Storytelling is Leadership: 6 Sentences to Help your Story

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These days, I find myself observing and mentally noting with fervour the magical elements that conspire to empower great leaders. There is a universality about great leadership that makes it easy for those to assume that one either has it or one doesn’t. However, in this growth mindset culture, we know that to be a fallacy. Leadership is a cultivated skill not a role we’re simply born into.

Sure, it helps to be competent at the work you do because competence surely goes a long distance in helping to create trust. But, I’d argue that true leadership goes beyond being the best at your job. Leadership is about enabling those around you to be their best, do their best work, and doing so in a way that helps them to feel autonomous, valued, and empowered. From what I’ve seen, read, listened to, and from the people with whom I’ve personally spoken on the KindSight 101 Podcast (and within my own life), leadership is rooted in storytelling. A solid story can do more to convince people to believe you, join your ranks, or sell you ideas than any coercive, strategic approaches can. Show me a good storyteller and I’ll show you a good leader.

So, how to tell a good story? I recently read the book To Sell is Human by the amazing Dan Pink (Seriously, if you haven’t heard him on a podcast, read or listened to one of his books/speeches, you’re missing out! He’s a guru in motivation and sales…and he’s funny, too!). He introduced me to Emma Coat’s Pixar Pitch framework, which uses the Hero’s Journey to formulate your ideas/story/pitch into a palatable pitch. You want to pique curiosity, solve someone’s problem, create value, and be specific enough that someone can see themselves benefitting from the solution you offer.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Set the tone for the way things are currently: Who is in the story, where do they live, what is the context? – Once upon a time…
  2. Talk about the routine of life-the status quo- Every day…
  3. Create tension and a disruption from the status quo- One day…
  4. What are the consequences of that event or disruption? – Because of that…
  5. What are the further consequences? – Because of that…
  6. Arrive at the conclusion, where things have returned to stasis, but things are better than they were- Until finally…

Take the Finding Nemo Plot, for instance:

  1. Once upon a time there was a fish named Marlin who lost his wife and was protective of his forgetful son, Nemo.
  2. Every day, Nemo would be warned by his Dad not to venture beyond the dangers of their coral reef.
  3. One day, Nemo ignores the warnings and swims beyond the cozy comforts of his home, to the open ocean.
  4. Because of that, he winds up being captured and winds up in a fish tank in someone’s home.
  5. Because of that, Marlin begins a tireless journey to find his son with the help of a few kind creatures at his side.
  6. Until finally, Marlin and Nemo reunite and understand that love is dependent on a sense of trust.

Here’s the Small Act Big Impact story in six sentences:

  1. Once upon a time, there was an education crisis in our schools and communities across North America and the World-at-large.
  2. Everyday, more than 25% of our students were mired in hopelessness, stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, to the point where it made it hard for them to learn, connect with one another, and feel deep and authentic happiness and life satisfaction. This was affecting their learning and well-being, making it hard for them to be their best expressions of themselves.
  3. One day, neuroscientists discovered that happiness and fulfilment could be derived from generosity and kindness on a chemical level in the brain. We learned we could learn to develop kindness habits that would release continuous happiness hormones not only to those demonstrating generosity and receiving kindness, but to even those who witnessed it.
  4. Because of that, Small Act Big Impact developed a 21-Day Kindness Challenge to encourage students, teachers, parents, businesses, communities, and educational leaders to develop meaningful habits of kindness that would ripple out into the community, inspiring people to adopt the habits, themselves.
  5. Because of that, students, teachers, and leaders began feeling happier and more hopeful, bringing levels of hopelessness, stress, anxiety, and depression down.
  6. Until finally, everyone knew that the path to living happy lives resides in our ability to help one another through deep and intentional kindness.

How will storytelling help you to become the leader you want to be?

Head, Heart, Hands

Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness: Head, Heart, and Hands

In order to feel proud of our communities, I believe we need to wrap our arms around those who struggle within them. Caring for people starts with a willingness to see, hear, and understand one another with an open heart. We have to begin with empathy, compassion, and an eagerness to bravely step into our kindness.

Empathy is the practice of being able to understand the feelings and circumstances of others, and putting yourself in their shoes.

IMG_4410.jpgImagine your friend has just spent the last hour meticulously creating a LEGO structure. Smiling ear to ear, she makes her way over, balancing the creation in the palm of her hand, when suddenly, her foot catches the edge of the rug beneath her. Time slows as her body sails through the air, the structure and pieces fly in all directions. Her chest hits the ground with defeat. In that moment, you understand how disappointed she must feel. You understand it, but you don’t feel disappointed yourself. That’s empathy.

Then, compassion hits you. Compassion literally means to suffer with. You start remembering that time when you built the best LEGO house you’d ever made and how you wanted to show it to your neighbour, but before you could beckon him over to check it out, your little brother had made other plans. With one sweep of his hands, your prized construction was destroyed. Remembering this moment makes you feel a flash of that same devastation again. Suddenly, you actually start feeling a sense of disappointment alongside her. Compassion takes the mind-based understanding of empathy, and moves it into our hearts.

Kindness is the ability to act upon our empathy and compassion for others by taking meaningful action, transforming the world drip-by-drip.  

In the case of your friend’s LEGO structure, for example, kindness is helping her to reconstruct it, giving her a hug, or helping her up. We are all responsible for one another.

 

 

Ep # 20 Hang Loos-Surviving a Public Lifestyle (with Casey-Jo Loos)

IMG_4240Have you ever wondered what an educator and a popular radio dj have in common? In this energizing episode, my guest and I explore how to survive a public lifestyle while living with anxiety and depression. We delve into the experience of battling with perfectionism, the pressure of conformity, vulnerability, and overcoming the desire to please the arm chair critics. Through her unique perspective, we learn profound insights will help you foster a culture of psychological safety and creativity within your classroom. Hope you enjoy!

Self-described as a “fruitloop in a bowl of cheerios” my guest Casey Jo Loos is the energetic and hilarious radio dj from Vancouver’s beloved 107.3 The Peak Radio Station. She has a passion for connection through media, radio & television, a former canucks tv host, ctv news community reporter and host, and much music VJ finalist. and teaches yoga and meditation on her downtime.

Find her @caseyjoloos on Instagram and facebook or on her website [caseyjoloos.com][1]. For more information visit my website [smallactbigimpact.com][2] and search for episode #20.

E 19: Twenty Actionable Ways to Integrate Kindness into your Curriculum Starting Monday (with Sheila Sjolseth)

Sheila Sjolseth

Sheila Sjolseth brings to life acts of kindness and service projects that families and kids can do. In her daily adventures of serving with her young boys, she has witnessed the awesome things that happen when kids serve others. She started serving daily with her boys in 2012, when they were 3 and 5 years old. What started as a way to teach her kids empathy has transitioned to a way of life and a connection with thousands of others.

Born and raised in small towns across Texas, the oldest of four girls, she felt a call early on to help others for her career. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Special Education from The University of Texas at Austin and her Masters of Education in Learning and Teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Moving across the US and the world several times over, Sheila has taught in a variety of settings from a classroom in small town Texas, to a psychiatric unit in Chicago, to the US Department of Education. Public school, private school, charter school, and in the community, Sheila has had the opportunity to teach and present in almost every type of setting.
Along each step of the way, she worked with parents and students to improve parenting and learning skills. Known for her innovative teaching skills and ability to reach even the “hardest to reach” student, Sheila’s professional background is rooted in applying best teaching practices while addressing the needs of the student. As an educator and professional with 20 years of experience in working with children and parents, she truly believes that teaching kids to be kind results in a happier family.

As the President and Founder of Pennies of Time: Teach Kids to Serve, Sheila works with families and other community focused organizations to help families integrate kindness into daily habits. “Kindness as a lifestyle . . . not an item on a ‘to do’ list.” She is a 2015 Daily Point of Light Winner for contributions to family volunteerism and community service.

Her goal: For families to choose to complete an act of kindness as often as they go to soccer practice or to the movies.

“Let’s elevate the meaningful activities that we do as a family and lessen the activities that isolate us from one another.”

Her upcoming book will be released in late 2018.

Synopsis of Book:
Join Sheila in a journey through a magical land visiting families struggling to be kind in an unkind world. Her book is a storybook parenting resource that helps parents see what they can do to foster kindness and compassion in their homes. From an engaging story-line, poignant real life stories, and practical tools families can use, Sheila guides parents from doable first steps to an inspiring future where our children are compassionate problem- solvers.

Website
Pennies of Time-Kindness Academy
Instagram Twitter Facebook Pinterest

 

Old Habits Die Hard

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As I heaved the heavy school door open and headed out into the crisp Friday afternoon sunshine, my eyes, still bleary from an action-packed Halloween week at school and home, scanned the sparsely-filled parking lot for my car. My breath caught as a distant panic in my gut threatened to rise into my chest and ripple out onto my skin in goosebumps.

Where was it?

For a brief moment, I was transported back to my early twenties, where I had spent nearly every weekend and countless evenings in fluorescent, heavily curated, and windex-ed storefronts, selling t-shirts and promises to shoppers in the local mall.

One particular day, having driven my cherry red Celica to work, I parked the car on a slight decline, within close proximity to the front entrance of the mall.

I had a love-hate relationship with this vehicle, by the way. Straight out of the early 90’s, this manual shift was compact and zippy. It was the perfect summertime commuter. The problem was, where we live, it rains most of the year. The sunroof, which worked approximately 25% of the time, had a nasty habit of collecting water within it’s frame and would unleash the load on me every time I took a left-hand turn. I remember heading to a bridal shower, wearing a beautiful dress one weekend, only to arrive at the host’s house completely soaked, with mascara running down my face.

It was a cute looking car, though.

So, at the end of my shift at the mall, I emerged eager to head home for dinner. To my dismay, the car was nowhere to be found. After a few frantic minutes of searching, I received a call from my then-boyfriend-now-husband informing me that the car had been towed.

“What?” I demanded incredulously. “Why would they do such a thing?”

It turns out, in my haste to start my work shift, I had neglected to put my car in park. Unbeknownst to me, the vehicle had reversed slowly into the middle of the parking lot, causing a major headache for those wishing to enter the mall. Classic!

Flash forward to today. As it turns out, relief flooded my chest as I spotted my car tucked behind a lumbering, obtrusive van.

The truth is, I still harbour a little post-“traumatic”-stress from that situation. Although its more than 15 years later, part of me still worries that I might have forgotten to put my car in park.

I often think about the way we cling to past mistakes, reliving them, fearful that we’ll make the same ones again. Our brains are often so quick to jump to the worst-case, to scan for crisis. Optimism is the ability to overcome the conditioned pessimistic response and to talk yourself into believing that what has been will not always be, what has happened, will not necessarily be repeated.

 

An Interview with Peter H. Reynolds: How to Inspire the Happy Dreamers in your Class

“Creative thinking is the fuel for getting things going. Dreaming about the project is a huge part of the process. The actual ‘doing’ requires following through on the dream, but the dream is the rough sketch. I encourage people to ponder and conjure the vision, but eventually I’ll nudge you to “prove your groove.” Don’t just say you are a writer… Write. Don’t just dream about making a film… Pick up the camera and go!”

-Peter H. Reynolds

Have you ever wondered how to empower the dreamers in your life to be the fullest expressions of themselves? To take audacious leaps? To connect with their passion in a meaningful way to serve the world?IMG_3148

In this episode, you’ll learn the 4 questions you can ask to connect students with their purpose, the top two ways anyone can generate new and creative ideas, and the most important question everyone should be asking themselves in order to live a life of joyful intention. I am thrilled about this remarkable interview, with the best-selling, award-winning author, Peter H. Reynolds. Join us as we deep-dive into creativity, dreaming, and joyful expression.IMG_3151

Creativity champion, Peter H. Reynolds, is a Canadian-born, NY Times best-selling author & illustrator Published in over 25 languages.

Peter’s books The Dot, Ish, The Word Collector, and Happy Dreamer, among many others, inspire children and “grown up children” with his messages about authentic learning, creativity, bravery, empathy, and courageous self-expression.

Peter also illustrated the best selling I am Yoga, I am Peace, I am Human (which was recently a #1 NYT Best selling picture book!), and The Water Princess with Susan Verde, as well as, the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald. Peter lives in the Boston area where he founded The Blue Bunny, a family-owned and operated children’s book, toy, & creativity store.

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Peter and his twin brother Paul, launched the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning, and Creativity (TLC). The center is a not-for-profit organization that encourages creativity and innovation in teaching and learning. Also worth checking out, whether, you are a child, a teacher, or a grown-up kid, Fable-Vision, a creative animation studio designed to helping learners find their true potential.

You can find Peter on Twitter @peterhreynolds and by visiting his website.

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Here are 15 tips to make your mark:

Tell stories. Family stories. Made-up stories. You don’t need a book to read with your children. In fact, if they see you improvise they will learn to do the same. Improv is key to creative thinking and innovation. For more ideas, click here.

Check out Peter’s blog, The Stellar Cafe. And here’s a great interview about his artist’s way.

Seth Godin: What is School For?

Brian Bloom credit Seth Godin suit
As an educator, have you ever found yourself stumped by the question, “Why are we even doing this?” or have you ever been graced with the inevitable “Is this on the test?” query?

In this very special episode, I talk to the one and only Seth Godin about disrupting the industrial model of education, helping students to get comfortable with struggle of learning and venturing beyond the pull of fitting-in.

We also discuss the real purpose of school and how we can best prepare our students for the uncertain future.

Finally, we explore the best way to provide feedback and advice to our learners, so that they may become the fullest expressions of themselves.

SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and The Marketing Seminar, online workshops that have transformed the work of thousands of people.
He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.

 

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In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth has founded several companies, including Yoyodyne and Squidoo. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world.

In 2018, he was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. His latest book, *What To Do When It’s Your Turn* is now in its fifth printing. You can find it at yourturn.link (and the new book, *This Is Marketing*, comes out in November 2018).

Here is a link to his FREE PDF Education Manifesto (it’s so good… consider checking it out for yourself or using it for an in-school book club with your staff.)

Here is a link to his Akimbo Podcast. Seth always loves hearing how his work has impacted listeners, so send a voice message or ask a question about his episodes via his Akimbo website.

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Want to level up? Learn about the amazing online courses and seminars that Seth offers. No matter what type of work you’re doing, learn how to make your mark through the AltMBA and The Marketing Seminar .

Please let me know how you enjoyed the episode and feel free to comment on my blog or website smallactbigimpact.com

Thank you for listening!

 

Photo Credit: Brian Bloom

My Visit to St. Michaels University School

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It was a scorching hot day as I pulled up to the front of the gorgeous brick building and emerged from my car, weighed down by bulky bags of art supplies and all of the equipment necessary for my impending presentation on kindness.

Greeted by the warm and friendly staff, I was directed to the spacious auditorium where over 160 school-aged ELL students from St.Michaels University School’s ISPY program would soon fill the seats.

“I should mention,” one of the staff members announced apologetically, “they’ve mistakenly been told by their houseparents that they are set to go to the museum this afternoon. There’s been a schedule mix-up. I have to warn you, some of the kids are disappointed to be stuck on campus for a presentation.”

Uh oh. My heart sank a little.

This was not the most ideal situation in which to greet a rather large bunch of middle-schoolers, let alone speak to them about kindness.

I have to admit, I started getting nervous.

I took a deep breath, “Ok. No problem. We’ll make it work!”

Within minutes, kids began filing into the room. Some of them entered silently and sleepily. Others jostled one another, still riding high from the endorphins after a lively game of lunchtime basketball.

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I began my presentation, pleasantly surprised at how quickly they gave me the floor. Suddenly, due to a technical glitch, the video I wanted to play was inaudible and wouldn’t play properly (despite several soundchecks)…

#worstnightmare

“Uh oh, I’ve lost them!” I thought, maintaining the illusion of calm on the outside while ripples of panic lapped at my mind.

I explained that sometimes life hands us challenging situations to test out ability to overcome them. I thanked them for their patience, then completed my presentation (with the technical support of a few friendly teachers nearby).

The thing is, these kids, many of whom had been disappointed initially at the prospect of staying on campus extended me the most generous, warm reception at the end of the talk. They demonstrated their compassion and allowed me to feel comfortable within their presence, in spite of the glitches.

Throughout the rest of the afternoon, these students, from China, Korea, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Iran, and Taiwan, cycled through break-out sessions where they learned about mindfulness (from the amazing Lisa Baylis from Awaken the Well-Being of Educators), calming strategies, yoga, and kindness.

In my session, we created Kindness Rocks (lesson linked) and practiced English language skills through writing encouraging notes for friends, teachers, and family members together.

About a week later, I received a letter from St.Michaels University School. When I opened it, my heart just about burst open. Within the envelope were a number of letters, cards, notes, and even a hand-drawn portrait expressing thanks.

What touched my heart the most was that some of the students articulated their initial disappointment about having to sit in lecture hall, then noted that they came away from the presentation with a changed perspective about kindness and happiness.

I love to see children realize that their kind acts enable people to feel valued and seen, that their generosity can contribute to a happier world, and that their influence within their learning community matters.

A big thank you St. Michaels University School and my friend Allison for having me in! It was truly an honour.

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How These Well-Intentioned Compliments can Contribute to Devastating Inner Struggle

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“You’re so strong!”

“You’re so smart!”

“You’re so nice!”

How many times have we uttered these phrases, with the intention of bestowing our greatest admiration upon the receiver in front of us, whether a child, a colleague, a family member or a friend?

The truth is, when you’re told that you’re a certain way over and over, your identity can become inextricably linked to a particular set of traits or qualities.

What’s so bad about that?

Don’t we all want to exude a sense of effortless positive traits and be known for it?

What could honestly be so negative about reinforcing those characteristics in our loved ones?

Aren’t we being a little overly sensitive and PC?

When someone’s identity is so wrapped up in celebrated traits like emotional strength, kindness, intelligence, or happiness, it can be devastating and surprizing for that person (and others) when, for some reason, he or she can’t keep it up any longer.

The “strong” person shows vulnerability and cries.

The “smart” person gets a mediocre mark on a test.

The “nice” person shows anger.

Fixed or Growth Mindset?

Preoccupied by the desire to prove himself/herself, she might spend a great deal of energy trying to uphold the ideal of who he/she thinks she/he should be. As Dr.Carole Dweck asserts in her book Mindset, “I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?”

Just Keep Swimming

Like a duck in water, he might find himself paddling furiously underwater to keep the illusion of strength, control, discipline, or intelligence alive, when inside he is feeling anything but in control. Sooner or later, his energy wears thinner and thinner with every paddle. It becomes too hard to show up the way he wants-too exhausting. Suddenly, the fragile nature of his ego is exposed. He finds himself acting in ways that deviate from the traits with which he most identifies, which can feel confusing. The stakes feel really high. Above all, the desire to cling to certainty can become overwhelming. Hello, identity crisis.

Veterans and PTSD

Take, for example, the war veteran who has been necessarily conditioned throughout most of his or her career to be emotionally strong, overcome fear, and show up selflessly for others. These skills and traits are what a serviceperson requires in order to survive some of the horrors and trails associated with war. That being said, the after-effects associated with adverse conflict-related trauma can be devastating. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “it is estimated that up to 10% of war zone veterans—including war service veterans and peacekeeping forces—will go on to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.”What’s more, the conditioning that a serviceperson has undergone throughout his/her training often precludes him/her from demonstrating the vulnerability required to seek medical attention and support. There’s often a stigma attached to PTSD. It feels impossible to admit that he/she is struggling because his/her identity as a strong, capable, helper is so deeply entrenched in who they are.

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High-achievers = Higher expectations

Quite often in classrooms and schools across the globe, it can be easy to get caught-up in the capitalist-industrial pressure to keep improving, keep exceeding expectations. It’s pretty common for teachers to be more surprized by average to mediocre results from our high-achievers than by failure by the lower-achieving students in our classes.

We expect our high-achievers to continue high-level products, to continually be improving, but we don’t always make space for them to show up in an average or mediocre way. Quite often, childhood prodigies or high-achievers will do anything they can to avoid failure because the expectations on their achievement is so high. Perfectionism can set in, which can cause really intelligent, capable kids to seek certainty and comfort over risk-taking and creativity. According to Dr. Adam Grant (Originals), “Child prodigies usually pursue conforming achievement, following the well-worn paths to Carnegie Hall, the science Olympics, and chess championships. They succeed by expertly following the rules rather than making their own.”

Now, I am by no means suggesting that we should all start lowering the bar for some of these high-performers but do want to bring attention to the fact that sometimes these kids will strike out. They’ll produce lower quality work, once in a while. They might have a couple of bad ideas, but it doesn’t make them any less intelligent. They shouldn’t be shamed or ridiculed or pressured to do better every single time. They should be encouraged to ask interesting questions, pursue creative exploits, and to express themselves fully so that they may become originals in their own right.

Separate Traits from the Person

When we can separate the person from traits or qualities (positive and negative), we can allow for the normalization of a wide range of emotions and traits within a person, as opposed to a fixed perspective of who they are. It can be helpful to think of the power of growth mindset, which Dweck has described as “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well…This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

It is possible to free ourselves from the expectations of who we’re supposed to be and allow ourselves to sit within the essence of who we are, without judgement and with great admiration for ourselves and the journey that got us to where we are today.

Some practical replacements for common reinforcements:

            Instead of….                               Say….

You’re so strong!             ~                 You handled that with a lot of strength!

You’re so smart!        ~.                You solved that problem really well!

You’re so lucky!                  ~                  Way to be prepared for that opportunity!

You’re so pretty!                   ~                  That’s a lovely shirt. How do you feel in it?

You’re so organized!                 ~          You’ve thought of every detail. You must be feeling prepared.

https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-2/

Dr. Adam Grant (Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World)

Dr. Carole Dweck (Mindset)

 

My Misadventures as a Server: How Failure and Embarrassment Builds Trust

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My Misadventures as a Server: How Failure and Embarrassment Builds Trust

I’ve had my fair share of face-down failures. Abject embarrassment. Moments of complete humiliation that have had the power to reduce me to itty-bitty versions of myself. It’s safe to say that at one time or another, we all have.

Take, for instance, that one summer, between teaching jobs, when I decided to try my hand at serving. When I first applied, I had casually chosen a local pub that concerned itself less with service, efficiency, and quality than a ‘good-enough’ attitude, low standards and fun times. In other words, it was a sure thing that I’d get hired despite my inexperience.

I loved connecting with patrons and the families who came through our doors. That aspect was, for the most part, meaningful and rewarding. Every day was a new opportunity to glimpse through a tiny keyhole into someone else’s existence, good, bad, and complicated. It was thrilling!

Intriguing as it was, I was truly the worst server. A good friend had reassured me during the application process that as a teacher, being so used to multi-tasking, I’d do great. Well…

I’d make a connection with a four-top, then get so busy thinking about their lives and motivations that I’d routinely forget the cream for their coffee orders and the lime for their ciders. I would ring in the appies with the entrees so everything would roll out all at once, crowding the tiny tables after a painfully long wait due to the exceedingly slow pace of the kitchen. I’d get flustered when we were short-staffed and had too many tables. I had (and continue to have) the worst short-term memory when it comes to seemingly trivial stuff.  My most commonly uttered phrases include: “Where’s my purse?” and “Where are my keys?” As you might imagine, it was a long summer.

One night during the dinner rush, a raucous group of baseball lovers settled into the back booth and ordered hot-wings with bleu cheese dressing.

Let me preface this by clearly stating that I don’t really ‘do’ wings.  I’ve never ordered them. Even when my husband hasordered them, I’ve never really paid attention (too busy focusing on other things, remember?).  So, this was a real, face-down Amelia Bedelia moment.

After getting their drinks (and actually nailing it), I keyed in their order and went to the kitchen to confirm that they got the order right on their end.

“Don’t forget the bleu cheese dressing!” I announced confidently through the kitchen window. “They want it on their wings.”

“Like, wings tossed in bleu cheese?” One of the cooks shouted with a look of utter bewilderment.

“Yep!” I yelled assuredly above the clanging of pots and hissing of steam from the dishwasher.

“Oooooo-kay…” The cook nodded slowly with a skeptical side-glance.

Minutes later, my table’s order was up.

There, sitting under the warming lights, was the most unappealing pile of wings. The bright-red hot-sauce competed with the creamy, lumpy bleu cheese sauce resulting in a chunky, greasy white and red lumpy mess. Shrugging, (I mean, people want what they want…who am I to judge?), I brought the order to the booth and presented it to them, gingerly.

The guys looked distastefully at the plate of wings, then back at me with incredulous distain. Rolling his eyes with annoyance, one of them spoke up, his voice dripping with scorn: “We meant bleu cheese. On. The. Side. Obviously.’

Obviously.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

In that moment, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to cry. I felt stupid. I wanted to reach across the table and smack the entitled look right off of their faces. I felt a desperate need to relieve myself from the negative self-talk that echoed their expressions.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

They sneered as I grasped the plate of wings and turned to leave. Beaming the shiniest ‘service’ smile I could muster, I made my way back to the kitchen struggling to keep my head above the suffocating waves of humiliation.

Upon reaching the slippery white tile floor of the kitchen, my heel managed to hit a greasy spot. My foot scooted out from under me, sending me flying (think: cartoon character slipping on a banana peel). I fell flat on my back, but not before the goopy, creamy wings soared off the plate in slow-motion, sprinkler-style across the kitchen and all over my lap.

There I sat, drenched in hot-sauce, clumpy, creamy dressing, and failure. It took all I had not to rip my apron off and quit from the embarrassment.

But I didn’t. With a dejected sigh, I collected myself, wiped up the mess as best as I could, chose a new apron, and asked for a rush order on hot-wings, making sure to prepare the side-sauce myself.

I headed out once again to the booth, head held high, knowing in my heart that this would pass. This would not be my story forever.

In the past, reliving public displays of imperfection would have caused me to cringe. Pushing those memories far from my mind felt better than marinating in the torturous discomfort of my inadequacy. Seeking to be perfect once protected me from exposing my vulnerability, the very thing that we all seek in order to feel connected to others.

I’ve recently learned that the more willingly one leans into our own human imperfection, the less we invite shame and humiliation to manifest themselves in our lives and the more connected we feel to those around us.

You see, shame only survives within the protective shadows. The more we live out loud, in the light, the more unshackled we become. We can grow to be more tolerant of our own shortcomings. This tolerance, allows us to survive failure. Instead of wilting and shriveling, we grow strong and tall in the face of adversity.

But our courage to experience life as it is also has the remarkable power to influence those around us. It comes down, once again, to vulnerability.

It turns out, scientists at a number of universities have proven that sharing our embarrassing and vulnerable moments can serve to solidify our relationships through the agency of trust.

“Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources. It’s part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a coauthor of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Moderate levels of embarrassment are signs of virtue,” said Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley. “Our data suggests embarrassment is a good thing, not something you should fight.”

It’s a great equalizer that reminds us of our humanity. There’s something about offering oneself up that allows others to feel more comfortable.

When people work and learn in an environment that celebrates uniqueness, failure, and imperfection, they are more willing to be creative, take risks, be generous, and reveal their most authentic selves.

Why is this important? Well, when you are in a position of influence, such as a teacher, a manager or the owner of a company, and you want to get the best out of those around you …because it’s your job to motivate, inspire or cajole them into creating something, being brave enough to share their idea, or to collaborate generously with one another, you have to start with trust.

When students or employees can see themselves in you, they tend to trust you. Through that shared experience, they can trust you.

So, maybe next time you need your students or employees to get creative or do their best work, start with an embarrassing story.

 

Sources:
https://hbr.org/2017/10/research-for-better-brainstorming-tell-an-embarrassing-story
” Matthew Feinberg, Robb Willer, Dacher Keltner. Flustered and faithful: Embarrassment as a signal of prosociality.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011; DOI: 10.1037/a0025403