For the last few years, Jason Sudeikis has blessed the watchers of the show, Ted Lasso (on AppleTV), with a new kind of leader. Called on to be the coach of a middling football club in the U.K., he is expected to fail and do so in a way that embarrasses himself and the organization. That’s what the owner wants as Ted’s only coaching experience is a small college and the club is the pride of her hated ex-husband.
When his inexperience and lack of knowledge of the sport begin to show in the form of mounting losses, he takes criticism from the players and coaches, personal attacks by the media, and becomes the laughing stock of the town. The owner thinks she got exactly what she wanted.
In this scenario normally, A “real man” would fight back, right? He’d lash out in response, attack his haters, deny his failures, and tell everyone that he’s actually great. He may even deflect the negativity by pointing out his other areas of strength. This is what a man is taught to do in most cases.
Shocking to everyone though, Ted does none of these things. He surprises by admitting his vulnerability from the onset, acknowledges that what he lacks in experience he makes up for In relationships with the players, and speaks to everyone he meets with respect to the level he’s been their lifelong friend. He pretends to be nothing but who he is and isn’t afraid of losing his self-esteem if rejected. His interactions with everyone are honest and heartfelt.
Taking this counterintuitive approach to the age-old persona of a “tough” coach, Ted actually finds success.
What does this say about vulnerability for a man in modern society?
Being vulnerable is defined as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally”. That is something all of us want to avoid at all possible costs. Therefore, it takes more bravery to be vulnerable, than it does to avoid and deflect reality.
For years media and society have portrayed the highest level of bravado for men to be emotionless, hide weakness, portray significant expertise, and present an air of infallibility. But challenges (and sometimes failures) in the areas of business, marriage, mental health, and leadership have caused a shift.
Recent interviews with those in the sporting professions reveal that Ted Lasso’s style is more successful with the modern-day player, as well as in other leadership positions. I see that as growth in the realization that vulnerability is not weakness, but instead the type of strength others respect and follow.
It took me many years to be self-actualized enough to be vulnerable. Most likely because the other way led to pain and failure. Amazingly though, being vulnerable is an easier way of life. You don’t have to hide from any truths, you can speak freely of your strengths and weaknesses, and you attract like-minded friends when you are real and open.
It doesn’t mean that one is perfect. After all, Ted Lasso hides the fact that he is suffering behind the scenes with situational anxiety that begins to affect his coaching ability. He seeks the help of a professional therapist.
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean we won’t suffer or face the human condition. It does mean that we will do so with openness, acceptance and kindness and have an appreciation that everyone is struggling with something.
Now, when I see social media posts of people touting their successes, seeking external validation, or boasting, I have a different view. I am not impressed as I know where that comes from. Afraid to show that they aren’t perfect, life is hard and external accomplishments are sure to protect them from vulnerability.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. At some point, everyone has to choose to be vulnerable or to put on false bravado. There is no other way through life.
My advice is, be brave…let others see who you are whether imperfect or tarnished. The same counterintuitive approach used by Ted Lasso may lead you to a place of success and happiness defined only by you. A place no one can take from you that feels safe and secure.