“Embarrassment is the cost of entry. If you aren’t willing to look like a foolish beginner you’ll never become a graceful master,” via Marketing mentor. I sat in a meeting regarding the implementation of a new module for a program we use with our electronic medical records. This group in particular came together to discuss what the needs were moving forward, in particular from my group. Preceding the meeting, my boss and I sat together to discuss a series of questions designed to illicit build components for the new module and we assumed there would be additional input or feedback. When we got to this meeting, the entire thing focused on our answers, some of which we hadn’t gone through because we needed additional insight before making a decision. We both fumbled and flubbed as we weren’t prepared to take the weight of this design as other people impacted weren’t considered and our decisions would change their workflows. It was horrendous and embarrassing and frustrating as none of us were speaking the same language related to this program.
Our goal is to move this program forward because this is the way things are going in the health field and neither one of us felt like we accomplished that and we didn’t feel as if we understood the ask. We have nearly 45 years of experience between us and we couldn’t make heads or tails of the conversation. Our collective goal is to improve the system and to make it easier for patients which is no small undertaking. In order to move forward, we had to do something new, we had to put ourselves on the line, and we had to get honest about what we didn’t understand. Leadership looked different for us in that moment. We had to embarrass ourselves and get back to the basics. Regardless of our experience, this was brand new for us and if we wanted to be better, we had to learn better. We persisted and debriefed and told the project lead that it was sloppy and not done well—which was also a challenging conversation. And many in the group came to us afterward and let us know that the experience was just as difficult for them.
I don’t always feel I’m aligned at work so it was easy to take a lot of that meeting personally and even to feel incompetent. But after a lot of thought, I realized the result of that meeting was a lesson in my business as well. In order to get started and lay the right foundation, you have to go out on a limb. I have no idea how to do some of the technical stuff that is coming up for my personal business, but I’m learning. The only way I’m going to improve is to do it. If I hadn’t experienced putting myself on the line and admitting what I don’t know, I’m not sure that I would be as comfortable moving forward with my own work. Making progress requires direct honestly about exactly where you are. It doesn’t matter if you can make something look good if it isn’t functional or if it doesn’t make sense. It isn’t a matter of putting yourself down or lamenting what you don’t have, it’s about recognizing the opportunity to close some gaps.
Being embarrassed is another way of allowing yourself to be vulnerable. In vulnerability and with humility, you allow. You express a willingness to learn and to improve. Yes, the opening quote speaks to the broader term of embarrassment when it comes to having the nerve to even start something you don’t feel ready for. But we all have moments of embarrassment and vulnerability when we try something out of our comfort zone, whether it is something entirely new, or expanding what you already know. But that is the only way we grow. We aren’t meant to stay the same way forever. We aren’t meant to sit stagnant. We were born to leap.
When we take that aligned action and take steps away from the known, we are telling the universe we are ready to dive into something else. We are ready for the next thing in our lives. The universe never said we needed to be a pro—and if we waited for that moment before getting started, some of us would never budge. We are meant to take the chance and enjoy. Let go of what we think we need to look like and grab onto who we are. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, it matters if it’s honest and right for who we are. So I agree with the opening quote to a point but I want to emphasize there is a difference between embarrassment and vulnerable. Embarrassment is merely ego. It’s up to us to put that part on the back burner and to accept help and to admit when we need help. The secret is in vulnerability. You’re saying the goal means more than what you look like. The goal means more than merely winning. There is purpose beyond creating an image. If you want to move forward in life, you have to be vulnerable. And chances are if you’re embarrassed about something, people won’t remember it anyway. So choose to make something lasting by being open.