• Carol Delisi

The Importance of Vulnerability to Learning

This past weekend I attended a two day watercolor class that coincided with the opening of the Montana Watercolor Society gallery show, in which I had four paintings among dozens of other paintings. The night before the first day of class, I watched Brene Brown's Netflix special, The Call to Courage. She talks about the value of vulnerability - in "putting yourself out there" when you don't know the outcome.

"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change." Brene Brown, The Call to Courage


I realized that I need to "put myself out there" every time I'm in a learning situation. If I'm really going to learn, I need to be vulnerable. The opposite of that is deciding that I know everything and know what the outcome will be, and then I don't learn anything.

My weekend would be full of potential learning as I attended the class and put myself out there among many experienced and accomplished artists. Thinking through how valuable being vulnerable would be to me helped me be mentally and emotionally prepared to learn. If I could be vulnerable I could bring my whole self to the learning experience and gain valuable insights that would help me grow in my work.

So I practiced vulnerability this weekend, along with watercolor brush strokes, composition and values. I asked questions; I tried new things; I showed people my paintings. And I was inspired to innovate, create and make changes!

How can we help our learners be vulnerable so they can be open to learning? How can we make them feel safe in being vulnerable? A couple thoughts:

  • Show your own vulnerability by demonstrating skills first and NOT being perfect at them; or tell a story about what you learned when you first tried the skill.

  • Discuss vulnerability and its benefits with your learners; let them know that you will be supportive and helpful as they learn their new skills.

  • Let them know that vulnerability is NOT a weakness, but instead shows courage to put yourself out there and try new things!

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