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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Counterintuitive Strategy That Can Lead to Your Success

If you think that appearing in control and powerful is your best bet to success—well, you may want to reconsider.

Just ask Adam Braun. The founder of Pencils of Promise, Braun has had a trailblazing journey launching and growing a nonprofit movement building over 200 schools to increase educational opportunities around the world. But, as he describes in his new book, The Promise of a Pencil, along the way he learned the importance of vulnerability and how being willing to not appear invincible led him to one of his first investors and a lifelong mentor.

Pencils of Promise hadn’t taken any outside funding up until this point, but the team needed more financial support to continue being fully committed to the mission. To provide this, Braun realized he needed help from his board. He writes:

At our next board meeting…I asked for time to share some honest thoughts. We were sitting at a conference table on the twenty-fifth floor of a Manhattan skyscraper with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Times Square, and instead of presenting my strongest and most impressive front, as I always tried to do at these meetings, I was going to reveal my weakness. Surrounding me were ten of the smartest, most capable people I knew. Each had achieved tremendous success in business and philanthropy, and I had to tell them about my biggest failure….But in acknowledging where I needed help, I deepened my relationship with them, and ultimately, amplified their commitment to my growth as a leader and an individual.

By opening up about his weakness, Braun explains that, “I showed them that I was vulnerable, but that was okay. I established trust.” And ultimately, that trust led to huge gains. After confiding in his board, Braun was persuaded to overcome his initial reluctance to fundraise and given some strategies to make it happen. When opportunity came along, Braun was able to convince New York-based Paul Foster to become the first investor of Pencils of Promise, and he continued to introduce Braun to other people who became sponsors of the movement.

The main takeaway from Braun’s realization is clear: Showing a little bit of vulnerability can go a long way. While it may feel difficult to talk about your weaknesses, mistakes, or failures, it just might be the opportunity you need to do so most—because only then can you let others empathize and support you toward your goals. Sometimes, in ways you may not have imagined.

This is one of 30 lessons from The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. Get your copy now to read more!

Photo of snail courtesy of 55Laney69.

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