A few years ago we had a Roemersberger family reunion. Wayne Roemersberger, my husband’s grandfather and namesake, moved his family to Alamogordo, New Mexico in the 1940’s to work at White Sands Missile Base. Grandma Sharon, my husbands mother, grew up there with her three siblings.
During the reunion we spent a day at White Sands National Monument. White Sands is other worldly, I’ve never seen anything like it, “Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield”. The gypsum does not absorb heat so even on the hottest of days you can walk barefoot up the dunes.
We had a wonderful day diving into the hills, sledding down the dunes, enjoying the view. Usually hitting the soft soft sand.
Life isn’t always like that. We don’t always hit a soft spot, sometimes diving in hurts. We avoid risks because we are afraid of the hurt and vulnerability that it brings. In her book Daring Greatly Brene’ Brown encourages us to be vulnerable. Asserting that to succeed in life, whether it be in business, relationships or creative pursuits, we have to let go of perfectionism and enter into the “arena”, be real and take risks. The compelling thing about her book is that it is not a pet theory or hypothesis, it is based on years of research with real people from all walks of life. From the cover flap her work is summarized:
Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy empathy, innovation and creativity. She explains that when we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
In my own life I can see now, how I’ve avoided vulnerability in personal relationships, business pursuits and creative pursuits. I’ve insulated myself from criticism and never step too far into the arena for fear of getting hurt. In some pursuits I’ve had a pattern of quitting before I fail.
The title of Brown’s book was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote from a speech he gave in France in 1910:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I’ve been inspired by many around me who have entered the arena and are doing great things, embracing their vulnerability in the process. In my own life I see many areas in which I’ve had great courage, in many others though, I’d like to step further into the arena. Even if I don’t hit that soft spot.