Tag shame

{ Kintsugi } A Beautiful Visual Metaphor To Help You “Fail Forward” …*

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they fill in the cracks with gold. They believe that when something is damaged, it becomes more beautiful.”

I came across this delightful quote earlier this week while reading an article about failing forward. These days, with the growing popularity and accessibility of methodologies like Design Thinking and Lean Startup, the concept of iteration–a slightly more glamorous variant of the term “failing forward”–has become increasingly mainstream. Given the critical role of failure in learning and innovation, I am all for this failure revolution. Yet, it is not failure for failure’s sake that we are celebrating but its transcendence. We try something; we fail; we pause and reflect on what we did and where we went wrong; and hopefully we are able to extract some valuable lesson(s) from the experience that will inform our decision-making and behavior in future scenarios.

The transcendence of failure–the movement from raw input (this does not work) to reflection (why did this not work?) to insight (this is where we went wrong/what we could have done differently), is a process. And all processes have an inherent emotional component that cannot be ignored or brushed aside. The emotional responses accompanying each failure will vary greatly based on the circumstances– from the inconsequential to the heartbreaking. The hardest failures to transcend, the ones that are most painful to reflect upon, work through and learn from are usually the ones that blur the boundaries between verb and noun–those instances where we find it difficult to separate our sense of self from our actions; where, “I failed” toes the line with, “I am a failure.”

On an intellectual level, it’s easy to tell oneself to reframe, to approach the failure as a learning opportunity, a gift in disguise, a growing pain. But having failed many times at many things, sometime rather catastrophically, I know all too well that in the midst of experiencing our most painful failures it can be extremely difficult to pay attention to our intellect. When you’ve spent a full week in the same pair of sweatpants unable to peel yourself off from your couch, it can be quite easy to become cynical about the idea of reframing failure. It may feel as though this particular failure is final, as though there is no redemption possible, no lessons to be learned; just a lifetime of mediocrity spent in your own failed company. I think that it is precisely in these times that the beautiful Japanese notion of kintsugi becomes a powerful aid and effective prompt to help us emotionally engage with the process of transcending failure.

What I find fascinating about the concept of kintsugi, which refers to the Japanese craft of fixing broken objects with gold or silver lacquer, is the fact that cracks and brokenness are highlighted and celebrated rather than dismissed or dissimulated. The broken object once repaired takes on a new value, becoming in some ways more appreciated than it was while intact.

I’ve been taking an online course taught by Brené Brown on the Power of Vulnerability in which she talks about the importance of finding good metaphors to talk about certain emotions–specifically shame–that we are incapable of speaking about on an intellectual level without our emotions taking over.

“People hear the word shame and they’ve got one of two responses; one, “I have no idea what you’re talking about and I’m pretty sure that happens to other people;” or two, “I know exactly what that is and I’m not talking about it.” We have a visceral reaction to the word shame.
Shame hates having words wrapped around it. When we speak shame, we cut it off at the knees. The reason metaphors are so helpful is because of our reactions to the word shame. And here’s the thing, if I talk to you intellectually about shame, I will lose you in about 10 minutes because you’ll know this is uncomfortable, it’s a little bit dark and it’s totally not relevant—”I don’t care what she’s saying.” It’s true if I intellectually talk to you about shame. If I walk you into shame, you’ll be like, “Oh hell yeah, this is relevant and I cannot hear a word you are saying because I am in shame.” Because shame is very much about the limbic system, it’s all about fight, flight and freeze. There’s no prefrontal cortex. If I’m staying up here in the prefrontal cortex, where we think, when that fight or flight system kicks in, our prefrontal cortex comes completely offline.”
-Brené Brown

I think kintsugi is an amazingly powerful visual metaphor to recall and focus on as we experience some of the most crushing and painful emotions that result from deep failures. The process of transcending failure is quite similar to the practice of repairing broken ceramic with golden bonding. The object having been repaired emerges more beautiful, more valuable than when it was intact. In the same manner to applying gold to the fragmented pieces, engaging in the process of transcending our failures allows us to grow, to come out stronger and wiser than before the failure.

Next time you find yourself unable to intellectually motivate yourself to engage with the process, I urge you to remember the beauty and the lesson of kintsugi.

Kintsugi: The Art of Broken Pieces from Greatcoat Films on Vimeo.

{ The Power & Potential of Stories } “I Was Seen By Many but Actually Known By Few | Every Single Life Matters Equally & Infinitely”…*

“I’ve learned about the poetry and the wisdom and the grace that can be found in the words of people all around us when we simply take the time to listen.[…] What else have I learned? I’ve learned about the almost unimaginable capacity for the human spirit to forgive. I’ve learned about resilience and I’ve learned about strength. […] And I’ve been reminded countless times of the courage and goodness of people and how the arc of history truly does bend towards justice”

– Dave Isay

This week’s Friday Link Fest theme–the power and potential of stories–was set by my teammate Jenna with her post on Monday about the artistry and potential of storytelling–for learning, for empathy, for social activism, for relevance and self-empowerment. I then received the latest issue of New York Magazine, their fifth annual “Yesteryear Issue,” a collection of vignettes about old New York and delighted in losing myself in stories of a New York I have longed for but never known. Then two TED talks kept repeatedly popping up on my newsfeed, Monica Lewinsky’s talk on the price of shame and StoryCorps founder Dave Isay’s talk where he shares his TED Prize wish:

“that you will help us take everything we’ve learned through StoryCorps and bring it to the world, so that anyone, anywhere can easily record a meaningful interview with another human being, which will then be archived for history.”

I loved the contrast between both talks, one about the risks and dark underside of a digital archive in a culture bent on shaming and public humiliation, the other on the immense potential of the Internet to act as a digital repository of human wisdom, dignity and compassion. Both talks were brilliant and urgent calls for courage, empathy and connection.

In her TED talk, Monica Lewinsky bravely opens up about her experience of being “slut-shamed’ and publicly humiliated in the nascent era of online news and calls for a collective rethink of our contemporary culture of shame and humiliation which enables cyberbullying.

“Public shaming as a bloodsport has to stop. And it’s time for an intervention on the Internet and in our culture. The shift begins with something simple, but it’s not easy. We need to return to a long held value of compassion; compassion and empathy. Online, we’ve got a compassion deficit and empathy crisis. Researcher Brené Brown said, and I quote, “shame can’t survive empathy.” Shame cannot survive empathy. I’ve seem some very dark days in my life. It was the compassion and empathy from my family, friends, professionals and sometimes even strangers that saved me. Even empathy from one person can make a difference.

[ … ] 

“We all want to be heard, but let’s acknowledge the difference between speaking up with intention and speaking up for attention.”

– Monica Lewinsky

“Over the past couple of month, the team at StoryCorps has been working furiously to create an app that will bring StoryCorps out of our booths so that it can be experienced by anyone, anywhere, any time. Remember, StoryCorps has always been two people and a facilitator helping them record their conversation, which is preserved forever. But at this very moment we’re releasing a public beta version of the StoryCorps app. The app is a digital facilitator that walks you through the StoryCorps interview process, helps you pick questions and gives you all the tips you need to record a meaningful StoryCorps interview. And then with one tap, upload it to our archive at the Library of Congress. That’s the easy part–the technology. The real challenge is up to you. To take this tool and figure out how we can use it all across America and around the world.

This is the key point, echoed in both Lewinsky and Isay’s talk, that technology is just a tool, a tremendously powerful tool, but that its power and potential comes entirely from us, the people that use it. Are we going to create a digital archive of shame and humiliation or a repository of empathy, dignity and human wisdom? The choice is ours and both talks remind us of the very tangible weight and responsibilities inherent in this choice.

“At this moment, when so much of how we communicate is fleeting and inconsequential, join us in creating this digital archive of conversations that are enduring, and important. Help us create this gift to our children, this testament to who we are as human beings. I hope you’ll help us make this wish come true. Interview a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Together we can create an archive of the wisdom of humanity. And maybe in doing so, we’ll learn to listen a little more and shout a little less. Maybe these conversations will remind us what’s really important and maybe, just maybe, it will help us recognize that simple truth that every life, every single life, matters equally and infinitely.”

How might we start going about nurturing these types of conversations? Isay shares a few excellent ideas:

“Imagine, for example, a national homework assignment, where every high school student studying U.S. history across the country, records an interview with an elder over Thanksgiving so that in one single weekend an entire generation of American lives and experiences are captured. Or imagine, mothers on opposite sides of a conflict somewhere in the world sitting down, not to talk about that conflict, but to find out who they are as people, and in doing so begin to build bonds of trust. Or that someday it becomes a tradition all over the world that people are honored with a StoryCorps interview on their 75th birthday. Or that people in your community go into retirement homes or hospitals or homeless shelters or even prisons armed with this app to honor the people least heard in our society and ask them who they are, what they’ve learned in life and how they want to be remembered. “

My 81 year-old grandfather is flying in from France next week and I absolutely can’t wait to try out the StoryCorps app with him!

2 Great Women, 2 Great Online Courses –> Debbie Millman on Creating Visual Narratives & Brené Brown on the Power of Vulnerability …*


An Online Skillshare Class by Debbie Millman

Knowmads delight * here are two super exciting courses from some mighty intelligent and inspirational women.

Debbie Millman has a new course on SkillshareThe Art of the Story: Creating Visual Narratives, aimed at anyone with “a love of language, a passion for art, and a desire to bring them together.”

Join one of design’s most beloved advocates for a class exploring visual stories. Debbie Millman is world-renowned as the host of Design Matters, co-founder of SVA’s Masters in Branding program, president of the consultant group Sterling Brands, and an award-winning author and artist.

Learn how to craft a narrative, edit your writing, find inspiration in history, and experiment with materials. Plus, this class features an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Debbie’s personal collection of favorite visual stories, books, art objects, and more.

This class is ideal for designers, writers, and everyone with a story to tell. 

. . . *

Meanwhile on Udemy, Brené Brown is offering a course on the Power of Vulnerability aimed at “anyone interested in learning more about vulnerability and how to live wholeheartedly.”

By the end of the course, you will be able to 1) Explain how to cultivate shame resilience—the key to developing a sense of worth and belonging, 2) Discuss vulnerability as the origin point for innovation, adaptability, accountability, and visionary leadership, 3) Discuss emotional armory—how to avoid feeling vulnerable; myths of vulnerability—common misconceptions about weakness, trust, and self-sufficiency; and vulnerability triggers—recognizing what makes us shut down, and how we can change, 4) Summarize the 10 guideposts of wholehearted living—essential skills for becoming fully engaged in life.

I think these two courses would complement one another extremely well. The need for courage in creativity, and the ways in which shame and fear of failure harm the creative process are all topics that Debbie has addressed from her perspective as an artist on numerous occasions. In fact just last week, I featured Debbie (and Brené!) talking about wholeheartedness and courage. So why not learn how to harness your vulnerability as you learn to create visual narratives?

I’m enrolling this instant. Join me?

Adopt A Growth Mindset To Deal With Procrastination …*

“You get down to work when the fear of having done nothing finally exceeds the fear of doing it wrong.”

Okay, so I get that watching a video about procrastination may seem like, well, procrastination; but I found this lovely short from The School of Life quite insightful. It’s easy to grow frustrated with ourselves or others when things are not getting done, but rather than giving in to the labeling game (I’m/he/she is lazy, useless etc.) which, by the way, is a key characteristic of a (highly unproductive) fixed mindset, this video reminds us that a little (self) compassion and a growth mindset go a long way in helping us to get our work done. Often the reason we put off the work we know we should be doing is because we are afraid that it will be anything less than perfect (which, of course, it will be). So next time you find yourself putting off doing your work, remember this little girl, recognize the fears and anxieties that may be hindering your progress and rather than grow frustrated or discouraged, gently remind yourself that getting better at anything requires effort over time. And get started.

It seems like I’m lazy, that’s what everyone must say, I know. But in truth I do nothing, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m sacred. I’m terrified that if I start, what I do will be horrible. I want things to be so amazing and I know they can’t be so it seems best not even to begin. What helps me the most is when occasionally, it feels like it doesn’t matter, when it feels I can mess up and that would be okay. When the pressure isn’t so great. Like when I was younger and there was less at stake.

Brené Brown On Why Embracing Vulnerability Is Critical To Human Flourishing…*

“Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be brokenhearted.” 

In this splendid talk given at the RSA, research professor, Dr. Brené Brown, who has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame, highlights the tension between the behaviors spurred by our culture of scarcity– a culture of never enough–and the critical function of vulnerability in human flourishing. We live in a culture shaped by fear and blame, argues Brown; everywhere around us, the dominant questions framing the discourse in virtually all areas of society are: “What should I be afraid of today?” and, “Who’s to blame?” Our instinctual response to this culture of scarcity is to armor up in an attempt to protect ourselves from being rejected and hurt.

We wake up in the morning and we armor up and we put it on and say, “I’m going to go out into the world, I’m basically going to kick some ass, I’m not going to let anyone see who I am and in doing so, I can protect myself against the things that hurt the most–judgment, criticism, fear, blame, ridicule. I’m going to armor up and I’m going to be safe.” 

This armor takes on many facets–perfectionism, intellectualizing, etc.–but at its core, the armor serves the same function for everyone: to protect our sense of being lovable, and being acceptable and being worth connection; to avoid feeling like we’re not enough. The issue, as Brown points out, is that, as the research shows, “vulnerability is the path to love, belonging, joy, intimacy, trust, innovation, creativity and empathy.” Essentially, the strategy that we are using to protect and nurture our sense of love, acceptance, and connection–putting an armor on–is keeping us from reaching those very goals in an authentic and fulfilling manner.

What can we do to move in a more positive direction? Brown suggests three focal points for rethinking…* our behaviors:

  1. Learn to differentiate between empathy and sympathy. Act on empathy.
  2. Learn to move past blame and focus on accountability .
  3. Learn to differentiate between behavior (guilt) and self (shame). Guilt mobilizes individuals for positive action, while “shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can change.”

EMPATHY vs. SYMPATHY

Empathy fuels connection. Sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy is feeling with people. So to respond empathically, I would need to try to understand [that person’s] perspective, stay out of judgment, recognize what [they’re] feeling and kind of communicate it back: “Oh, shit. I hate that.” or “Oh God, There’s nothing worse than___.” That’s empathy. Empathy is, “I’m feeling with you.”

Sympathy is, “I’m feeling for you.” […] In Texas, in the South in general in the U.S., we have the worst saying ever, that just smacks and reeks of sympathy, which is, “Bless your heart.” Basically, what I’m saying is, “that sucks, but too bad and God is on my side.” So sympathy is one of the things that really gets in the way of empathy and sympathy is also often how we respond when we don’t want to be vulnerable to someone else’s struggle. 

[…]

We all need different things from empathy. There are no hard and fast rules about what empathy looks like or what it sounds like, but there is one that I will share with you from the research, it is: “Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response begin with ‘At least’.” And we do it all the time because someone just shared something with us that’s incredibly painful and we’re trying to put the silver lining around it. So, “I had a miscarriage”, “At least, you can get pregnant.” How does that feel? Awful. But one of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult conversations, is we try to make things better instead of leaning into. If I share something with you that’s very difficult, I rather you say, “Wow, I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just glad you told me.” Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection. 

Sometimes, the most profound and eloquent examples of empathy happen without any words. And sometimes, not even with eye contact. To me, if I’m sitting next to you and I say, “Wow, I feel like the wheels are falling off right now and things are out of control.” And someone just puts their hand on top of my hand and squeezes–that says, with touch, I think, the two most important words in my work, which are: “Me too.”

BLAME vs. ACCOUNTABILITY

Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Meaning that people who blame a lot, seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold people accountable because we expand all of our energy raging for fifteen seconds and figuring out whose fault something is. 

Accountability, by definition, is a vulnerable process: it means me calling you and saying, “Hey, my feelings were really hurt about this,” and talking. It’s not blaming. Blaming is simply a way that we discharge anger, which is really hard, and blaming is really corrosive in relationships and it’s one of the reasons we miss our opportunities for empathy, because when something happens and we’re hearing a story, we’re not really listening, we’re making connections as quickly as we can about whose fault something was. 

GUILT vs. SHAME

Shame is, “I’m bad.” And guilt is, “I did something bad.” So shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. The outcomes are hugely different. What we know from the research is that shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, aggression, violence, suicide, bullying. And, almost more importantly, we know that guilt is inversely correlated with those outcomes. Meaning the more someone is able to separate themselves from their behaviors, the less likely it is that they’ll end up suffering from these struggles. And the implications are huge, especially around parenting. As it turns out, there is a tremendous difference between, “You’re a bad girl” and, “You’re a great kid, but that was a bad choice.” 

When we see people change behaviors, make amends, when we see positive behavioral change, you can almost always trace it back to guilt. Guilt is uncomfortable but I’m a big fan of it because it’s cognitive dissonance–it’s, “I’ve done something, and I’m holding it up against my values and it doesn’t feel right.” That’s guilt.

Brown’s work and insights on the power of vulnerability link back directly to Carol Dweck’s research on mindsets. Armoring up to protect the self is a fixed mindset strategy–it stems from a belief that traits are fixed: I have certain inherent character traits that make me lovable, acceptable and worthy of connection to a certain fixed point. And since these traits are fixed and static over time, my best course of action is to keep others from finding out what I’m really like. Shame and blame both come right out of the fixed mindset with its framework of judgment. Meanwhile, the ability to embrace vulnerability, to lean into it, stems directly from a growth mindset. It is a recognition that we as individuals have the agency and capacity to grow, to develop our ability for empathy, change and accountability. It is a willingness to learn new strategies for connection and accepting the risks of failure and pain that inherently comes with trying something new.

The Power of Vulnerability, via RSA, published July 4, 2013.

Three Prompts to Help You Rethink…* How You Might Create A Remarkable Life

{ This is the third and final post synthesizing insights from this year’s third-annual World Domination Summit } 

WHAT’S YOUR SHAME & HOW DO YOU COVER IT UP? | Donald Miller

In his speech, Donald Miller shared a fascinating conversation he had with a friend. On the back of a napkin, his friend drew a circle, which he labeled ‘Self’, he then drew a concentric circle over the first one, which he labeled ‘Shame’, before adding a final circle encompassing the first two, labeled ‘Personality’. Miller’s friend explained to him that when we are born, there is just our core self, then at some point along the road to adulthood we discover and internalize shame. Our personalities are those traits we cherish and develop to help us cover up and compensate for our shame to protect our self. To better illustrate this, Miller shared what his own diagram looked like– in the first circle he wrote ‘Don’. He labeled the second circle “Not Enough” and the in the third he wrote, ‘humor’ and ‘intelligence’. Miller’s shame is the nagging feeling that he is not enough–not good looking enough, not smart enough, not loved enough–simply, not enough. For him, it is very important to be perceived as funny and intelligent. This is what helps him feel as though he matters, as though he exists and is relevant to other people. I was truly awed by Miller’s courage and generosity, to stand on a stage and share with 3,000 people his core shame was very inspiring.

This diagram may seem a bit overly simplistic at first, but after giving it much thought I found it to be an incredibly powerful tool for simplifying and laying out the source of many internalized and long-held fears and dysfunctions. Miller pointed out that to create something real, something worthy of our full potential–and creating one’s life certainly seems worth the effort–this act of creation needs to come from that core self.

Miller shared another anecdote from one of his own therapy sessions, where his therapist drew the outline of a person contained within a second slightly larger outline. She asked Miller to write down how he felt about the person inside, the core; DON/SELF. He wrote: calm, funny, cheerful, serene, creative. She then asked him to write in how he felt about the person closest to his skin, his exterior-PERSONALITY. Miller found himself writing, stressed, anxious, defensive… The therapist asked Miller how old that person deep inside was, he answered that he must be about seven years old, she then had Miller role play a conversation between the two. What if the two could communicate? What if the adult, outside outline could reach in and soothe the little core outline. What if they could collaborate and face the world together? Something to consider…*

 

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WHAT IF YOU FOLLOWED THE SPARKS THAT ENERGIZE YOU RATHER THAN YOUR PASSIONS? | Darren Rowse

Follow your passion, yes–but more saliently, follow the sparks that energize you. ~ Blogger extraordinaire, Darren Rowse, shared that for his first two years as a blogger back in the early 2000s, he did not know how to bold text. He started blogging after a friend of his sent him a link to a blog he enjoyed reading and which prompted him to want to start his own. As Rowse’s experience with blogging illustrates, the issue with following one’s passion is that we often do not know where that passion is until we explore and experiment with new things. Rowse recommends paying close attention to the things, ideas, experiences, people and situations that energize you and finding ways to engage more deeply and frequently with these sparks of interest and energy.

 

WHAT MIGHT YOUR PERSONAL CREED LOOK LIKE? HOW MIGHT YOU CONTINUALLY ITERATE IT? | Jonathan Fields

In a workshop entitled How To Live A Good Life, Jonathan Fields shared his Living Creed with the audience, going over each point of the creed. What I particularly liked about the Living Creed is the way in which Fields framed it, as “a dynamic doctrine based on current knowledge.” It’s a continually evolving document as it adapts in real time with Field’s current knowledge base. I attempted to do something similar three months ago when I wrote down everything I had learned thus far about being a knowmad. I have a copy of it in my wallet, which I never take out. I wanted to revisit the list daily and remind myself of these truths I had learned along the way, but have failed to take it out of my wallet, even just once. I liked how Fields framed his Living Creed as something not simply to be reread regularly but rewritten continually. I wonder {hope} if doing so would help provide a stronger impetus to translate knowledge into daily action.

 

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