Vulnerable Times Call for Vulnerable Measures

The big Hub announcement this week is that Joe, a Hub leader, our in-house coffee connoisseur, and generally talented extraordinaire will be leaving his full time role in the Hub at the end of this week.  Please come to the Hub to celebrate his work and his awesomeness today at 4pm, we really are going to miss him!  Today and tomorrow, we also have Doug Solomon in the Hub doing Design Team training!

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about what Joe's departure means for the Hub.  Joe has been here since the Hub first began, and his departure makes me curious to understand why the Hub team lives and breathes the way it does.  What makes the Hub tick?  What allows us to be quirky, random, empathetic, collaborative, and sometimes useful and productive (I hope!)?  I don't think I can talk coherently about intricate team dynamics in a short blog post, but I have started to think separately about one reason that seems to hit pretty close to home—vulnerability.

But what is that?  I don’t think that I have much of an answer, which is why I was happy to stumble across a TedTalk that could shine a little light on the matter.  Brené Brown roots her exploration of vulnerability in connection—explaining how connection is the first and foremost way that we find meaning in our lives.  We strive to find connections with people or concepts in order to find some greater meaning, in order to do something bigger than ourselves.  But, there is something that stands in the way—vulnerability.  What does that mean?  It is a fear of judgment, of tough decisions, of daunting issues.  It is also that nagging voice in our heads saying “I am not smart/attractive/experienced/etc. enough to be a part of this group”—that consistent fear that for some reason you are not worthy of some connection.  So, Brown set out to understand what it is that makes people feel worthy—what it is that allows them to face this fear.  What gives them the courage to embrace vulnerability?

In her research of people who were able to embrace vulnerability and build a strong sense of worthiness, she found two things—two simple things, but two powerful things.  Two things that I think are important to read slowly and deliberately (so please read slowly).  First, these people embraced authenticity—“they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were”.  Second, “they believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating…they just talked about it being necessary.”

While writing these quotes, I find myself unable to stop reading them (that’s my plug to have you read them again).  To me, the impact is not simply that she relays these findings so eloquently, it is that these are her findings after 6 years of research and listening to people—they are not a dream for the future but a reflection of part of the present.  That means we can find it.  That means we can connect with it.  That means we can really do it.  

To watch the whole ted talk, click here!

How does this tie back to the Hub?  Well, I would comfortably say that the Hub can be a strange group.  Many people may have heard of or done the stoke circles exercise at some point to inspire creativity—“stoke exercises” are pretty much synonymous with icebreakers, team builders, etc.—, but the circles exercise is just the tamest of the stokes that we do.  We do others that involve lots of movement, role-playing, and things where we undoubtedly have to be comfortable feeling a bit awkward and embarrassed in front of the team.  

For example, have you ever made random noises with your team?  Have you ever played the role of a caveman trying to understand the modern world as explained by your team?  Well, I have had a chance to, as a part of these stokes.  On the forefront, stokes force you to be creative, but more importantly they focus on making you all feel comfortable with one another.  The stokes give you a space to be ridiculous and open.  They help you eradicate the fear of judgement or embarrassment, which opens you to thinking in many different ways.  I admit that not all stokes are for everyone, but they all find a way to break down barriers.  They don’t just make you vulnerable.  They make you embrace it—dare I say enjoy it?

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To tie it back together a bit, I do want to bring this back to Joe.  He has been a huge reason why the culture within the Hub readily embraces vulnerability.  If you have ever heard him rant about coffee, movies, music, tasker, etc, he is full of both amazingly relevant and random information.  If you have ever been in a brainstorm session with him, you know that he always has some of the craziest and most inspiring ideas in the group.  He has continuously been willing to be open, listen to stories, weather tough storms, be encouraging, and be positive.  He showed me from day one that working in the Hub means being your full self and nothing less.  So, thank you Joe—for being you, for embracing vulnerability, and for setting this stage for us.  We wouldn't be where we are without you!    

 Andrew Yin

Please email SibleyHub@jhmi.edu to share your feedback, experiences, feelings, comments, or ideas.  Also, send an email if you want to join our feedback team and are willing to be interviewed for our future projects!