Our vulnerability is the source of our greatest power. It’s also the access point for your life purpose. Bold statements I know. In fact, I know many will not agree. And that’s fine. I’ll offer a perspective from the greatest teacher - life. If nothing else, I hope that it might provoke new thoughts and new awareness. Vulnerability is being exposed. Vulnerability is not knowing. Vulnerability is scary. Most people do anything to mask vulnerability. Sometimes though, life creates circumstances beyond our control. No matter what, you simply cannot pretend that everything is “OK”.
Vulnerability became my teacher with the birth of our first son Ryan. He was born September 2, 1990 at 29 weeks. He had Down syndrome, born with a major heart defect and many other physical challenges. There was little I could do for him except hold his tiny hand or stroke his head to soothe him. I only held him a few times. He died October 9, 1990 after a five week valiant attempt to live. These five weeks still play like a slow motion movie in my mind. This was my introduction to being a Mom.
Now 20 years later, I see Ryan as my mentor, my teacher and my guide. His life had extraordinary purpose. He came to teach me things that I could only access through extreme vulnerability. He woke me up to living and leading with more purpose. Ryan taught me the following:
- What it’s like to not be in control. By releasing control new awareness is revealed.
- How to BE – to sit in quiet reflection. How to just be with – myself or others.
- Trust. It’s THE essential ingredient in relationships. It’s courageous.
- Asking for help is an essential skill. No one has to have all the answers.
- To embrace change. Each new direction brings learning and growth.
- Be open to influences beyond what you know.
- How to find my authentic voice. To honour what I believe and value; to share openly and honestly.
- To make courageous choices. Life is too short not to.
- Avoidance solves nothing. Lean into the difficult conversations or decisions if you want to move forward.
- Intuition is a powerful guide. Trust it. Develop it. Let it inform direction and decisions
The most courageous thing I did with Ryan was accept that he was going to die. With that acceptance, we created conditions where it could happen on our terms. All I ever wanted was to hold him in my arms, with no monitors, and sit in a rocking chair in a peaceful quiet room. So that’s what we did. He died peacefully in my arms, taking one final breath that was like a whispered sigh. In that moment, he taught me that endings can be peaceful and gentle – even the hardest endings.
So, how does vulnerability = power? Because of Ryan and his constant presence in my life, I have become more mindful and aware. I’ve made choices that have enabled me to access my strengths, fully live my values, and use my passions to guide my life and work. Every lesson that Ryan has taught me I integrate into leadership development and coaching. It seems these are some universal lessons that people want to explore.
Choosing to access vulnerability opens the door to authenticity. Facing that which is hard causes us to discover what we really believe. Seeing our ability to survive devastation and continue on is remarkable. Realizing that we don’t have to walk alone is empowering. Discovering the ease that comes with letting go of control actually spurs creativity. Asserting choices builds confidence.
Life teaches us that as human beings we are vulnerable. However, we are also resilient and can learn and grow. Each challenge presents an opportunity to access our innate power and inner resolve.
Ryan’s legacy -- our vulnerability is the source of our greatest power. It is an honour to integrate his legacy into the work I do every day.
Here’s to finding power and purpose through the journey of life and leadership. It’s there to discover if you are willing to explore.