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Please… stop writing about how “vulnerable” you are

Ramit Sethi

Please god, let me never run across one of these quotes again:

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You know what else is terrifying? My face as I read yet another one of these sugary-sweet quotes that so many people post about vulnerability.

Is anyone else sick of this shit?

It seems like everyone around us is telling us to be more vulnerable. Share your failures! Be more open! There’s power in being authentic when you share your shame!

But they don’t tell you the full story. Vulnerability can get you a bunch of likes, or it can even get you a TED Talk…

…but you’ll notice these “experts” deliberately leave out one key part of vulnerability.

Nobody ever talks about it.

But I will.

***

In my 20s I prided myself on being an “unemotional” guy.

Take a look. This is the impression I left on the person who interviewed me for a Fortune Magazine profile:

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And it goes back way further than that.

For example, growing up in a middle-class family, I knew I’d have to get scholarships to pay for college. I applied to 65+ and got interviews with a bunch. I thought I did great, but I kept losing to other candidates. Why?

It turns out that when you walk into a room, and they ask, “How are you?” and you respond with a TOTALLY FLAT SERIAL-KILLER AFFECT — “I am doing great” or “I am so excited to be here” — people don’t really like that.

pasted image 072

Part of it was being raised as an Indian guy. Indian and Asian guys aren’t raised to show our emotions like other people. It took me years and a lot of hard work to understand this, then work to show my feelings. That practice helped me earn enough scholarship money to pay for college, it helped me get closer to people I love, and frankly, it’s been a lot more FUN.

So trust me when I say this: I know how valuable it can be to show your emotional side every once in awhile. I learned it the hard way.

But when did it become not just acceptable — but COOL — to talk about our most crippling vulnerabilities?

Have you noticed how more and more people on social media and in articles are talking about the importance of vulnerability…and less about excellence? Why is this happening?

Please, can we stop it with every single random blogger, author, and rando on Facebook sharing some random mistake they made in life?

If you ask them, do you notice how people think being vulnerable makes them “courageous”?

  • Having trouble in your relationships? Find the “courage” to be vulnerable and everything will be ok.
  • Hard time at work? Be strong and open up to your boss about how you’re feeling.
  • Kids stressing you out? Sit them down and share with them why you’re having a difficult time.

But today I want to give you a totally new way to look at vulnerability and show you how good people can get suckered into writing about vulnerability and failure all the time. Because contrary to what you hear on Facebook (and even a lot of TED Talks), vulnerability is NOT always the right answer.

The irresistible temptation of vulnerability

There are 3 topics you can write about that guarantee you will get 100+ comments and likes:

  1. Your opinion on parenting
  2. How much you spent on your wedding
  3. Some failure you experienced

For the last topic — failure — readers go absolutely wild.

Here, let me show you how it works.

Recently I wrote about the insecurities that come with being an entrepreneur.

People LOVED it. There were nearly 150 comments. I started thinking…”Should I write more about this? People sure love my stories about failing.”

This is exactly what most people experience: They write a post about failure, get an unbelievable amount of comments and pats on the back, then decide they want to keep a good thing going.

They suddenly embrace The Failure Formula:

Step 1: Write about a mistake they made

Step 2: Get hundreds of supportive/validating comments (“I definitely needed this today!”)

Step 3: Repeat!

There’s a reason almost every self-development article online talks about the writer’s failures: It works. I have never gotten as many comments as when I write about my own failures (see here and here).

And yet, this is why 99% of those commenters will go nowhere.

It’s true — people love when you write about your mistakes and failures. But there’s a serious downside to doing what gets you the most “likes”.

When you define yourself by your vulnerability, you leave little room for success. Ironically, the people whose approval you will increasingly crave — and you will crave it more and more — are the very people who want to commiserate over others’ failures. They are the last people anyone should seek approval from.

I’d like to present a new way of thinking about vulnerability. It includes something people rarely talk about: status.

The Vulnerability Matrix

There are some well-documented examples of how vulnerability can help you. Being vulnerable and open can be tremendously rewarding and valuable to you.

But in this day of “radical transparency,” what most people won’t tell you is that vulnerability can also hurt you. Nobody ever talks about these nuances.

I want to break down these nuances for you.

GL Matrix

The Vulnerability-Status matrix is a very simple way to see what you’ll gain by being more vulnerable. Surprisingly there’s only one case where that will serve you. Check it out.

First, you have the … Aspirational Leader

This is who we all aspire to be like. High status and high vulnerability. Not only are they insanely successful and great at what they do, almost everyone likes them.

Examples: Billionaire founder of Virgin Airlines Richard Branson, actress Jennifer Lawrence (here’s an amazing video on why she’s so likable), and The Rock.

People in this category make impeccable use of The Pratfall Effect. This is what happens when a high-status person makes a mistake or admits to some kind of flaw. They do this, and instead of losing respect for them — we end up finding them MORE attractive and MORE likable.

The key here is status. If a low-status person made the same mistakes or admitted the same vulnerabilities, it’s not perceived the same way. It’s not “cool” or even status-enhancing. But for a high-status person, vulnerability is a major plus.

Take away the vulnerability and you get … Accomplished & Aloof

Personally, I’m a good example of this bucket (in the bottom-right). Fortunately, I’ve been professionally successful, but I’m not very vulnerable. That rubs a lot of people the wrong way. And I probably miss out on connecting with a lot of my readers or the people who hear me talk.

In fact, I once spoke on stage at the same event as James Altucher. Someone working for me at the time came up to me after.

“Can I give you some feedback?” she asked. I said “Sure.”

“Why is it that James — who’s made and lost tens of millions of dollars — is WAY more relatable than you are?” she asked me.

She was right. If you’ve ever read or listened to James, it’s pretty clear why.

Former NFL linebacker James Harrison is another example of being completely unrelatable thanks to his insane workouts.

And at the extreme end of this bucket are guys like Elon Musk or Larry Page. They are so successful — and they share so little about themselves — that they seem inhuman.

Personally, I’ve made it a point to be more open to the people around me. If you saw my speech at Forefront, or if you’ve seen my article on shutting down a multimillion-dollar product, you’ll see. But I always prioritize excellence over vulnerability.

Next, you have the … Delusional Wannabe

This was me when I was in my 20s. God, I was so dumb. I remember speaking on a panel with author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki. Afterwards, I asked him how I could get more speaking gigs.

He looked at me and said, “Worry about doing something worth talking about first.”

Damn. That felt horrible. And it took me a long time to realize he was right. The Delusional Wannabe has low status, but isn’t vulnerable at all.

And finally, the … Loser

Being open about your vulnerabilities is fine. However, using them as the sole crutch to connect with people — to get more comments and likes — is not. That’s when people go from “open” to needy and pathetic.

Worse, it’s just bad strategy!

If you talk about vulnerability over and over on social media — without balancing it out with your positive thoughts on a topic, or your accomplishments, or some other insight — you attract only people who love talking about failure. Sadly, these people are almost always looking to commiserate, not change. And you never even realize what you’re doing to yourself: creating a self-reinforcing vortex of failures that get reinforced every single time you post them.

So what should you do?

Imagine two people. Same level of skill. Same age. Same job.

One of them spends the next year learning to be more vulnerable. Learns how to “open up” emotionally and share his failures with other people.

The other spends the year doing the opposite. He spends his time mastering his craft and improving his communication skills. (Here are the top 3 skills I recommend you master btw.)

This is the difference between (a) the writer who decides he wants to “help people,” contemplates becoming a life coach, and decides he better first begin by starting a blog where he can write about his “life experiences” and emotions for other people to read…

… and (b) the writer who meticulously studies better writers, practices coming up with and pitching ideas, and spends 3 nights per week writing extra drafts to get feedback on the next day.

At the end of the year, who do you think is going to be further ahead? Who is going to be happier with their life?

The person who focuses on excellence — not vulnerability — will live a Rich Life.

He’ll be earning more. He’ll have more respect at work. He’ll have more OPTIONS and CONTROL over his career and his life.

The other guy?

From the outside, it might seem like he did ok. He might have more followers, and plenty of likes. He might very well FEEL pretty good about himself.

But what has he actually done?

Not much.

Now if the first guy, who has accomplished some of his goals, wanted to share some of his toughest moments in growing — being truly vulnerable about mistakes he made and lessons learned — that would be awesome.

But notice that excellence comes first. You can always be vulnerable whenever you want. It’s very, very hard to become excellent. But becoming excellent is where the true rewards are.

I will always focus on people who want to be excellent. If you want to be a top performer, this is the place for you.

What about you? After reading this, you know what “good” vulnerability looks like. In the comments, tell me someone famous who is a master of this and why.

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185 Comments

 
  1. GawkFace

    I definitely needed this today!
    😛

    An awesome article
    I had always wondered why good-looking people could get away with stupidest of comments – pratfall effect :O

    Team Action-over-words for win

  2. Shuchi

    Hmmm so on the blog about being rich, I am lil intrigued to imagine that how two variables: money and wedding do intersect on this vulnerability matrix.
    What say Sethi?

    • Ramit Sethi

      You tell me. What do you think? (Thanks for reading & commenting, btw.)

  3. Vlad

    Here's the quote from the other article on what Ramit says you should focus on

    "For anyone starting out today, here are the three things I recommend you become world class at:

    Learning how to sell
    Writing amazing emails or blog posts that people open and read
    Learning how to build a team (even a small one)"

    • Gabrielle

      Thanks for the recap! Nice golden nuggets of wisdom.

  4. Michelle

    This makes so much sense….I have also been annoyed with the theme of public vulnerability. Part of it is that I appreciate when others are honest, but I don't need to know the entire backstory if I've just met you. There's a difference between someone admitted they are unsure vs. admitting they are unsure AND THEN explaining it's because of their family issues or whatever.

    Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears are the first examples that come to mind when I think of high status + vulnerability. They were famous and then opened up.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you, Michelle. Great examples with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears. Not surprisingly, they were all extremely high status.

    • Grace

      Yes! Taylor Swift is a great example!

  5. Primoz Bozic

    Wow Ramit, this post was SO good.

    I love the "vulnerability matrix" and the connection between status and vulnerability. I also loved that you shared so many different examples from so many walks of life (from NFL players to Jennifer Lawrence).

    I love that you're not just saying "BE MORE VULNERABLE!" (or the opposite), but that you're actually showing when vulnerability makes sense, and for who. I haven't seen anyone else do this before.

    Keep up the awesome work.

    -Primoz

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thanks, Primoz. I want people to see the nuances, not just take black-or-white advice that may not ring true.

  6. Nikki

    I'm so glad you wrote this. It can be really inspiring when I read about someone who is successful but talks about their mistakes. I think "Right on! Look at what they've done. I can STILL do great!" Marie Forleo is such an example for me. I got so inspired when I found out how long it took to grow her business. However, I get so tired of a lot of the "woo woo" stuff I see other, random people posting. I always felt a little bad for thinking "Um…who cares? Are you actually doing anything NOW?" Or the folks who overshare their feelings on FB…UGHHH. So thanks for writing this so I can know I'm not the only one who feels and thinks this way 😉

    • Ramit Sethi

      Love it. Marie is a great example because she's totally authentic. When she talks about her vulnerabilities, it's real — and she's also extremely accomplished!

      If you just cargo-cult copy her, you'll get the "sassy" language and the vulnerability…without the excellence. Big mistake.

      Thanks for the comment, Nikki. Please share this with your friends. I would appreciate it.

  7. Rayna

    Scott Adams. Successful, excellent, and utterly relatable. And he does it without ever using the 'v'-word. Also, Steven Pressfield, author of "The War of Art," "Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit," and "Do The Work."

    Great post, Ramit. Now back to work.

  8. JBB

    There's one situation where I am willing to be vulnerable — that's when I'm sharing a mistake with the intention of teaching someone else. Specifically, teaching them either 1) here's a common pitfall, so you can avoid it and excel, or 2) yeah you made a mistake, and we all make mistakes, the point is to learn from it and not make it a second time, we're not going to beat you up over it if you do the right thing from here, and to comfort you here's a similar mistake I or someone else on the team made and see that we're still here and haven't been fired.

    The point of a mistake — yours, someone else's, whatever — is to get beyond it. Can't change the past, learn from it and keep moving forward. If you're altruistic, pass on what you've learned.

  9. HEATHER SHANNON

    I'm a therapist, so obviously I love vulnerability! You're right though that it's about the big picture you're painting of yourself & what is framing that vulnerability. Also, I appreciate your commitment to "being boring" and laser beam focus, which leads to excellence! Good reminders!

  10. Daniel Welsch

    I don't find Altucher relatable at all… This might be my own personality quirk, but I like Ramit's hard line way more than Altucher's "I failed at everything and still have tons of rich friends" thing.

    • Joy

      That's exactly what I came here to say. I've recently deleted him from my RSS (do people still use RSS?) because every single post has become about how much of a failure he is, and it is the opposite of inspiring for me.

      If he was ever "high status" in my eyes he has managed to completely unravel that for me now.

  11. Jen Seregos

    Interesting conversation. I think we all have a tough time balancing too much of a good thing in our society. Look at the high-fat movement in health. Now that a few people said they lost weight by eating a high-fat diet, there is a massive bandwagon that's now OVEREATING fat in lieu of a balanced diet.

    Whatever happened to moderation? Did it ever exist in the first place? Including moderation in our emotional responses and how much emotional sharing we do?

    Thanks for writing, definitely thought- provoking!

  12. Lindsay

    "One of them spends the next year learning to be more vulnerable. Learns how to “open up” emotionally and share his failures with other people.

    "The other spends the year doing the opposite. He spends his time mastering his craft and improving his communication skills."

    These 2 things are… not opposites? I don't get this article, to be honest. My suspicion, based on a handful of extremely talented people I was fortunate to meet early on in their lives/careers, is that vulnerability (openness about areas of weakness, anxieties, etc.) goes hand-in-hand not just with building skills and excellence (vulnerability is key to being coached, for instance) but also with building a personal network of people who are extremely committed to helping you succeed. The folks I've met who are scary-smart/talented also seem unusually comfortable asking for help, saying they don't understand something, etc.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Very good point. I completely agree that they are not mutually exclusive. The very best people I know do both. However, in my experience, people who put vulnerability first tend to forget about the second part: excellence.

    • Dan

      This was a use of extremes to make a general point, and they are not mutually exclusive. However, I think the crux of the issue has to do with motives and intentions. Being vulnerable and open as part of being our authentic selves is one thing; using vulnerability as a crutch or pedestal, and even getting addicted to the attention it garners is another. That's what we clearly need to steer clear of, in my opinion.

      Great post, Ramit. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Maneesh

    Great post. You truly do feel better when you just do the work. Vulnerability is a great way to breed connection — but not to make a lasting impact. That takes actually doing the work.

    • Ramit Sethi

      YES! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  14. Rawan

    Ramit, I agree one hundred per cent that people have been talking more and more about tending to our feelings, and less about getting better at our skills. I am absolutely guilty of neglecting my goals and drowning in feelings that I could not understand.
    I am so happy I got to know your writing and took some of your courses because they got me in touch with the part of myself that wants to—and can accomplish things.
    But, the thing with "feelings", and people who are vulnerable, or ashamed, is that these feelings actually cloud your judgment. You cannot be clear when you are ashamed. You cannot aim for goals and get things done if you don't believe you deserve things. You cannot swim back to shore if you don't know what your personal destination is, and what you value: you are just trying not to drown.
    And, one more thing: voicing out feelings or vulnerabilities separates us from them: I feel they become less entrenched in our identity, less scary. And when people respond, maybe we feel less alone, and it's a basic human need I guess? And if exposing your flaws is the scariest thing you can do, and remember—fear is a very intense emotion, then you will feel courageous for facing that fear.
    Obviously, I am against marketing vulnerabilities.
    This comment was to point out that a lot of people are not clear inside of themselves, and are prone to get lost in the fuzziness of emotions. And clarity is not bountiful: you really have to work at it. But I do agree, one hundred per cent, that feelings are private, for the most part, and that focusing on goals, and what needs to be done is what can actually help.

    Thank you for everything that you do!

  15. Yeyen

    Straight on point Ramit, I see the trend towards "vulnerability" so much lately – this is a great insight into it.

    Never settle for anything less!

  16. Michelle

    Also, the grid reminds me of this leadership (parenting/manager/teacher all same thing) model:

    https://www.radicalcandor.com/about-radical-candor/

    • Lindsay

      This is cool, thank you for sharing!

  17. Awinda

    This is a great read in vulnerability. I thought no it's a big thing now with the emotional intelligence emphasis. I think it's best used when explaining how to create better connection especially for people in leadership.
    Nick Vujicic is a great example of someone who uses his vulnerability to help people maximize their potential

  18. Kristina

    This is the best article I have read per last few years. I am feeling exactly the same about this vulnerability stuff. And sometimes I was secretly asking myself:" what's wrong with me? Why post about someones failure makes me feel sick in my gut?! Am I THAT bad?"
    Pfew, it's not me, it's just the mindset other people have 🙂
    Thank you! What a relief!

  19. Neil

    Well written Ramit. Unfortunately on the recommendation of several marketing bloggers that I respect, I bought a Bene Brown book. The Power Of Vulnerability or something like that. (Yeah I know….pathetic). Anyway, on about the 50th page she made mention of yet another crying episode she had (this time with her entire family….yuk) It was about the 5th one. A crying fit on average, every 10 pages. I put the book down, never to be picked up again.

    I have no idea why this drivel is recommended by so many successful people, but I suspect it's the car crash/nightly news effect. Accidents, pain, bad news will always attract the average person more than good news and stories. As you say, better to study success instead.

  20. Michael McGivern

    Our last three presidents strike me. Clinton, W, and Obama all had the hardest job in the world, are reviled by an incredible amount of people, yet each is very self-aware and open about mistakes they made. I know Jimmy Carter is like this too, and I *think* Reagan and Bush Sr. were/are like that I'm just not as well read on them.

  21. Rick Siderfin

    Another thing. Don't list yourself as "currently unemployed" on LinkedIn. It's an instant turn-off for potential employers. Maybe you don't have a job right now, but offer yourself a job (as a freelance consultant or whatever you're good at), accept the job offer, keep your back straight and keep ploughing on.

  22. Ryan

    I remember you mentioning that people were asking you to be more vulnerable at the first Forefront event. You asked 'Why?' This concept of vulnerability was foreign to me at the time but your thorough response here helps to clarify this topic.

    Good vulnerability allows you to connect with others. In the case of teaching a subject, like how to Earn $1k, showing vulnerability makes success seem more accessible, but only after you've done the work. The ability to relate with your reader and say "Hey I've been there, let me show you how to get past that failure or obstacle" is good vulnerability. Without already having proven success and excellence, however, vulnerability quickly turns into excuse manufacturing.

    It's the approach to vulnerability that will determine the outcome. An approach from a position of abundance will yield a teaching moment and excellence. An approach from scarcity will yield focusing on failure rather than how to move past it.

    • Lindsay

      I dunno, man. When I'm thinking about times in my life (career, personal, family, whatever) when I made a big step up in competence, I'm pretty sure every one of them was preceded by intense vulnerability – asking for help, sometimes, or other times just acknowledging that I was in over my head, or things were going badly. Ever time I've had that big insight (the ones that feel like, WAIT I SEE A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS!!!) it was after having a very bad moment (or day or month) of doubt. You know?

      I think it's very interesting that folks are equating vulnerability with 'excuse manufacturing' – offering excuses is a giant sign that someone is NOT being vulnerable and is trying to protect themselves from a feeling of (real or impending or imaginary) failure. Sitting with a feeling of failure, without any excuses, is a SUPER POWERFUL tool to generate new insights, find new motivation, etc.

    • Shane

      I like the point you're making Lindsay. I think it's interesting how in every great story, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, the main character starts off very humble, is extremely vulnerable, gets beaten down, needs to ask for help (Yoda, Gandalf, Dumbledore), but ultimately overcomes all of their struggles and then goes on to help others.

      There's something really powerful about that "hero's journey" narrative, and vulnerability is a key component of it. Even the best heroes have moments where they are in totally over their heads and have to ask for help.

      The way I was reading this comment, though, was that the scarcity person was more interested in getting the benefits of being a victim—identifying with being the receiver of a negative situation in which there was no solution—whereas the person focused on abundance was more interested in being the person who could change their situation—the hero. Asking for help to change their situation (rather than for charity, say) is that abundance mindset.

      It sounds like you take this approach as well, getting into the deepest pits of vulnerability but then also being sure to invest your energy into climbing out.

      Am I understanding?

    • Lindsay

      Hi Shane. Interesting point about the 'hero's journey' – I also think that in many stories, the hero starts out arrogant (i.e., unable to experience or acknowledge vulnerability) and getting humble(d) is a key part of overcoming his struggles.

      I think your focus on the victim/scarcity mentality is right, but would go further and say that people using this mentality are 100% not experiencing/sharing actual vulnerability – after all, they're still trying to externalize their suffering, blaming it on someone/the universe/whatever. And really, I don't see any way for someone to invest their energy in positive change as long as they're relying on some external narrative about why they're suffering.

      One thing I've found interesting in my own life is that it takes a ton of work to get to a moment of actual vulnerability (no defenses or reasons or excuses or even explanations), and then pretty much no work at all to go from there to positive change. It's almost like the dang buddhists were right in saying that suffering thrives on resistance; once there's no resistance (i.e., total vulnerability), it seems to just evaporate. =)

  23. Chad Frisk

    It's possible that posts about weakness are popular because they give commenters the opportunity to feel compassionate. There is a warm glow that comes along with commiserating with a person in pain, and commiserating on the internet confers the double benefit of feeling compassionate WHILE ALSO being seen as compassionate by others.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. It's good to be caring towards people in pain.

    When the dialog never moves beyond commiseration, however, then the underlying weakness is never addressed.

    In this way, both poster and commenter can be lured into a seductive trap. Both sides get a reward (pleasant feeling) from the interaction, but the source of the pain never goes away.

    It perhaps never can, in fact, because the interaction depends on the weakness. Something very much worth thinking about!

    • Ramit Sethi

      Absolutely outstanding comment. I hope everyone reads this. Chad, thank you for writing this.

    • Ann

      Brilliant.

    • Chad Frisk

      Thanks for providing the opportunity to think it through!

      I find that a lot of perplexing behavior (my own at the forefront) results from not noticing the long-term costs of short-term rewards. It's worth paying close attention to where little daily pleasures take a person. At least sometimes they go around in unproductive circles.

  24. Celeste

    Maya Angelou. Took every hard hit in life, shared them in shattering detail without invoking pity; steadily worked at her creative craft for decades to become a beloved and wise master, artist, leader, visionary and truly a national treasure. RIP Ms. Angelou!

  25. Beth Bridges

    Thanks for the graphic. Anyone else feel like it totally explains why you think some nice people who do have something going for them come across as "losers?"

    I think of it as also being about the proportion of what people know about you.

    If you never share or demonstrate success, just one "failure" represents 100% of what people know about you. Whether it's true or not.

    And, maybe distance and time from the mistake matters too.

    "Yesterday, I made this horrible mistake." Or worse, "I'm completely messing up right this moment!"

    Vs.

    "When I was a kid/in my twenties/first starting my business, I made this relatable error. But now I'm successful because I recovered/learned/built from it."

    All very very interesting Ramit. Going to go look at my Facebook feed with a different viewpoint now.

  26. Mark

    I've never bought anything from somebody or cared anymore about them because of their online vulnerability

    It's weak filler content that at best provides a good story

    Just another goober trend

  27. Ryan Chatterton

    Hey Ramit,

    At first my 'who does this guy think he is' voice turned on, but by the end I was like, 'yep.'

    I've had a mild success with my work that I'm happy with. Sharing my vulnerabilities with people earlier in their career tracks has be helpful to them for sure. I've been able to help some younger versions of myself in that way. But I do it with A LOT more caution, as well as confidence, now.

    Two people come to mind for different reasons.

    Seth Godin because I've always respected how he doesn't share things about himself. However, on the rare occasions he does and you glimpse into his life to see some of the tough times and crazy moves he's made to become Seth Godin it adds a lot more credibility to his story. There's a story he tells in one of his courses about selling law firms spots in a book that he would distribute to recent law graduates. He did it because he needed money. Clever, brilliant, vulnerable. Another I like is how he literally would window shop at restaurants with his wife and then go home and have macaroni and cheese.

    The other is Gary Vaynerchuk. People often see Gary as who he is today, but they don't realize he's be at work his entire life, building up to the point where he could be 100% vulnerable and put his life on camera. If he hadn't built his family's liquor business into what it is now and started Wine Library, he wouldn't have the same effect when he began talking more as the Gary Vaynerchuk figure.

    I always turn to one of these guys when I need guidance. Not for inspiration, but for actual truthful insight into how to solve real life problems.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Seth is a great example. Very successful, while being extremely guarded about what he reveals. Doesn't follow any of the typical "vulnerability" advice. Yet he still connects and makes a huge impact. Hmm…

  28. Jennifer

    HA so good.

    I live in LA and recently did self-development workshops where it's a big thing in this town to discuss vulnerability as a tool for being a great leader (and referencing Brene Brown's book constantly, though I didn't finish either one).

    People LOVE to talk about being vulnerable but they don't talk about what the healthy MIDDLE looks like.

    Yes I've grown and benefited a LOT from learning to open up to people I care about and express even painful experiences. But now I catch myself living in nostalgia too often… it's IMMOBOLIZING! Stressing how far I should open up to someone or not, and dissecting where my fears are coming from, is a time waster lol.

    When I was a non-vulnerable teenager, I accomplished a shit ton because I never slowed down to think about how I was feeling. Goals got done. I'm in the process of swinging my pendulum back that way….

  29. Ian

    Great post. I didn't even know vulnerability had become so cliche until reading this!

    It's hard to look beyond James Altucher for vulnerability. Pat Flynn also.

  30. Zach

    Tim Ferriss is vulnerable, but he's vulnerable to accomplish a higher goal. In lots of cases he's vulnerable to get the people he's interviewing on his podcast to open up and share more about their lives, tips, and tricks with Tim's audience.

    In other cases he's vulnerable to empower people, as in "I was so low on the totem pole I was working in an office in a stairwell and had to twist my ass to get into my chair and I made it, so stop making excuses."

    In one case he was vulnerable about his suicidal thoughts on college to bring attention to that issue and help his audience members struggling with depression.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Yes, Tim is vulnerable (and extremely insightful and accomplished). I love that he shares both.

  31. Justin Lewis

    Brene Brown talks about this in her talk with Tim Ferriss. I think she called it Reckless Vulnerability. The unwashed masses have missed that key part of her message about WHEN to be vulnerable.

  32. Ann

    Great article and fantastic matrix. As a spiritual instructor, I feel my role is to balance vulnerability with strength (yin/yang). I do share my mistakes and challenges, but only when I also conquered them and have a solution to offer. Instead of being "all about me" they become points of instruction where I help others learn to find their way out of common human challenges.

  33. Mary

    What a great post! I think, especially when you are a leader or parent (or at least somene with responsibility for others), you have to weigh carefully how much of your fear you share with those you are responsible for. I've overheard parents share things with kids they should not be exposed to, all in the name of 'getting power from showing your weakness' and it just makes me angry. It's BS to share all your worries with people who can't help you, or burden them with it.

  34. Rafa

    Vulnerability is a luxury I can't afford, time-wise, right now.

    I agree with you, Ramit. When captains of industry talk about vulnerability, it is something else. They have developed a certain kind of one track mind that delivers them success, without fail.

  35. Asif

    Being one of your students, you've actually displayed vulnerability in a very obvious way only really noticable to me once having read this article.

    For example, you did a lot of the hard work of building a blog despite some posts being about dubious topics (the bane of your life, bottled water) and then talking about how dumb you were for even writing about it in the first place. Another example is your reflection on how bad the first few iterations of IWT website were.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you for noticing. It means a lot to see this recognized (and there's more if you dig).

  36. Raven Vinnie

    BEER BATTERED OPINION-RING: I think if you're like me (still at the bottom, but persistently working your way up in life), I believe that not only being that highly successful person whilst being vulnerable is the key to getting the right perception of yourself, but also the way you frame said vulnerabilities, and yourself in general. Like, if I said to a friend "I screwed up last night because I couldn't even finish my construction lines on my illustration", that's gonna sound loser-y. But If I were to say it like, "I got a slower start to my illustration than I would of liked last night, but I really wanted to make sure I have a dead-solid foundation for this illustration that I'm already ecstatic about", that's going to sound a lot more like even my slip-ups are somehow calculated and smart.

    TL;DR: Self-image and projection is half of the battle IMHO (just don't let confidence become delusion)

  37. Adi

    As usual dishing out the tough love 🙂
    I love this because it draws a clear distinction between talking and doing. This vulnerable type of talk can *seem* a lot like doing (because it gets you engagement, it takes (some of us) real effort, yada yada yada), but at the end of the day, it's still just talking.

    However, I do think there's room for the doer to talk about what they're going through in real time, instead of saving it for post-success when they've "earned" their right to be vulnerable. Otherwise when they talk about it in hindsight, it often looks just like a photo montage of hard work and although they're still an inspiration, it's far less relatable (in my opinion).

  38. Thiago

    I agree with you that there are a lot of people writing about this stuff who don't really contribute anything… or do they? I don't really know.

    My take on this, and on many other things, is I don't really care, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone.

    So, to answer your question, I'm not really sick of this shit.

    I tend to agree with you that people might be better off trying to excel instead of being vulnerable. However, I missed a couple of things in your article:

    1 – Status is relative. I do open up and talk about failures with my closest friends who look up to me, if I feel like it can help them with some specific problems I've been (or am going) through.

    2 – Being vulnerable is absolutely necessary, in my opinion, to connect with people. I think it's impossible to have deeper connections without showing you're human.

    BTW, I think both these points are somewhat implicit in your article, but I think it's important to make them explicit or people can think it's OK to not be vulnerable at all.

    Not that I think it's your responsibility what people do with their lives, it's not, but anyway…

  39. Raghav

    OH THANK GOD Ramit….you've vocalised something that's been bugging me for a while.

    One of my close friends has lo and behold decided to become a Life Coach!!!

    She is 28, has a job at a scientific institute …but is now pouring out all her vulnerability on Facebook every freakin' day with lots of heart and hug emoticons. Her own life is barely getting on track and now she wants to coach people on everything from relationships to health to careers all through connecting to their soul. What has happened to her!

    "(a) the writer who decides he wants to “help people,” contemplates becoming a life coach, and decides he better first begin by starting a blog where he can write about his “life experiences” and emotions for other people to read…"

    This is her exactly.

    Finally someone understands.

    I will discreetly pass this article along to her.

  40. K. Rapp

    First of all, I really think the recent articles on here have been phenomenal (ie: productivity guide for the weird, this). Articles like these will forever set your material apart from the revolving door of cringe worthy Medium posts.

    Living in Silicon Valley, I feel like all I ever hear about lately is how the solution to my issues is "being more open with my feelings." However, I am surrounded by examples of this not being an optimal solution.

    For example, I have a friend who spends her time on social media always talking about:
    – How hard life is (because she is a woman, because she is depressed, etc…)
    – How she is working on becoming increasingly vulnerable
    – How she is trying to lose weight, start meditating, etc…

    The comments on these posts are always SO supportive. "You go girl!", "You are my inspiration. Never change!", etc… However, what no one will tell her is that I get 2 unprovoked messages a week from other friends (including other women and even people who will publicly comment on her posts supporting her!) talking about what a loser this person is. This is very fascinating to me. And makes me very cautious of vulnerability for vulnerability sake.

    Like you, I have spent the majority of my life as someone in the bottom right quadrant of the vulnerability matrix. In fact, I was convinced that this was a prerequisite for being ultra successful (probably because of the profiles of Musk, Page, Bezos, etc… but who really knows why I thought this). But, I have found that there is a fundamental limit for me when it comes to living that mindset. I get really sad when I don't share any of my feelings at all…

    Personally, what I have found works for me is to have a few confidants that I am extremely vulnerable with. People who are achievement minded, but also open to hearing about challenges. They are not afraid to tell me I am being soft when I am being soft. And they are willing to give me feedback even if it isn't what I want to hear. It has worked for me, but I am still trying to refine it to make it even better.

    Thanks for giving me a new mental model for thinking about vulnerability and helping me understand the intricate balance you need to strike between vulnerability and achievement.

    • Ramit Sethi

      BINGO! Thanks for sharing your story. And it's our pleasure to give you new mental models to go through life with.

    • Carolynn

      Dude, yes. I find myself spending less time on Facebook for this reason, especially when it comes to sharing my own posts.

  41. AJ

    Wow, I never really thought about this from a business/professional perspective, but upon further reflection, I absolutely do. I'm an ENFP (gregarious, outgoing, talkative lover of people…) and I force myself to reign it in because once I demonstrate my skills and the value I can bring, the fact that I genuinely care about the people I work with and serve is kind of the icing on the cake. When I was a little younger and new to business, I spent far more time focusing on the relationship piece and less time building real skills and showing that I could get it done at work (probably for fear of seeming overly-confident? Sigh….) I guess I'm just working to strike a much better balance that starts with delivering value and then being a fun person to work with. Thought-provoking today, Ramit!

  42. Luke D. Maxwell

    I teach others how to share their experiences to help others, and I can't believe I haven't seen this before. I've known this instinctually but haven't been able to put it into words. First the productivity post, and now this. You're on fire, man!

  43. Nick

    The graphic was top-notch.

    As a college-student entering into military service, I see both ends of the spectrum very often, and it's those who strike a balance I see people admire most. I've met plenty of hard-asses who are almost the best at what they do, but their lack of human qualities only makes you hate them. Building up hate will detract from their ability to be excellent very easily. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are more than enough college students sharing their every thought and life story on social media under the reasoning that "being vulnerable makes you strong", and they just look like needy losers.

    Definitely gonna use that graphic in the future. Thank you.

    • Ramit Sethi

      I agree. And the comment about hard-asses who lack the human touch resonates with me. Something I can do a better job of. Thanks for leaving this comment.

  44. Leslie

    Great article, and some great comments here.

    Personally, I'd like to follow a rule:

    If I have to share vulnerability, I'm only sharing the scar, not the wound.

    In other words, I want to show people the failure and tell them there's a pathway to success, not just the failure. The vulnerability itself isn't worthy to share if it cannot channel hopes.

    It means that being an "aspirational leader" is an important base tone for sharing vulnerability.

    Meanwhile Ramit, I like the way you think about the consequence of pure vulnerability – "Ironically, the people whose approval you will increasingly crave — and you will crave it more and more — are the very people who want to commiserate over others’ failures. They are the last people anyone should seek approval from."

    In a word, failures alone attract failures.

  45. Michael Lowry

    Hey Ramit; Great post. One flaw: James Harrison is coming back, baybe. He's not a former linebacker; he's hungry for the Ring this year.

    • Ramit Sethi

      I have to admit, I don't know anything about James or sports. One of my coworkers suggested it. If it were up to me, I would have used Bo Jackson.

  46. Scott

    Interesting post. When you first mentioned that everyone wants to be an aspirational leader, I thought, "Really?" I aspire to be accomplished and aloof. I'm an engineer, so depending on the polls you read, I guess I have high status. I don't share my feelings, so I've got the aloof box checked.

    I used to read Altucher's blog, and I've read a couple of his books, but he shared so much vulnerability, it drove me to read other people. I much prefer reading your stuff. Your material got me a $24k raise and bonuses in the $60k range on top of that. You're way better than Altucher. (Don't tell him I said that, or he might write another vulnerability post.) So much for relative relatability between you two.

    And the Spock with the Ramit face? Gold! That's how I always pictured myself. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one.

    • Ramit Sethi

      James is great. I really like his material, especially because he's so creative and raw. But like any top performer, he's not for everyone (neither am I). I appreciate the kind words.

  47. Leslie Chen

    Great article, and some great comments here.

    Personally, I'd like to follow a rule around vulnerability:

    If I have to share vulnerability, I'm only sharing the scars, not the wound.

    In other words, I want to show people the failure and tell them there's a pathway to success, not just the failure. The vulnerability itself isn't worthy to share if it cannot channel hopes.

    It means that being an "aspirational leader" is an important base tone for sharing vulnerability.

    Meanwhile Ramit, I like the way you think about the consequence of pure vulnerability – "Ironically, the people whose approval you will increasingly crave — and you will crave it more and more — are the very people who want to commiserate over others’ failures. They are the last people anyone should seek approval from."

    In a word, failures alone attract failures.

    • Ramit Sethi

      100% true.

    • Shane

      "If I have to share vulnerability, I'm only sharing the scars, not the wound."

      That's a great line! Did you invent that?

  48. Carolynn

    Ahhhhh, so happy you're talking about this. I've had the exact opposite experience as you in some ways — as a woman, I was raised to show my emotions TOO MUCH. It took practice in my 20s to learn how to calm the hell down and be emotionless when needed. Now I don't rattle easily.

    Something I don't see people talk about either is that too much vulnerability can be a sign of manipulation (my personal experience in both dating and business). I used to think it was admirable to wear your heart on your sleeve. Now I think that can be tedious (at best) or a red flag for someone's character, because they either can't get their act together OR they're trying to elicit your pity. This was a hard lesson.

    Now I notice that all of my closest mentors (male and female) have a certain barrier. They're friendly and warm, yes, but there's always hidden layers to them even after knowing them for years. I don't know everything about them and I don't want/need to.

    Don't get me wrong, vulnerability has its moments, but so does a poker face. I can think of numerous moments in my career where showing vulnerability would have destroyed my credibility, especially as a woman.

    All this stuff is very unpopular to discuss btw, especially among many women business groups I know where vulnerability is prized as a positive character trait. In large doses, I find it toxic.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Carolynn, thanks for leaving this comment. I especially appreciate it because you know a lot of groups that prize vulnerability over many other qualities. You're right, to some people it's "toxic" to say vulnerability might not be the solution to everything. But I stand by it. And I love that you added a female perspective, which is very different than how most men are raised. Thank you.

    • Bonnie Leclerc

      Yes, Carolynn, that's so true! And Ramit, I think I've stuck with you rather than with Marie Forleo or others precisely because of your aloofness: that was something I needed more of.

    • Carolynn

      Bonnie, same. It's so common for people NOT to have their shit together, that I actually trusted Ramit more BECAUSE he had a poker face and was yelling at his audience about their banking choices. Like, at least he's honest? There's a big difference between "nice" and "kind." In my experience, "nice" can be very disingenuous and disrespectful. I prefer kindness that tells it like it is.

  49. Jay

    Cal Newport. When I started reading his blog I used to be jealous of him and kinda hate him because I wasn't doing as well as I wanted at university. But in recent podcasts (like his one on Unbeatable Mind) he says things like "I wasn't any better, I just did …". Basically, something about the fact that he admitted he didn't have abnormally high SAT scores made me like him more, and respect the fact that he just worked hard at maths (and actually wanted to learn it, not just get a good degree).

    • Ramit Sethi

      Cal is the man. He is utterly honest about what it takes to be the best, and totally unapologetic about it. Everyone should read his material. It is rare to meet someone who shares the truth like Cal.

    • Gustavo Tavares

      This is the comment I was looking for. I think there's a way to be confident about what we can achieve that is open hearted. Cal did this. Obama did it too when he wrote "Dreams from my father" before anyone ever cared. This is humble confidence because it says—if you and I work really hard at this—we can both do it. Humility is seeing greatness in others while working on the greatness in ourselves. Example: I am going to make a million dollars and so could you, but even if I don't, people will still love me and I will always love you. Another example: I follow will_mcs on Instagram. He is working hard to be in outstanding shape. He came upon a road block on his journey and he shared how he modified the workout down so that he could still get something worthwhile done. As I write this, my question to you Ramit would be, how can you tell that someone is going to get it done with a smile? How do you create the psychology of getting it done with a smile? I know that you have been sufficiently vulnerable from the very beginning even though you could probably be even more so today. Look at the early posts—"Irrational but good things to buy" and "Cook at home you lazy bastard"—vulnerable because you admit to doing something that is stupid or looks stupid. Don't read into the bullshit—you've been vulnerable enough. Why not talk about being what it takes to be confident before you are successful?

  50. Dalia

    Ahahha I was noticing that too!!! Thanks for writing about this, it is driving me crazy. Especially when you can tell some people are exaggerating their stories to look more "vulnerable."
    Thank you for cutting through the hype and bringing back the importance of balance, context and purpose in story-telling. And framing it all in a nice matrix for us 🙂

  51. Anthony

    Fascinating. My first thought was, "how dare you bad talk vulnerability! It's so important!"

    But if that's what people get out of your article. They've missed the point.

    Brené Brown is an accomplished scientist author and speaker. She knows what she's talking about. However, I don't even think you're trying to argue with her or her message.

    The key is context and purpose. Vulnerability as a business strategy isn't smart.

    If you're trying to find healing and peace in your life, being vulnerable is critical- but opening up to your wife or close friends or therapist at the right time and place is very different than opening up to strangers at the mall or Twitter. Being open about everything is not a one-size fits all for every situation. Plus, there are costs to revealing new things about yourself, and it's not like you can take it back. People don't think about the consequences.

    Personally, i had an a-ha moment about this very topic. For awhile I thought "authentic" meant I had to share my every struggle and backstory to everyone. And if I didn't I was hiding something and wasn't being authentic.

    Then I realized this wasn't necessary and had ill effects sometimes. But I still wanted to be genuine.

    So I changed the word to "CONSISTENT" I don't have to share everything, but what I do share should be genuine and consistent with the rest of my life. They don't have to hear about the nitty gritty, but I know it's consistent throughout. That's how to have integrity, and that's really what people want to see to trust and follow you. So now I can choose strategically what to share and when, and still sleep fine at night.

    In short – I still believe many more people need to embrace vulnerability AND learn that there's a time a place for it. It's not a replacement for excellence.

    I agree with the examples of Tim Ferriss, Gary Vee, Seth Godin. I'll add Kristina Kuzmic, the "Truth Bomb Mom" who posts videos about motherhood. She's successful through her vulnerability but also adds value by making excellent and funny videos.

    Thanks for writing this, Ramit! As usual, a perspective I won't find anywhere else.

  52. Cindy

    I'll be the loser here. I'll be the low status person with vulnerability. I appreciate this article, I really do. I think as more vulnerability starts happening, the more important it is to discuss its pitfalls, pros, cons etc. So a lot of value here. But I just can't come to terms with this sentence "The person who focuses on excellence — not vulnerability — will live a Rich Life." For some vulnerability, or the experience of expressing themselves fully, ends up being their pathway to excellence. Perhaps they could have embarked on a journey of excellence to make their skills better, but if they haven't been vulnerable at all, then their journey for excellence is probably an attempt to reach for worthiness outside of themselves. Those who are vulnerable can be vulnerable because they know that they are not what they do, they are not their skills, they are not even their success. Getting on the excellence train without knowing who you are can lead to so much unhappiness. I think for some, vulnerability won't work. But no need to tell people to strive for excellence over vulnerability. As Jeff Brown writes "…when I hear people telling others that its time to stop sharing their traumatic "stories", I hear a return to the repressive world we have come from. I hear the same shaming that we have known forever. And its the wrong direction to go. Because what we need now is to fully acknowledge our suffering. What we need now is to tell our stories of victimhood with great openness. This is the bridge that will humanize us. This is the bridge that will connect us. There is a paindemic on this planet. It is bloody everywhere. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Let’s bring it all out in the open, where it can be healed and transformed." Maybe some people don't experience this paindemic. But let's not lessen vulnerability for those who are feeling a sense of humanity again by seeing the stories of other people. For me, it wasn't until I heard enough stories of 'people like me' that I was able to begin striving to be excellent from a place of worthiness. At some points in life vulnerability might take precedence to excellence so that success can be wholesome.

    • Lindsay

      "Getting on the excellence train without knowing who you are can lead to so much unhappiness."

      Yes!

      Hi Cindy. I've been ruminating on your comment for a few days now. It seems to me that you're making a really valuable point about the role that shame plays – driving some people relentlessly towards enough 'success' that they feel cured, and keeping others from even trying. In all cases, sitting with feelings of shame is so uncomfortable and terrifying, but shared vulnerability is the sunlight that disinfects that sh*t. =)

  53. Wayne

    Tony Robbins. He is obviously super accomplished, and when he shares a vulnerability (e.g. having a stranger bring his family a turkey on Thanksgiving), it is to communicate a mental model that has served his success (i.e. some strangers care) as opposed to a mental model that would be destructive (i.e. his father's reaction of feeling very offended by the gift).

    But Tony doesn't just share random facts from his life. He is actually strikes me as an intensely private person, though when facts have emerged about him or his life, he handles it head on. He once said something to the effect that he doesn't want other people drawing conclusions or creating a narrative out of the events of his life, because he chooses to see things in a way that serves him positively. The preservation of his emotional state is important to him, and how can anyone preserve and cultivate a self-serving emotional state when garnering opinions from lots of other people after sharing a vulnerability?

    Given his career, Tony necessarily must rely on events in his life and stories of inspiration in the lives of other people, but I don't find him to be a "feely" person in the way that the word "vulnerability" typically evokes for me.

    On a slightly different note, I hate hate hate when people share long sad stories under the guise of rationalizing some current behavior, status, or situation or under the pretense of trying to avoid repeating past mistakes. In my experience, most of the mistakes that I would characterize as vulnerabilities were traumatizing enough to not need any commentary from the public in order to be meaningful to me personally, though sharing with my closest intimate friends did help me to see things from other angles.

  54. Hamish

    Holy shit, what a post! FANTASTIC. I thought I was the only one tired of the saccharine overload. For me George Clooney is a good example. He did an interview on British TV about how he couldn't sing for shit and they had to dub all his songs in Brother where art thou. But again, it only worked because he is high status, has knocked it out of the park for so many years, and everyone assumes he's perfect
    Thanks for being the voice of reason Ramit – again!

  55. Greatness

    The moment someone see a benefit in something they make it a big deal. Imagine how tough it is to start a blog and then one makes it and it does well. Usually when we start asking them to know for ourselves we get to know the truth but if it doe for the image by the news seekers then it gets blurred. They have to find something for the likes but not the real benefit of the society which if you want to do you can do it an time. I have read lots of your post where you openly say how difficult it is to do stuff and at the same time you want many to benefit not basically follow you. Though vulnerability works also with situations and place I did like it when you said it's not every time it does work.

  56. Naved Ahmed

    I read so many vulnerability stories on medium. And yes its true they get all the likes and comments. I never knew why. Now I think This has nothing to do with resonance, this is how the majority of humans are..
    And no wonder why we see biographers of high status people..
    Your article has opened my mind in new ways. Thank you sir for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

  57. Richard Moroney

    Love the matrix, Ramit, thank you for sharing this. I appreciate the long-term focus on status, as you have discussed here.

    Can we extend this concept by also have a shorter term focus on the context of how the vulnerability is shared? Maybe this works out to the same matrix (a comparison with excellence), but it can help us effectively deliver a "vulnerable" message without undercutting our credibility.

    I consider myself pretty open, and would share mistakes with family or close team members when they happen. But at work, for example, if I'm going into the project review meeting I will be sure to frame the "we screwed this test up" message around messages with answers to "why did we do that in the first place?", "what is the actual impact?", and "what are we going to do now?".

    For an example, I'll go to football. How about Peyton Manning as an "aspirational leader" and Tom Brady as "accomplished and aloof"? Both are insanely high status in their profession, but the difference in their post-game interviews and advertising impressions is like night and day.

    • Ramit Sethi

      I like your point. Unfortunately I don't understand the sports references at all, but I'll assume you're right about those.

  58. Tracy

    Loved this, especially the matrix. I've noticed that what marks you out when being vulnerable, Ramit, is you talk about yourself in the third person, disassociating by even giving this other 'aspect' of Ramit another name: Dumb Ramit.
    I think this helps you not to fall into the trap of identifying with being the failure and at the same time injects humour, making you even more likeable.
    It's a great mindset thing too. You don't have to beat yourself up over a mistake you made in the past because it wasn't 'you', it was a younger, less well-informed version of you who did the best they could with the knowledge they had at the time. There's always a lesson in what you share rather than just a 'this happened, poor me'.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you. You are right!

    • Lindsay

      This is a super good point. Now that you mention it, I find myself doing this in my own internal monologue! Like, I'll react in a weird/unhelpful way to something, then hear myself articulating it as 'oh, that must have been the awkward, geeky 14-year-old me having that reaction.' For me, the goal is to acknowledge and embrace that still-present, still-living teenage 'me' without embarrassment, while making sure that 37-year-old adult 'me' is the one mostly running the show. =)

  59. Theresa

    THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS!!

    I saw a pattern when I was a child and it is no different with bloggers today. People who get attention for being fragile are given praise and told "it's alright" so they STAY that way because it is the only way they get attention. It infurates me to see people behave this way.

    "Excellence comes first." – I don't know why you think you aren't relatable. This is the most relatable thing I've read this week.

    Great article – you covered so much in detail. I'd love to see how you analyze new topics since you are so thorough.

  60. Craig

    This is a great post, Ramit. To answer the question would be Robert Downey Jr.

    He wrecked his career through drugs and took action on himself by going to rehab after going to jail. He made a decision and realized that he didn't want to continue living like a loser. He reached out for help and ran with it.

    That led to the movie Iron Man. Robert showed that he is Iron Man through his life experiences which made the character his own.

    With his wife helping him overcome his personal drug habits, Robert redeemed himself and showed that vulnerability does not have to define you. You define yourself.

  61. Bethany

    Very true. We've become way to focused on acceptance than excellence.

  62. Lisa Retief

    Thanks for saying this. I agree that failure porn, as James Altucher himself has coined it, is corrosive. Instead of being publicly vulnerable, developing a self-awareness of your weaknesses and fears and using that as a compass for doing hard things is going to serve most people far better. It's a subtle but important difference. Study and understand your own vulnerability and how it prevents you from moving forward, then do what makes you fearful.

    • Richard Moroney

      Love your point about the compass, Lisa. The analysis of your vulnerability points us to a better direction. But you still have to march off towards excellence, or else stay mired in "failure porn"!

  63. Kari

    I've read the The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown twice, which was a tipping point for this trend. The first time I read the book, I hated it and was unable to figure out why she even bothered writing it. The second time it was better.

    One thing that's clear if you actually read the book is she states that you only need to be vulnerable to specific trusted people, rather than the masses.

    People that read the summary and headlines usually miss this nuance.

    • Danielle

      Haven't heard of this title before, thanks for sharing! I participate in a support group online where the topic of vulnerability comes up often. The strange thing is people open up in the forum to complete strangers, but seem to get a lot of relief in letting it out.

      And there are a lot of stories where opening up to those close to them resulted in pain, ending of relationships etc. But even in that it is at least progress.

      As with anything (and as a Ramit fan you will likely agree) you gotta do the work, read the text, get the whole message, jump into the messy details etc. 🙂

  64. Danielle

    Ramit I love what you say and how you say it. I forward people to your blog and website constantly, particularly the social skills guide.

    But you know you have been in the US many years now and likely have an international audience, do you really think Indian and Asian men are somehow special that they are taught to push down their emotions and not show them? Not even in the top 10 apparently.

    https://www.livescience.com/24962-most-emotional-countries.html

    I am having a bit of fun imagining some Ukranian and Nepalese men reading this and nodding and "uh huh" and this guy totally knows me!

    Thanks for adding on to the writing about vulnerability bandwagon with your own style.

  65. Dan

    I don't really see a conflict between excellence and vulnerability. Maybe this is targeted towards people who are publishing about vulnerability? I've had some pretty shitty stuff happen over the past 2.5 years of my life, and I've also had a few opportunities to talk/share about it in somewhat more public forums than a private conversation. It isn't a zero sum situation where if you open up, you can't also improve and progress. Hell, lots of opening up is about identifying weakness and getting better. I'm most vulnerable when I write in a journal, which is where I'm most accountable and honest with myself about my previous day.

    I've been a loser a lot over the past couple years. I don't go on and on about it, but vulnerability, or more accurately honesty, helped me see weaknesses and things I wanted to improve on. Honesty/vulnerability is valuable no matter where you are, because it's a component of self-awareness.

    • Richard Moroney

      Oooh, Dan, your point on honesty here is another great contribution. If you aren't being authentic, then exposing a vulnerability will not build a relationship or allow you to find your direction effectively.
      I suspect you don't see the conflict because–you already get the message! Sharing vulnerability can be a valuable tool, but I think Ramit's key point is this tool is best used in the context of pursuing excellence.

  66. Maya Zack

    This is BS, you're completely missing the point, Ramit. I also very much dislike all those 'inspirational' posts flying around everywhere. And the personal development / spiritual world is indeed full of shit. BUT, vulnerability is NOT about sharing your mistakes or failures. It's about being comfortable with your fears and letting go of your masks and protections. In a vulnerable moment you might even be deeply grateful or appreciative of something. You might even show your love (oh no!). That's definitely not a failure, it's a strength not many are in fact capable of. It amazes me how successful and supposedly confident people are so afraid of this simple thing called love which drives everything, whether you care to admit to it or not. So vulnerability is simply not putting up a shield around you, that's all. This article is crap wrapped up in the exact opposite of vulnerability, and under the disguise of being clever. Adding onto that, I don't see why one (that writer) needs to choose one or the other. One can very easily choose both (didn't you once write a post about having/choosing both options…?) – progress to excellence while realising and internalising it's got fuck all to do with your REAL worth. A shield may put a barrier between one and those around them so they can't be 'hurt', but obviously if there's a barrier, they'll also end up not getting truly close to anyone. If one is happy with that superficiality, all the best to them.
    In the end, THAT'S the LOSER.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Pretty angry comment. What set you off? I'm curious. I'm sure you and I agree on something, but I'm surprised by your anger here with you using words like "This is BS," "crap," "you're completely missing the point, Ramit," and more. Let's have a dialogue here.

    • Danielle

      Maya are you really not aware of the experiences and personality traits that can lead some people to be walled off or closed up? You act as if walled off = superficial and stupid, but often it stems from negative childhood experiences like abandonment, emotional abuse, shouldering too much responsibility after a death in the family or illness of a family member, and a number of other NOT great things that happen all the time.

      Less pernicious are basic cultural norms like Ramit brings up, a close relationship with an older family member who you wanted to emulate, or even just an older family member who teased you till the emotions pushed deeper.

      People are different, have different upbringings, different experiences and different inane personality traits.

      Your way is not the only way, your experience and the conclusions you have come to are not the only conclusions that can be drawn.

      I think Ramit was clear that it was the mass social media "vulnerability porn" that he was targeting rather than the type of personal vulnerability with our selves and close co workers or friends that can lead to growth.

    • Maya Zack

      Sorry, I'm a bit confused about where I should reply so that it appears continuing this particular conversation…so you might see this twice.

      Firstly, I'm far from angry here. I found the whole thing amusing, I just think the title and topic were made to promote controversy and conversation (I guess you got me there! ;)) . Sorry if my language has offended you, it's sometimes just the way I talk (though I'm somewhat surprised as you don't shy away from such words yourself).

      Secondly, I do understand and 100% agree everyone is different, and I never said anything about anyone being 'stupid', Danielle. I'm also very well aware of what leads people to build those barriers. I used to have them too. Mega barriers. 'Till I was willing to be super honest with myself and realise that yes, ultimately it would be me who's the 'loser', not anyone else, and it really doesn't matter how much I'd like to justify things or blame others. I took responsibility. I chose to be more loving.

      Once again, I really don't see how vulnerability = weaknesses and mistakes. They may be included, but it's not about that. It's about what's real. I just find much of this article not real, but rather just trying to be provocative. I may be wrong and obviously I don't know you personally, but that's what I'm getting.

      Putting myself down is not vulnerability, it's lack of self-worth. Nor is showcasing my failures to 'show' people how great I am at exposing my less fabulous self, this is just fishing for approval in disguise. Real vulnerability is simply not hiding, not behind the so called weaknesses, and not behind the strengths and successes either.

      Lastly, I never said a person who's less vulnerable is superficial. But their experience with people around them is likely be more so. This has got nothing to do with 'my way'. It's just clear – from whatever depths one operates through and from, that's obviously where the interaction and experience happens. It doesn't mean the depth isn't there – but it does mean it won't be touched and felt as much…

      Anyway, if you simply meant for people to stop playing themselves down in order for others to 'relate' or resonate with them – then yes, I totally agree. In that case my (mis)understanding was due to semantics… sorry, MY MISTAKE. <– How vulnerable of me, hehe.

    • Shane

      Hey Maya, I think you brought up an interesting question. In that link about the pratfall effect, I thought it was interesting how they were saying that if a man makes a small blunder in front of a woman, even if he is of high status, it doesn't increase his attractiveness in her eyes. It only increases his likability with other men.

      So with something like love, let's say a guy loves a woman but that love is unrequited. Will opening up about his vulnerability accomplish something positive? Or will he just become the poor sap who has a crush on her?

      Is it possible that a guy being vulnerable about love is only a good thing if the woman already loves and respects you?

      I'm quite vulnerable with my fiancée, but she has said (er, complained) that I wasn't at all vulnerable when we first started dating. She didn't realize how captivated I was with her right from the moment I first saw her, or how incredibly eager and nervous I was about asking her out on a second date. She was really important to me, so I really tried to keep my cool—my barrier. I was enthusiastic about asking her out, we always had the best time, and I never gave her the cold shoulder or anything, but I didn't let my emotional vulnerabilities explode out onto her.

      I might have accidentally put her through an emotional wringer as she was wondering if I was going to ask her out again, or where this was all going, but I mean… it really worked out!

      Curious to hear what you think.

    • Lindsay

      "So vulnerability is simply not putting up a shield around you, that's all."

      Thanks for saying this, Maya. I didn't want to be the one starting an argument about semantics, but this is pretty much literally what vulnerability means: leaving yourself open to wounds (hurt, suffering, etc.). Lot of folks here on this thread who want to equate vulnerability with excuse-making, victim-card-playing, etc. But those activities are just a different kind of shield protecting the person from suffering, right? Thanks again.

  67. Tamar Eggers

    Bill Clinton is the first person to come to mind when reading this. When he was running for President of the United States, they caught his eyes welling up with tears when listening to a woman telling her story of woe. This made people (particularly the female population) love him! He became relate-able. He became one of them. He became a person who could not only hear them but also save them. It was amazing to watch how this one moment launched him from being just likeable to the candidate of choice.

  68. Cara

    This is actually so very true..In an attempt to be likeable/humble, I used to play up my vulnerability (even to myself) and downplay my abilities, and frankly my career and life were made actually vulnerable as a result. After a long period of illness I had a change of heart – I would get better at what I do and be more open about my abilities and interests than my failings. Not in an arrogant way, still humble, but just more solid, more actually building something than downplaying all the time in an attempt not to make anyone feel bad. Guess where all those people I thought were my friends were by the end? They sneered, belittled, and then began moving away from me.. It helped me to see that they were only interested in me struggling alongside them, and not in me improving my life…a helpful lesson..I now have skills I can use to rebuild my life in a more positive direction, and I know what I need in a friend, too. I wonder if more women than men fall into this trap of socially acceptable vulnerability?

    • Ramit Sethi

      OUTSTANDING proof of what I wrote in the article above. It's comforting to have people cheer you on. But if your identity is solely built around failure, or vulnerability, you will quickly find that those cheerleaders are more like shackles holding you down.

    • Richard Moroney

      Glad to hear of your success, Cara! "More solid, and building something" is a great mindset to have.
      I think everyone struggles with this to some degree, but agree (based on the women in my family) that owning your successes can be harder for women. I hope we are raising my daughter with a healthy dose of self confidence, and totally agree with the thesis here of owning the vulnerability is useful if it helps drive your pursuit of excellence.

    • Cara

      Thanks R+R – "owning the vulnerability is useful if it helps drive your pursuit of excellence"- I like that. I see different types of vulnerability now I think – I made myself vulnerable in a sense by leaving behind my old crowd and moving to a new town to start a different life – it was being vulnerable for a greater good, which is different to using it as a tool for attention or as an excuse to keep yourself stuck.. also I think that "excellence" can mean different things to different people, for me it is being my best self, personally and professionally, with what I have to hand, and to attempt to be someone I can be proud of. It's a personal measurement I think.

  69. David

    A different kind of vulnerability…from Damn You
    Autocorrect.com

    http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com/65460/it-looks-different-for-both-of-us/

  70. Prateek Gupta

    so, vulnerability Same Ramit I read somewhere Necessary fact of Life – "Hope" but I don't agree with it here is my different perspective–>>> So, Hope is like the cousin of VULNERABILITY and when you're expecting things to happen then you're literally setting yourself up for failures. In past i used to hoped a lot like I hoped my day will go better or i hoped that my work will get more hits and so on the HOPE list didn't stop. Now i prefer to go with the flow and just live my life – Get Money Get Paid I force myself to work harder on my own terms. It's working like a Gold Making Machine for me…. already dumped vulnerability !!!

    PG

  71. Jenna

    No one comes to mind in terms of demonstrating vulnerability, aside from maybe The Rock – I follow his social media and he's truly great at sharing his successes while looking back at his past and seeing how far he's come, including mistakes he's made. He really makes it possible to relate to him, despite how far removed from "average" his life really is.

    I appreciate your standpoint on a focus on excellence. I've been thinking about this lately after reading an article that recommended "being interesting" by doing things that interest you (was it yours? I can't remember where I saw it). Don't just sit around and wish you could talk to people, do things that make you interesting and give you something to talk ABOUT.

    Same thing with skills, whether it be martial arts, writing, or anything else: don't just sit around and wish you could do it, don't even be vulnerable about doing it – DO IT. Do it so much you get great at it. Be like The Rock.

  72. Rob

    Loved the angle on the Jennifer Lawrence video. It explains so clearly the status part of the matrix! Seeking excellence to increase status, but that takes work and a good strategy as well.

  73. Aashiqah

    The only thing equally annoying to vulnerability is excessive positivity/gains & spirituality posts by people who clearly don't walk the talk & have become dysfunctional, because of their excessive social-media-life-coaching-through-cliched-memes habit.

  74. Sophia

    Thanks for this perspective, Ramit. Vulnerability can be a powerful tool when you're realizing all the reasons why you're getting in your way when trying to accomplish your goals. Works for 'getting through your own shit' with a therapist, coach, or group of people with the same purpose.

    However, in a business situation, sharing that vulnerability and then expecting people to respect you afterward…it's like if you were in a poker game and showed everyone your cards and expect your opponents to play their hand fairly.

    One notable example is how Jeff Walker uses vulnerability in his Product Launch Formula videos. He talked about a stay-at-home dad with no marketable skills when he started out…but he also talks about running his business in his dream house.

    So used carefully, it can be a tool for fueling your success…but doesn't work if you don't have any foundation of success to stand on.

  75. Mira

    I just wrote a vulnerability story for the Greatest Anthology written for Guinness world records. Been wondering if I should've used another topic, but no apparently I nailed it (:

  76. Heather

    Interesting point Ramit. Although you have a different stance on the topic, I still think that there is a powerful perspective Brene Brown offers in her books. If you scratch the surface you will find that you too are actually quite similar: endlessly fascinated by what makes people tick, highly analytical, and allergic to emotion. You also both have done the BEST most informative interviews on Chase Jarvis’ show.

    Brene makes a distinction between sharing for empathy v.s. sympathy and the appropriate places to share vulnerability. Facebook walls are not one of them, and over sharing of that nature is problematic. A focus on excellence should be at the top of everyone’s priority but I don’t think vulnerability cock blocks that.

  77. Brandon Allen

    I love the matrix and I will say this. Not being open in my 20s costing me a lot of relationships and growth because I couldn't tell anyone that I struggled or needed help with anything. If you are that person, I heavy dose of vulnerability and getting real with yourself may just be the platform to launch your excellence from.

    • Richard Moroney

      Thanks for sharing your story, Brandon. This (expressing vulnerability in a useful way) is one of those funny things that is hard to do at first, then amazingly helpful, and finally hard to describe why it was a problem in the first place!

  78. Tam Johnson

    This was so insightful, thank you Ramit.
    My distaste for social media began in earnest when most of the "friends" I had did nothing but post stupid click-bait statements like "The worst. Day. Ever!!!" with a big sad face. Ugh, puke.

    I have a question for you though. When it comes to creating your first product (I'm releasing my first video series / program on conscious motherhood on the 7th) when you are still pretty unknown, have only friends and good acquaintances as testimonials, and you need to build connection and trust, how much is enough to be relatable, and how much is too much?

    I feel like, when it comes to MY audience (spiritual mommies :}) chances are more sharing is better than not, but I'll admit and say that this article has me wondering if I could risk not being seen as authoritative enough.

    I am a new fan of Denise Duffield-Thomas, and I find her style of no-nonsense love and support with plenty of swearing thrown in to be just about right, so she's my nomination! She hustled hard before she started bearing all, and then only to prove how much she'd overcome by hustling! That's the balance I'm aiming for. I could name many others, Marie Forleo, Vishen Lakhiani, J J Virgin, Emily Fletcher…

    Love the work you do. Stay awesome.
    Tam

  79. Barry Solway

    I love the vulnerability-status matrix, that's a great lens to look at this. But I have to take issue with the premise of the article.

    This seems like a strawman argument against vulnerability, at least in the sense that Brene Brown talks about it. Vulnerability is NOT about talking about your failures (although admitting you make mistakes can be vulnerable, that's not the point of it). Vulnerability is about putting yourself out there emotionally in way that allows other people to criticize and attack you. As a guy growing up in rural America try telling your middle school classmates that you train in ballet or even that you enjoy the beauty of dancing. That's not talking about failure, it's talking about beauty. And it might get you beat up in the parking lot. That takes courage and requires vulnerability.

    In the end, Ramit, I would argue you are a vulnerable person. You put yourself out there every day, putting together material that people often criticize in very personal terms. You've gone through many years of people telling you that you are doing it wrong, but you keep going anyway. Vulnerability and excellence aren't in contradiction, they support each other. I know that some people do approach vulnerability the way you describe but instead of supporting their false narrative, it would be more useful to correct the record of what true vulnerability is and why every entrepreneur could use more of it.

    • Jeremiah

      I like your comment and agree. I might be wrong, but I think Ramit was writing the article not to define vulnerability as only talking about failure, but that it's basically what many writers/bloggers do when they are 'being vulnerable'. They're not really just putting themselves out there and talking about things that may not be popular (like your great example of loving ballet in rural America), they're simply just talking about their failures, constantly. I think that's what he was getting at.

    • Shane

      Hrm, what word would you use to describe what Ramit is talking about, then?

  80. debbie

    So true. I completely agree (definitely "sick of it") and have felt the difference between overdone-vulnerability and real-vulnerability for a long time but never quite been able to articulate it. I can't stand the fake/overdone stuff and so appreciated this blog.

    My nominee for someone who beautifully demonstrates the perfect mix of excellence and vulnerability is Michelle Obama. I could listen to her for hours because she seems so real and genuine.

  81. shahzada

    I agree with a lot of what your said about vulnerability. Disliking winning isn't vulnerability, it's delusion. We are suppose to hate failure and setbacks. That hatred is what helps us grow. However I strongly disagree with the whole status thing. Vulnerability is vulnerability. It has little or nothing to do with status. Status is an external thing. Vulnerability is an internal thing.

    James Altucher (or whatever the fuck his last name is) is full of shit. Failure and loosing money is the furtherest thing from cool.

    I tried to understand vulnerability for a very very long time. And I had exactly the same understanding as you in relationship to status.

    I thought high status people could get away with being vulnerable and low status people just get punished by it.

    However I now know I was wrong that whole time.

    Vulnerability isn't something external. It's an internal thing. It's about keeping with your emotions.

    Regards

    Shahzada

  82. AD

    Agree completely. It's not about wallowing in vulnerability but overcoming it; and everyone doesn't need to hear about it unless it's extraordinary or germane to specifically helping someone. If you're looking for a good read, check out Natural Born Heroes for a refreshing take on history of people who could have been vulnerable victims but instead stepped up and became legends and it teaches you some cool stuff about workouts in the process

  83. Rachel

    Nailed it! This is such an AWESOME reminder Ramit. Thank you. I am currently juggling a side hustle with full time work so my focus is not always on excellence, but this got me thinking about my perspective on where I want to be / what I want to achieve. Admit your failures – accept them – move past them – resume the striving of awesomeness!

  84. Jeremiah

    I am definitely in agreement here. I can appreciate vulnerability when balanced, but far too many people have taken the vulnerability concept ridiculously far. And now everyone, from nobodies to famous people, seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. I'm not an emotional guy either and have to make myself be open to those even closest to me. But I have always cared about being the best. That, without being vulnerable at all, helped to get through college on a basketball scholarship, grow a franchise to #2 out of 800 total franchisees, and other successful sales roles before I started my business. I was literally NEVER vulnerable to customers. Am I extremely relatable? Probably not if you don't really know me personally, and I should get better at that, sure. But customers seem to care more about the quality of the work we do for them than about how relatable the owner is.

    • Ramit Sethi

      100% love this comment. I also love how you acknowledge you should get better at being more relatable (me too — and I am actively doing it). But your customers care about quality first.

  85. Renee

    I want to like you Ramit, I really do. But nearly every other post you write comes across as either self-hating, sexist, or just plain "look at me, I'm the loudest guy in the room." Yet, I keep rooting for you– I think because in many ways, you remind me of myself back when I was a bit of a judgmental asshat. Then the universe provided me with lesson after lesson to help me understand anyone I had ever judged ( and I don't think it's done with me yet – – not by a long shot ). I don't want to say "I hope the same thing happens to you," because it wasn't fun, and I wouldn't actually wish that on you. I think you have a lot to give to the world. I think you'll have a lot more to give though when you let your guard down and loose the judgment.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Sounds like you should unsubscribe and find someone else to read.

    • Richard Moroney

      I like you, Ramit. It is your room, no wonder you are so loud!

  86. Peter Fritz

    This came at just the right time for me, Ramit.

    I've been running the risk of falling into the Loser camp, lately. From this moment, I'm going to focus much more on perfecting my craft, delivering *real* value (not just the feel-good bullshit) and WORKING my way into the Aspirational Leader quadrant.

    I'm never disappointed when I read your work. Thanks, mate.

  87. Brenda Berk

    Ramit,

    How about I’m tired of ALL. THE. FUCKING. QUOTES. AND. MEMES!

    Thank you for saying it! You can motivate people without being saccharine, and that’s exactly what you do.

    Your fan,
    Brenda Berk

    • Ramit Sethi

      Yep. If you took away the crutch of vulnerability, I'd bet 90% of these instagram entrepreneurs would have nothing to say after a week. Interesting to think about.

  88. Dominic

    Regarding good vs bad vulnerability:
    The way I understand it vulnerability is a tool to build a connection, and like all tools, is neither inherently good nor bad, what differs is the intent.

    'Good' vulnerability is about being authentic and reaching a common understanding, and hopefully, using that understanding in future decisions. (it's very similar to natural networking from dream job in a sense).

    'Bad' vulnerability/'social media pity porn' is about getting sympathy and deflecting responsibility. This can be true even if the author is blaming themselves.
    For eg: 'my business failed because I am a screw up' vs 'my business failed because I didn't properly research my target market'.
    'Bad' vulnerability will get sympathy (at least till people get fed up) but doesn't lead to growth and vice versa.

    Regarding a person who is successful and vulnerable:
    Sean 'Day[9]' Plott has been playing starcraft since his high school days, competed in global tournaments, produces the highly popular Day[9] Daily, is a professional e-sports host and commentator, and on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

    He's hilarious and very open on his show, most notably in daily episode 100 he spoke about the journey from a casual gamer to a global competitor and then to an e-sports celebrity. It was about an hour long and peaked when he cried while recounting winning a competition. Crazy thing is people watching (myself included) cried too! That's a connection.

    Important to note that while he is honest and vulnerable, he demonstrates many of the problem solving, growth skills and discipline taught at IWTYTBR. Perfect example of excellence and vulnerability.

  89. Pat Jacobsen

    Is anybody on fb anymore? I get Tedtalks, but if anyone is trying to be successful, isn't fb just a time suck? Even Linkedin is like fb, but for professionals.

  90. Christl

    This is awesome Ramit! It is a wake up call for me. I aspire to become a public speaker but I have nothing to offer (no expertise, etc.). I guess I have to work hard on doing something worth talking about first. Thanks for this!

  91. Alison

    Your matrix is too simplistic but I do agree with mostly everything you said.

    Self-awareness seems to be more intriguing than just vulnerability bc it involves knowing when to stop sharing and when to go a bit deeper.

    I like showing myself and whoever the benevolent forces are that seemingly energize the universe that I'll always do my best to show up 100%.

    Sometimes that involves being vulnerable about a loss or a fear but generally that means having perspective on my life.

    I like this post a lot. Good job, Ramit.

  92. Josh Reif

    You can pretty much sum this up in just a few words. Vulnerability works, but people aren't being vulnerable. They are pretending to be because it's the cool thing to do now.

    1) Complaining about something is not vulnerable
    2) Self-pity is not vulnerable
    3) Admitting a small mistake is not vulnerable
    4) Admitting a big mistake is not vulnerable
    5) Being vulnerable for the sake of being vulnerable is not vulnerable

    Vulnerability has to be authentic or it doesn't exist

    It requires –

    1) Real emotional attachment to an insecurity or past failure
    2) Humility and egolessness
    3) Positive framing (I will/have overcome)
    4) Lesson that can actually help the observer
    5) No ulterior motive or agenda other than to connect on a deeper level with the audience it is being shared with

    What people are calling "vulnerability" isn't vulnerability at all. It's just a buzzword now.

  93. Moh

    So true.

    More than anything else, I like to see it from a perspective of adding value.
    Does talking about "vulnerabilities" help the readers in some way?
    If yes, I write them down.
    Usually, the "yes" answer comes out when experiencing a certain failure contained a lesson that helped me WIN.

    It's the only way that's real, positive, helpful and insightful to the audience, all at once.

  94. Candice

    Oprah is the queen of this – she took day time talk shows to a new level, became super rich and started her own network, and so when she shares the emotional (and other) difficulties she had and still has today, she is more relatable.

    A story she shared that makes me laugh was when she was still a news presenter and her false eyelashes started coming off while they were broadcasting, so she just whipped them off on air and got on with it.

  95. Sin

    Being able to relate on an emotional level is not the same as having to watch somebody show all the time what a permanent looser they are, and making a brand out of it.

    I twice had a person pitching me a product with as a sole reason to buy 'how miserable their life is'. I don't get that. People do buy, obviously, when hearing that. Just not me. If you don't care about being an expert, just about selling, it might work.

    Come to think about it, a lot of people I talk to are not interested in excellence or being a leader/top performer. They don't respect quality the way I do, they just want a quick win. Some might even hate excellence. Because 'it is not for them'. 'I just want a solution I can handle, i don't care if it is not ideal compared to the best money will buy'.

    And that's fine. Not everybody needs to hear how to become a top performer. They can stick to vulnerability/looser-relating if that helps to get the job done. After all, they do get the job done – what can't always be said about a perfectionist.

    So part of relating, imo, is also reaching out to people on the level they are right now, and offering them a hand in getting one step higher. Doing those 10% better than they would have done without help surprising themselves. That is another way of relating, a functional one.

    For those who need something else, something top notch mindset, there is always a way to get it. And they will. Because they understand that true winning is in the long run.

    Take this blog. I do love it. I love hearing that I'm right some of the time. Even if not everybody can relate to putting excellence over emotional crises, it helps to read about it. To read about other people who in all vulnerability say: i worked on expressing emotions as a way to get others to relate to me, even if I don't need that expressing, I want to be heard and seen – so I'll get out there and practice. That is beautiful failure (failure to connect) that I can relate to and learn from.

    I don't agree on the matrix in the blog. It's not about status. I get the feeling you like to be in that 'high status' quadrant, but… imo, that's just your vulnerability speaking masked as a neat objective graph 🙂 I can relate to that: objectively showing why what you long for is a reasonable thing to do. After all, wasn't mr. Spock half human as well, and wasn't that his biggest cause for failure and at the same time his unique ability to understand the need of humans to humor their untamed but o so weak emotions, compared to Vulcans?

    Are you open for another possibility?

    What if it is about high or low leadership quality. Your 20 something persona had no leadership skills. He had the ambition, but didn't get things done worth talking about. Thought he asked the right (content) questions, he was ignored. Because he did not understand when and why emotion ruled people want to learn. He did not care for mindset and emotional goals. There was no 'face the scary issue together', only 'i will teach you'.

    I used to get that a lot: 'there is no together'. Now i don't care any more about offering the best advice possible. And that is not only a lot easier, it also is a lot more effective.

    I love to teach, but is is hell to teach to people who are not ready to learn. Making them ready to learn, that is high vulnerability and high leadership. Not 'you need to do this' but 'how do you feel about your current situation? What would you like to stop?'
    If you can use a vulnerable story to get them to answer that, then the question 'how' might pop up.

    *If* you can get them to stop acting as loosers and quick fix users, because *they* think they need to do so, because they can relate to the vulnerability they want to get out of the door, you have an option to learn them something. Willingness to learn = relating to somebody saying out loud the madness has to stop because it is to hard to say that themselves. Imo, as always 🙂

    Thanks for this opportunity to think about this issue!

    • Richard Moroney

      Nice contribution, Sin. Your point about raising awareness in the student to want to learn is a key to influence, for sure–all good consulting is "together".
      Having said that, i don't think your points are really in conflict with the matrix as much as you suggested. Ramit's labels in the boxes are from the context of "I'm happy where I am". With the continuous improvement mindset you share, the "loser" label might instead be "enthusiastic"–open to growth but not successful yet.

  96. Laiq zada

    Thanks, Ramit

  97. Dian

    Angela Davis, Leslie Feinberg, Julie Bindel are who come to my mind when thinking of famous people who are able to use vulnerability, both past and present, as a starting point to talking about excellence and work and better futures.

    Personally, I've been told I'm really good at getting others to talk about themselves and dodging talking about myself. I think that's because I've found only certain types of vulnerability seem acceptable. Talk about "overcoming" childhood bullying or debt or things treated as universal and everyone seems to love it but discuss coping with certain types of childhood abuse or medical abuse or shunning practices that are common where I grew up – the types of things that do happen to many but as a society we don't want to really talk about beyond sad TV specials and people get really weird. I get weird when pushed to talk about it, I've no nice framework to talk about many things I've gone through. It's very much a communication skill weak point for me when I get pinned and can't dodge out of those types of questions as I either say something that is normal in my experience and freak everyone else out and/or I start babbling while I try to think of a way to change the subject because I know no one including me wants to hear me talk about those things.

    I do enjoy personal and "vulnerable" writing, but I think there are a few things missing in a lot of the recent work I've seen around that makes it more draining than relatable. It reminds of the 'no one wants to see how the sausage is made' concept, but I think a lot of them handwave the actions to survive through it and to get out of it. I find that very frustrating because it makes getting out of bad situations just seem like it's all luck or fate which is possibly the last thing I wanted to hear when I was at rock bottom and felt like all I had was bad as well as dismisses the work many are doing to change social institutions and make things better. Also, I think too many make both the getting in – and when mentioned getting out – very individualistic, again making both seem like luck or fate or maybe personal willpower, rather than what the writers I prefer discuss the wider social systems that greatly affect it all, how communities both harm and help us in situations, and connections and actions by ourselves and others which can be done to deal with these issues.

    • Richard Moroney

      Dian–thanks for sharing. Your observation about personal fixes versus social system fixes is correct, of course, but I am amazed how much more influence individual adults have within systems than we give ourselves credit for.
      I don't know your situation of course, but would like to offer a tool that helped me greatly when I needed to "stop babbling" when confronted. Knowing the topic would come up, I practiced my answer (a firm "I won't discuss that now") in front of a mirror prior to the event. It went something like "Yes, thank you, we considered [your point] when making the decision." I didn't allow rehashing of the debate (the conflict I needed to avoid) and if pressed for follow up just said something along the lines of "I appreciate your passion, but the decision has been made."
      Maybe your audience doesn't need to know the details and a similar "I can't discuss it now" will allow you to share your limits and stay engaged in the conversation. Good luck!

  98. Lisa Klow

    I found this so helpful. If there’s one thing you’ve taught me, it is to pursue excellence. Everything else is secondary. Once I thought about it, I realized many of the people I follow online who do write about vulnerable issues do so with purpose – and they were already successful before they did so.

    I think I have fallen into the blogging trap of thinking that if I reveal my problems and how I have solved them, then people will see themselves and want to follow…I missed the part where the successful ones already established themselves through hard work and excellence…and very thoughtfully and deliberately revealed themselves. They didn’t just pour out everything in a big mess. That just attracts losers with no money who just want to commiserate with other losers!

    I loved the Loser Matrix. Sorry: Vulnerability-Status Matrix.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Absolutely correct. Thanks for reading.

    • Lisa Klow

      Two people this made me think of:

      The artist Hazel Dooney. Her blog, Self vs. Self, was mainly for her to write about her artistic process. She was an established successful artist, writing about art and process. Occasionally she would reveal personal issues, but she made it clear that she was not inviting comments about her life. She maintained control of her message.

      The other person I thought of is Liz Lamoreux. She will often reveal vulnerability, but her business is built on encouraging others to explore and express their vulnerabilities, and also to deal with them through photography, writing and artwork. She sells books, jewelry, etc. built around this concept. Again, she is very thoughtful in what she reveals and how.

  99. M

    Yes. Yes. YES. A thousand times yes. Thank you for this.

    I've been successful in my career and have won numerous awards for leadership. I'm outstanding at relating to people across differences. I'm excellent at program design. I've won over $100k in merit scholarships for higher education. I'm kind to people.

    I am also a trauma survivor. Our culture's relentless emphasis on vulnerability diminished me, rather than empowered me, because it provided an excuse to wallow and reduced me to one single characteristic: a victim/survivor. I wasn't focused on my strengths or successes or goals for the future. I was stuck and couldn't see a way forward out of the trauma. I feel significantly healthier since allowing myself to let go of the concepts which gave away my power, and instead have refocused energy and attention on enhancing skills, investing in relationships, and becoming a better listener. My life is significantly more joyful as a result.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, M. I'm not going to say "I'm sorry to hear about your trauma." Instead, I want to congratulate you for living a Rich life by being kind, creating a meaningful career, and choosing to focus on contributing to the world. You are awesome.

  100. Aames

    I had a client whose business sold (no exaggeration) $120k garden ornaments. The target market for that sort of thing is highly limited. This client insisted that they "appear vulnerable" in all of their marketing.

    Before I read your post, I really had no idea why a business would pursue vulnerability as a marketing strategy. Actually, I still don't understand. Neither did the client, apparently, as his business has folded.

    Thank you, as always, for enlightening me!

    I'm

  101. Judith

    Hi Ramit! Your post keeps popping up on my inner screen since this morning. Thanks for taking the time to write this!
    Since I am working in PR plus teaching empathy to companies and educators I think it´s very important to get crystal clear on the intention of opening up and sharing something that makes you feel vulnerable.
    When Obama sends his love to his wife on Valentine´s day during an Ellen Show he creates closeness. He´s being vulnerable and shows us he cares. When a coach makes him- or herself vulnerable it is to make a point for honest connection. To empower people to tell their story. But not explicitly IN PUBLIC. Brene Brown doesn´t say: Be vulnerable and be that in public. She says: Our society introduced shame and guilt over thousands of years and we are still suffering from that shit. So please let´s to the one thing that helps us to stop that story: talk about this feelings and listen to each other. In a safe space. I know it works I collected some data.
    Apparently people are assuming the online world IS that safe space, well, that´s highly irritating to me. I am with you on that.
    So I encourage people to be vulnerable but as communication practice (!) because it teaches non-judgemental listening and I use it to make a point when the setting is appropiate.
    From a marketing perspective: I think of Altucher more as a thinker and writer so that for me makes it work. I´m not sure if I would try all his investment-tips though. In that regard his vulnerability makes me unsure at times. Very interesting example. Kind regards from Germany.

  102. Scott

    Being vulnerable about your failure is not the same as overcoming your fear of failure.

    • Ramit Sethi

      What a great quote. Can someone share this with the life coaches in your Facebook feed??

    • Lindsay

      Maybe it's not the same, but it is probably step 1 towards overcoming fear of failure. =)

  103. Mimi Ghosh

    I'm a huge proponent on being genuinely vulnerable, not "vulnerable" for the likes and it's been a crucial process I've gone through to connect with myself and become a truly vulnerable person. But, I do agree that a lot of what passes as vulnerability is wallowing with no where to go from there. We all need to wallow from time to time in private, just to get the pain out, but that's not a business model to sell to people. There has to be some kernel of useful information in what you put out in to the world, otherwise no one feels or gets any better.

    • Mimi Ghosh

      Oh, and Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed are a couple of people who's vulnerability I truly respect. Neil Gaiman and Stephen King also come to mind oddly enough lol. Reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran makes me think he was a genuinely vulnerable, great person.

  104. Maciej

    Very good article. The message is simple, even obvious, but still I've learned quite a lot.

  105. Sanjay

    Ramit, You make some valid points but to be fair to the likes of Brene Brown who advocate vulnerability, it is not in every instance that it must be practiced. She clearly says that it is with people who have earned your respect and right to hear your story. Too often, we put up an armour of invincibility and make believe that gets in the way of creativity, makes us overly self conscious and stops us from taking risks for the fear of being judged. It certainly does not mean that you overshare and floodlight everyone with your failures. There is courage in vulnerability as you are confident in not hiding about your failures and insecurities and how they have helped you as a stepping stone. Different horses for different courses…

  106. Sally

    OK – so here's the thing. I loved the post and I relate to it – intellectually! My experience recently though has caused me to question it. I'm part of a not-for-profit organisation (as hobby not business), and have been on the Board for several years. I recently stood to be Vice Chair – knowing that I had contributed hugely already, both in ideas and sheer hard work. I felt I'd done the apprenticeship. However, someone else was elected – who has done none of these things, but is just perceived as 'nice' and 'biddable'. So it left me wondering what all the hard work had been about! Perhaps it's just that this type of organisation treats these elections as a 'popularity contest', and I should just let it go? I want to find the learning in this experience though and improve for the future – as I genuinely believe I would have done more good for the organisation.

    • Ramit Sethi

      I’m sorry to hear you were passed up. The truth is, doing hard work is good, but not enough. You have to advocate for yourself and build key relationships. We cover this in Instant Network: http://go.instantnetwork.com/

    • Dominic

      Hi Sally, based on what you wrote it looks like you have put in hard work, but the wrong kind of hard work.

      Have you checked out Ramit's material on how to get a dream job and/or how to get a raise/promotion? It covers the system it looks like you could use.

  107. Henry

    People love the Jerry Springer, but I don't want to be sharing my vulnerabilities, as a guest on his show.

  108. Pauline

    Thank you for this mindset shift Ramit. After reading, I realized how guilty I am of doing this, and how I've been putting myself in the loser bucket. It feels much easier and more acceptable to talk about your mistakes than to talk about things you're proud of – but where does that leave me? It leaves me wallowing with a bunch of losers. I'm committing to find the people who want to hear more of the good shit, and not feed off my "vulnerabilities".

  109. Lindsay

    I'm continuing to think on this. Ramit's matrix up above is very interesting, and I'm especially interested to understand why he frames the upper left quadrant (low status, vulnerable) as 'losers'. Two points:

    First, folks in this quadrant might be understood as 'aspiring' – they want more skill/success/status than they currently have, and they know it, and are comfortable acknowledging it, asking for help, accepting both support and constructive feedback. Definitely not losers.

    Second, we used to have a word to describe this: 'humble.' In fact, there used to be entire spiritual practices built around the experience of true humility, both in itself and as a key stage to pass through on the road to greatness. I'm a non-believer, but do lament the passing of this particular bit of wisdom.

  110. Anonymous

    I've been thinking about this for the past two days and it has completely changed the way I see a particular friend of mine – someone I’ve been losing respect for but couldn’t really explain way.

    She's well known in our shared social circles for being insecure but still manages to command the attention of groups and charm people into thinking she’s this angel child (myself included – until I got to know her better). She shares EVERYTHING about herself. She’ll rope full tables of people into conversations about her dating life, she bounces around group events complaining about a slight at work until everyone knows about it, she talks about her contraceptive methods “privately” with as many people as she can, she writes looong social media posts filled with poetic insight that is, upon further inspection, empty of anything other than flowery language about a mundane event or thought. She’s generically revered as someone who is so open and “spiritual” and yet I’ve seen her as this enigmatically infuriating character until this post…

    Here’s the thing: She is a hot mess. Her romantic history is a disaster because she’s needy and controlling, she’s slowly turning her friends against her because she talks behind the backs of even those she claims to be her besties, she’s always “poor” and cannot get her finances in order (even though she makes a decent salary; worth noting that she also regularly kvetches about this and shares exactly how few dollars she has in the bank), she is staggeringly insecure and emotionally unstable, I could go on.

    And she doesn’t do a single damn concrete thing to change any of it. (Lots of empty promises, though, of course.)

    Her “vulnerability,” which is really just chronic oversharing, has tricked people into thinking she’s a self-actualized guru and fount of relational and emotional wisdom. In reality, she’s a trainwreck, and she uses this faux vulnerability as a substitute for actual results-driven work. That’s why I can’t stomach her anymore. She tricks people into revering her by over-sharing so they’re distracted from the fact that she’s not taking a single one of the many concrete action steps available to her in order to change her life.

    Bottom line: Vulnerability is not a bandaid. Ramit, thank you for ripping the veil off my eyes. I see the light now. This has changed the way I see this person and the way I see myself.

  111. D'ANGELO

    Excellence comes first<–I agree with this part the most.

    To be vulnerable is to be susceptible to attack and many Aspirational Leaders are in harm's way by either design or circumstance but achieve anyway–IN SPITE of the danger.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: preached integration during a segregated, hostile era. Prone to inside and outside attacks. Excelled anyway.

    Oprah: didn't have "the look" according to the media. Faced public attack. Excelled anyway. (In media, might I add.)

    Dr. Eric Thomas: homeless, high school dropout. Didn't have the pedigree. Excelled anyway.

    Helen Keller: extremely vulnerable. Faced unfathomable odds. Excelled anyway.

  112. Yash Chheda

    In a recent interview with Kettlebell guru extraordinaire Pavel Tsatsouline, Tim Ferriss asked him (as he does all his guests), 'What are your current challenges in your personal life?'

    To that Pavel replied, 'We are suffering from a malfunction of oversharing in today's world. I will respectfully refuse to answer that.'

    Tim's reply, 'That's my entire business model'.

    Amazing to see two top performers illustrating both the top & bottom right corners of your vulnerability quadrant.

    Ps: In the same interview Pavel said that he didn't write about motivation because that wasn't his target audience (people who need motivation). He said he'd rather cater to people who are motivated enough to take action, & provide high quality information & training for them to achieve top performance.

    • Ramit Sethi

      One of my favorite comments of all time. Thank you for writing this, Yash.

    • Hamish

      Exactly! Stop trying to wake the walking dead, and focus on people already reaching for the next level of their lives.

  113. Josh

    Let's not forget the Instafamous "models" who post a near naked photo of themselves with a caption about how they didn't love their body before but now they do and so you should too.. blah blah blah yeah right they just want to post a butt shot, get a lot of likes and not seem like they want their ego fed.

  114. Icy Sedgwick

    I HATE all this "I'm going to be vulnerable with you" crap. It makes me so uncomfortable! Mind, I'm the person who you come to when you need to change a fuse or you're not sure which hotel to book in Venice. I'm not the person to offer emotional support. And that's okay with me and the people I know. They know they get practical, Macguyver style stuff from me. They can get hugs and commiserations elsewhere. I look to the people I follow online to be more like me – show me what you did and how you did it (hell, throw in why if you want) but for the love of Cthulu, don't witter on about how you FELT while doing it. I don't care. I just want the facts.

    So as far as I'm concerned, I LOVE your approach. Screw vulnerable, it's matter-of-fact, to the point, and entertaining.

    And yes, that is a pat on the back.

  115. Hamish

    I promise I'm not making this up: In the last week, I had e-mail newsletters from two professionals, whose content I have actually found useful in the past. One started off by explaining that she had been raped. The other started off by letting me know that he suffers from depression and anxiety. I'm sure they are both telling the truth. I would like to believe that they aren't cynical enough to be thinking to themselves, "Ah yes, this authentic expression of my vulnerability will help me sell a few more e-books and courses." But even if they aren't thinking that, why the hell do they think this is a good idea?

    The first person's experience is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, short of death. I get it. But surely this kind of information does not belong in marketing emails? And as for the second, I know people with depression. It's horrible. But it can cause people to go AWOL for months, or at the very least become completely unreliable as a supplier or business partner. So why would telling me about it make me more likely to hire the guy?

    Funny stories about your parents or kids to make you more relateable? OK I can deal with that. Ramit does this. But discussions of intimate personal problems? I just don't get it!

  116. Aranab Kumar

    Fuck man you have so many comments that i do not even know how and if you will read it. But I want you to read my comment. I have been following your work since I first heard your podcast with Tim Ferriss. And of course alot of your suggestions are customised to only in the USA and pretty much not helpful in Singapore but the essence of them is still deployable.
    But my respect for you went up a thousand fold after reading this because I have been writing a blog for fun without actually publicising it and keeping it as a journal so that when I make it big in life people will know that it is never an overnight success thing. And I was going to write more about my failures and vulnerability. But after reading this I think I should not because you are right. I can be vulnerable anytime after I make it big and that is when I can talk about my own failures because I will have my success and excellence to back me up. Now I have absolutely nothing and I am a nobody trying to be somebody.
    SO thank you thank you thank soooo much Ramit for coming up with this piece of gem.

    PS: I did hate your smugness but not anymore after reading this!

    Best
    Aranab

    • Ramit Sethi

      Bold approach in your first line of this comment. Fortunately, you ended it with essentially saying, "Ramit, you are right," so I will accept your comment. Good work.

  117. Vkrishna

    Brilliant article man, bang on the head! You gave words to my feeling of awkwardness when i see such posts. You exposed both the options in front of wannabe writers/bloggers. Very useful thumb rule to keep in mind every time we have conversations also, not just while writing/posting.

    One exception would be people who are mulling blogging about their depression or sincere vulnerabilities. Do you have reasons for not including the exceptional cases in the article..i think that would have given a 'complete' feeling to it. Otherwise, perfect and much needed, Ramit.

    A mythological example would be : The entire 'Bhagavad Gita' is a sermon to Arjuna who poured out his vulnerabilities and dilemma in front of Krishna during war.

  118. Chris

    Ramit,

    Congratulations on being in such control of your emotions. I envy you for being able to suppress (or lack) the feelings that would cause you to empathize with someone that feels the need to write about vulnerability.

    But I do have one question that from you that I need answered; what is the difference between you writing about one of you emotions (annoyance) and someone else writing about one of their's (emotions related to vulnerability)?

    I mean, isn't it a little bit hypocritical to call somebody out for writing about 'X' and then go on about 'X'? By suggesting that 'X' is this and not that, aren't you just writing another article about 'X'?

    Please help me figure this out.