#58 My Zero Connection Interview: Vulnerability Leads To Connection

He hit me right in the face.   

Well, HE didn’t actually hit me in the face. What hit me was the crumpled piece of paper he threw at me.

Sadly, that crumpled piece of paper was the sum total of my life’s work. My résumé.

Now what do I do?

As my options flashed through my mind, he amped up his attack.

“You hotshot MBAs come in here with your fancy resumes and bullshit claims!

You don’t have what it takes to work at Goldman Sachs!”

Let me step back a bit to give you some context.

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I was interviewing for a summer internship with Wall Street heavyweight Goldman Sachs. And, not to be too dramatic, but it felt like my entire life was on the line.

I’d shot off my mouth about becoming a Wall Street zillionaire to anyone that would listen. I’d bragged to my fiancé that I was Keith the conquerer. I’d sold my house, car, belongings, and dropped fifty grand on an MBA for a chance to sit in this exact seat.

And, to make things more interesting, I’d failed on 100% of my prior Wall Street interviews. The rejection letters were sitting in a tidy pile on my bedside table.

So that’s how I'd gotten to this place, a cramped conference room in the Goldman offices. I'd already finished two interviews that I knew had gone well. There was one more on the schedule. Nail it, I told myself, and the job was mine.

That’s when the shithead made his entrance.

He was wearing the standard Wall Street uniform. Starched white shirt. Expensive tie. Suspenders. Cufflinks.

But he still managed to look a little sloppy. His hair was messed up and his spare tire was wrestling with his shirt.

I greeted him and stuck out my hand for a firm interview-style shake, but he ignored me. Zero words. Zero eye contact.

He took a seat and grabbed the resume I'd placed on the table for him. He stared at it for way too long and then slowly raised his head.

As our eyes finally met, he very deliberately crunched my resume into a ball and… pop! Hit me square on the jaw.

Huh! What the hell just happened? 

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And then my instincts took over. I lunged forward and slammed my fist into his fat face. I noticed blood trickling from his nose as I calmly got up, told him he could shove his job, and walked out the door.

That would be a great macho ending to the story, but it never happened.

Instead of kicking his ass, I started kissing it. I bit my lip and delivered my canned speech on how qualified I was for the job. And how fortunate I would be to spend the summer learning from a savvy expert like him. Blah, blah, blah.

And he lapped it up like a thirsty mutt. 

Long story short, I got the job! 

I’d be spending my summer working for Goldman Sachs. New York City was about to be conquered. 

LACK OF CONNECTION

I shared the rest of my Goldman saga back in post #30 - I Predict NOTHING. Long story short, I hated the place. Square peg round hole.

Researcher / author Brené Brown would describe my experience as a failure to connect. You might remember Brown from post #2 - Looking Forward To Torture. She's the queen of connection and here's a popular quote of hers.

“Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”

That sounds about right. Over that fateful summer I just couldn’t find a place to dock. Couldn’t establish a foothold or handhold or whatever. There was zero connection between myself and the people of Goldman Sachs. And that did lead to suffering.

But being right in this one instance doesn't make Brown a guru. I'm a cynic by nature. I need to hear this stuff from more than one source before I jump on the connection bandwagon.

THE HARVARD HAPPINESS STUDY

Reader be warned, professionals have a hard time defining and measuring happiness. With that caveat in mind, lets move forward assuming that happiness is a good thing that people want.

We'll start by looking at one of the longest running happiness studies of all time - The Harvard Study of Adult Development. In 1938 researchers selected 724 teenage males for this study. Half Harvard students and half kids from disadvantaged families in Boston. And they've been following these same folks for over 75 years. As of 2015 only 60 were still alive.

To give you an idea of the depth of their research, here’s a quote from the current head of the study, Robert Waldinger.

"To get the clearest picture of these lives, we don't just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children. We videotape them talking with their wives about their deepest concerns."

And what the researchers have found is drop dead simple. (Here’s the youtube video of their current findings if you want to hear it for yourself. The meat of the findings are at the 5:50 mark.)

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this:

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

So it all comes down to the quality of our relationships. Which amplifies exactly what Brené Brown found.  

You can call them relationships or connections, but either way our well being hinges on our ability to successfully interface with other human beings.

So how do we form these connections? 

THIS SUCKS

Brown has a recipe for forming connections. She says...

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness.”

If I lump her advice in with the Harvard study I can say the following. 

Happiness, good health, and feelings of worthiness come from connections / relationships. And connections / relationships come from being vulnerable. 

So being vulnerable is the magic formula.

Nice to know, but that sucks!

Vulnerability sucks!

Especially at work. Do you want to be the vulnerable CEO or the powerful, decisive CEO?

If Brown's right, maybe it's time for a good group cry in the break room. Or a game of truth or dare to kick off your next management team meeting.

Or maybe not.

HOW FAR SHOULD YOU GO?

If you agree that vulnerability sounds less than appealing, you might like this Brené Brown quote more than some of her others.

“The outcome of OVERsharing is distrust, disconnection - and usually a little judgment.”

Thank God. There is such a thing as OVERsharing. Being too vulnerable.

I don’t have to broadcast the private emotional details of my life to everyone at work. And I don’t have to be the dickhead that posts everything on insta-face-snap-twit, trying to create my own tell-all reality show. 

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But what should I share, and what should I keep private?

I can't imagine there's a universal answer to that question. Each person and each situation are so unique. But I can give you an example of an area where I’ve been told I need to be more vulnerable.

I've been dinged on 360° reviews for being too closed with my decision making process. My tendency was / is to come to a conclusion and just hit go. I saw my actions as confident, decisive, the hallmark of a great leader.

But there were some among the troops that needed more background. They wanted me to share details on areas of the plan that scared me the most. What kept me up at night.

At first blush, that sounds ridiculous to me. Who lays out a plan and then waxes poetic on its vulnerabilities?

But in reality, all they really wanted was to know what they were getting into. Smart people know that risk rides with reward. Big challenges have scary parts. So why not treat everyone like big people and let them in on what keeps me up at night?

Less "do as I say" and more “we’re in this together”.

So that’s a vulnerability blind spot I need to work on, but there’s a much bigger way vulnerability can help our businesses.

THE MAP

(This site is all about building a Map that will help me do work and life better. So at the end of each post I check in to see if any changes / insights come to mind.)

For me, the safest and most powerful place to be vulnerable is in my Self and Work MAPs.

I didn’t think of it that way when I started. I’d read the Brown stuff on connection and vulnerability but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. 

I just wanted to build my WORK Map so I could better understand my motivations. Simple enough. Until I hit a brick wall. 

How could I understand my WORK motivations without first understanding my personal motivations? That riddle led me to building a SELF Map that answered questions like…

WHY - Why do I get out of bed in the morning?
ME - What values, behaviors, traits most define me?
IF - What theories or ideas underly my curiosities?
CAN - What do I want to accomplish?

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And then I assembled my WORK Map on top of, and in close alignment with, my SELF Map.

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In my eyes, that single step is the birthplace of vulnerability at work. Openly sharing who you are as a person, and putting in writing how this information shapes your business. 

This is something I wish Goldman had done before they hired me. I wish they’d been more clear about who they really were and what they really stood for. It would have saved me from having to sit in that cramped conference room with that asshole. And it would have saved them from wasting their time and money on a misFIT like me.

So don’t make their same mistake. Improve your recruiting and retention by clearly, openly, and vulnerably sharing who you are and what you believe. In the long run it’ll save you lots of time, aggravation, and money.

Until next time…

***Note: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE to get started.