- “’This is like the failure conference. This place is amazing because very few people here are afraid to fail…About ‘daring greatly’…Shame is I am bad. Guilt is I did something bad. Vulnerability is not weakness…Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage….Vulnerability is the birthplace, creativity and change…Shame resilience is key to embracing our vulnerability. We can’t let ourselves be seen if we’re terrified by what people might think. Often ‘not being good at vulnerability’ means that we’re damn good at shame.”
Brene Brown has become sort of the high priestess of Shame on the heels of her powerful TED talk and her work on the Good Life Project. People often talk of ‘fear of failure’, but another TED speaker, Jason Njoku, highlights in his talk ( “Failing All the Way to Success”) that what people really fear is ‘shame’…
- “I basically lived the life of failure…I was a spectacular failure. A certified failure….people fear failure, but what they really fear is shame…Somehow amidst all that failure, I just embraced it…Basically that enabled me to be completely unshackled from risk…Bastion [his business partner] basically liquidated everything…and his belief was that I had failed enough.”
Njoku hails from Ghana in West Africa, the neighbour to Togo where lived for a year during university. So much of a neighbour, that Togo’s capital city of Lomé lies on its border (pup quiz fodder – the only national capital to sit on an international border). Today is Togolese Independence Day which I often mark by flying my Togolese flag on our house’s flag pole and memories of that formative time flood back. Njoku’s words stuck home for me reflecting on my time there.
I had poured myself into trying to get to Africa the prior year. All of my friends knew of my plans. I had not signed up for courses or housing. I burned my bridges committed to this audacious quest. And yet, September came around and I still had not finalised what I was doing. My biggest fear was not the inconvenience, nor cost of shifting plans, nor even missing out on this dreamed for experience, but rather facing the embarrassment of having to explain to everyone that I wasn’t going after all. In fact, people were starting to trickle back when I was still in the area leading to a number of chance encounters fraught with tinges of this foreboding embarrassment. Fortunately, I still had a few options up my sleeve that I was working feverishly on and one came through with the most life-shaking experience