What Andy Murray Taught Us By Losing And Winning

I was listening to the radio this morning and they were debating at what point our attitudes to Andy Murray changed and of course there were a range of views.

But the one I agreed with was that our attitudes changed when he was interviewed after being defeated in the Wimbledon finals last year. His ‘mask’ slipped. He choked up and wiped away tears from his eyes. He was broken hearted at losing and he showed us his human side. He was vulnerable.

That was the moment that we changed as a nation and began to see Andy for his true self. I was so struck by his vulnerability and the subsequent media coverage that I tore out the back page of the following day’s newspaper to use as an image when coaching my clients.

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Andy Murray 2012 after losing in the semifinals at Wimbledon

I have been feeling vulnerable lately as I begin to build my business. There are so many things that I should be doing, that I don’t know and that I am unsure about. I have started blogging – a very public activity-  to provide tips and guidance to help senior executives. And deep down what I am most afraid of is failing and doing so publicly. Does this sound familiar?

When I work with clients one of the challenges that often crops up is a fear of failing. Of being found out and yet all of these people are high achievers whose track record tells a different story. Often, as they have risen up in their organisations, they have become isolated and believe that people expect them to be strong and to have all the answers.

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Photo by John Glass

They begin to put on a mask of invincibility. They are swans, calm and serene on the surface but paddling furiously with their feelings underneath. They believe they can not (or will not) show their true feelings because they will be perceived as weak. And yet as the Murray example shows, we love someone who shows their vulnerability because it makes them more human and allows us to connect with them.

I had wanted to see Brene Brown at the RSA last week (my saboteur tells me I should have booked when I first saw she was coming!). Her TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability is inspirational and motivational.

In her RSA presentation (which you can review here) she builds on her earlier work and talked about today’s “Culture of Scarcity” which she sums up as “Never …… Enough

  • Never good enough
  • Never safe enough
  • Never perfect enough
  • Never relevant enough
  • Never extraordinary enough

– you can fill in the blank with the word that resonates with you.

What most of us do to overcome these feelings is to “armour up” or, as Murray had done until last year, worn a mask to protect him. To protect him from judgement, criticism, fear, blame and ridicule and let’s face it who could have blamed him!

The bottom line of Brene’s research in this area by her own admission is “mean”. She says “Our capacity for wholeheartedness can never be greater than our willingness to be broken hearted”. Basically, “we can only love and be loved if we are willing to have our heart broken”.

Vulnerability i.e. the willingness to fail both personally and professionally, is the path to love, belonging, joy, intimacy, trust, innovation and creativity. Profound stuff.

I believe when Murray lost in the semi’s last year it was the beginning of his path to becoming a champion. Seeing him win at Wimbledon, so convincingly, this year was an amazing achievement for someone who was prepared to give it his all and possibly fail but who won the ultimate prize. What a fantastic achievement.

If you want to explore your unique way of being a champion then email me to discuss my leadership coaching package.

To check out Brene Brown at the RSA click here. There is so much more in her presentation than I have highlighted. Let me know what you think of her talk and whether you believe that vulnerability is important. In the meantime, don’t forget to sign up to receive my blog directly.

PS. The whole recording is over an hour but her talk is about 25 mins long. I skipped the introduction too.