Bulletproof vests are no longer necessary

This article by Bob Glaser originally appeared in Friday Forward.

The podcast episodes I listen to each year have a lasting impact on me, and like a good whiskey or wine, these conversations only get better with the years as I reflect on the lessons learned and their application to life and business.

My favorite example from 2020 was the debate between Brene Brown and Tim Ferriss.

In this episode, Brown spoke with Ferris about the concept of armor we create in our lives and work as a means of protection and defence.

This metaphorical armor protects us from threats both real and imagined, and in time we find it effective, wear it with pride, and become accustomed to the protection it provides.

Our armor protects us from a variety of things: mistakes, insecurities, shame, fear of failure, regret, and so on.

But we eventually grow to the point where we no longer need the protection this suit provides: we either become more adept at dealing with the protection we previously needed or wanted, or we find that for a variety of reasons it is no longer relevant.

But often we are unable to let go of our armor, even after we no longer need it. It becomes an invisible burden that we carry around with us, and suddenly it becomes a burden instead of an asset. We often don’t even realize that we are carrying armor for battles we are no longer fighting.

Think about how tiring it is to carry around a heavy backpack that has no practical use. Similarly, carrying unnecessary armor creates psychological fatigue. You have to recognize when you no longer need the armor and make a conscious decision to take it off.

Recently, I was discussing a challenge I was facing with my coach and mentor for the past few years. Like any good coach, he listened carefully as I explained the situation and challenged my assumptions and encouraged me to question the story I’d been telling myself about the issue.

I thought about his words for a few days afterwards and realized he was right: this was a situation in which I was carrying around an unnecessary bulletproof vest that had served me very well for a long time and probably contributed to my past successes in similar situations, but was no longer relevant or necessary.

It’s time to take off the armor.

Over time, we get used to telling ourselves stories and as we change and grow, we don’t go back and question many of our underlying assumptions. The reality is, situations and circumstances change, and the armor that served us well in the last battle may not serve the same purpose in the next one. What was an asset can easily become a liability if we neglect to reflect on its usefulness over time.

Where in your life or career are you telling yourself a story that is no longer true? Where are you still wearing armor that is unnecessarily burdensome?

If you could answer that question, you might feel a lot better.

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