Lifesaver on dock Most of usunderstand that we must experience failure in order to define oursubsequent success, but not all who fail can grow. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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During a recent podcast interview, I was asked about the mostdifficult lesson I've learned up until this point. While takingstock of the last few years, I really tried to think of all themistakes I had made over time and pinpoint something I'd learned.Not surprisingly, I was unable to narrow my mistakes down to justone—there have been many; perhaps more than I ever cared to admit,until recently.

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Although my setbacks have been plentiful, so have my comebacks.While reflecting on the past few years, I've realized that everystep backward I've taken has somehow allowed me to take two stepsforward.

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They say that an arrow cannot move forward unless it is firstpulled back, and the same is true for progress. Most of usunderstand that we must experience failure in order to define oursubsequent success but, not all who fail can grow. At least notunless we're willing to embrace the one key element that sitsbetween the fall and the climb: vulnerability.


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And that's where I discovered my answer.

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What has been the hardest lesson to learn over the course of mycareer? Learning how to be vulnerable. Learning how to embrace thediscomfort that comes with missing the mark and owning the humilityrequired to push myself back up from that feeling of being knockeddown.

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Last year, I founded Empowered Leadership, an organizationdedicated to elevating minority leaders. And, as you might suspect,the organization is made up of a lot of women. Not just women inour industry, but remarkable women in business who havedemonstrated the courage to share the ugly side of femaleleadership in the workplace. For every woman who talks about herstruggles, there's another who has already been through the sameand has a word of encouragement to share. The entire community andour contribution to each other is based on vulnerability. It hasbecome the most powerful and relatable way in which we connect withone.

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It is well documented in history that most, if not all,prominent figures have faced a hardship that appeared to painfullyimpact the course of life and/or career. I can point to everyperiod of weakness in my history and credit it directly to one ofmy strengths now. For every time I've felt rejection, I have thenexperienced acceptance; perhaps not in the way I intended toachieve it at first, but always in the way it should haveoccurred.

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A pattern of ebb and flow emerged that I couldn't quite defineor sketch out in my brain until one of my closest friends sharedwith me the theory of a lifeline. This is the way in which youexperience a low followed by a high. And maybe your low staysunderground for a while, and maybe sometimes the high that followsfeels too short-lived. But as your days forge on, so do your upsand downs. It's what we do in those downs that allows us thefortitude to reach again. It's sitting in the discomfort, and, as afellow woman leader, Naama Pozniak, would say, "it's about holdingyour space."

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We are all so afraid of the potential for failure that we oftendon't make an attempt at success. But we must fall down, and wemust feel the crushing disappointment of loss to find the fire toget up, brush off, and do it all again with a little more resolve.Isn't this how resilience is born and bred within us? Isn't thishow we all get through life?

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When I speak about empowerment and leadership, I don't speakabout being inherently strong; I talk about being vulnerable. I askpeople to share with me one of their most painful experiences; totell me how they made their way through to the other side and whatthey took, and used, from the fray. I implore people to not acceptthe façade of putting on a brave face because this isn't relatableto… well, anyone, and especially not to women in leadership whocontend with a misplaced ideal of who or what they need to be everyday.

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So, let's work on generating some acceptance aroundvulnerability in the industry. Because we all feel it, but we'reall led to believe we can't express it without risking ourcredibility as strong, professional people. But the truth is thatit's in our moments of authenticity that we build rapport, trust,and relatability with each other and with our clients andprospects.

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