This winter, I taught Economics for Success to eighth graders.
The six-module curriculum from Junior Achievement would stretch on for about 10 weeks, so I didn’t read ahead. Which means I didn’t realize that each time we met, the subject matter would cut closer and closer to the bone—for me.
Standing before the kids, I was alternately certain and profoundly unsure.
According to Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, I did what all middle schoolers do.
I “put on and took off personas and protection without hesitation, sometimes in the same sentence.” Like the kid who says going to the dance is dumb, but three seconds later fidgets over what to wear.
Was I there as a volunteer role model, whose accomplishments earned respect? Or, was I just someone trying to make her way in the world? And who, exactly, was there to judge?
In week one, I captured students' imagination with pictures of flamingos and tales of the brave solopreneur. I told them I'd always been a writer and a talker.
In the lesson on budgeting, I shared that I now spend less on snazzy outfits and more on fuel for road trips. In the session on debt, I told them I paid off my scooter before credit card interest kicked in. When I explained negative cash flow, my anxiety was palpable.
During the final class we played Risk Bingo. And that’s when things got real.
In the game, everything that could go wrong, did: auto accidents, fires and floods. Broken arms, material losses and irreparable damage. And those who didn’t have the right insurance card—or what Brown would call “protective armor”—suffered financial ruin. Public humiliation. Failure.
The kids wanted to win. But to do so, they had to avoid exposure.
Brown wrote: “As children, we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished, and disappointed…Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection—to be the person whom we long to be—we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen.”
Nine months after starting my business and my blog, I see how consistently persistent and brave and thick-skinned I have to be, in order to rustle up and sustain clients and readers. And how vulnerable I really am.
It will take courage to dare greatly. To show up every day with no guarantee.
So—unlike back in October, when I cavalierly denied fear in Scared, excited, or both—I now recognize and admit to needing real courage for this enterprise of mine.
I've come down from the initial high. Retired my armor for good. And committed to working and living—and yes, dare I say it, even loving—with my whole heart.
Now let's see what happens.