In her book Daring Greatly, social work researcher Brene Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty + risk + emotional exposure. Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech inspired how Brene interprets her research on shame, vulnerability and leadership as well as her own life.

Vulnerability is never comfortable. There is no courage without vulnerability. We have only two options: 1) either you do vulnerability or 2) vulnerability does you. You do vulnerability knowingly or unknowingly.

If you’re not willing to risk failing, you can’t authentically connect, create or innovate.

We’re in the middle of some big social movements with the potential to change things significantly. They require uncomfortable conversations. To not have those conversations because they make us feel uncomfortable is the definition of privilege. It’s a given that we’re going to make mistakes. It’s a given that, whenever we’re vulnerable, we’re going to get our asses kicked. We have to choose courage over comfort.

We have to dispel the myth that vulnerability is weakness. We have to build cultures where vulnerability is, at least, tolerated if not encouraged. When we live in cultures in which there is zero tolerance for vulnerability, where we can’t have productive conversations, creativity or innovation.

A joyful, wholehearted life requires vulnerability.

Brave leaders are never silent about difficult, uncomfortable topics.

Our jobs are to excavate what’s unsaid.

It’s easier to cause pain than to feel pain. Scapegoating is easier in the short run but, because it places the locus of control on someone else, it’s self-defeating in the long run. Fear- and shame-based people tend to take their pain out on other people. Don’t disempower yourself by offloading your difficult stuff onto other people.

We can’t go it alone. We’re all neurobiologically hard-wired for connecting with other people. In the absence of authentic, honest connections with other people, there’s pain and suffering. When we connect, we begin to heal.

We can’t predict nor engineer the uncomfortable nor the uncertainty out of vulnerability.

Trust doesn’t necessarily precede vulnerability. And, vulnerability doesn’t necessarily precede trust. Instead, it’s a slow stacking over time of vulnerability and trust. We share with people who’ve earned our trust and, therefore, the right to hear our stories.

Your story is a privilege to hear.

Vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. Disclosure, in and of itself, is not necessarily vulnerability. We cannot measure vulnerability by the amount of disclosure. We measure vulnerability by the amount of courage required to show up and be seen when we can’t control the outcome.

Vulnerability is hard, scary and, sometimes, dangerous. But, what’s far more dangerous is to stay armored up — to never be seen.

How do you stay in the arena?