life offers, the good and the bad.
We have to give up control and just live.
Here’s Brown’s 20-minute talk. It’s very interesting.