Why the Most Vulnerable People are Also the Most Magnetic
“The vulnerable places of ourselves are often the ones where there are invitations to help.”
READ ON TO DISCOVER:
Why children and animals are the most captivating actors
The benefits and drawbacks of “future tripping”
The best way to ask for help (without being a bother)
A Forbes “30 Under 30 Entrepreneur,” Tyler Gage is the cofounder and CEO of RUNA, a social enterprise that makes energizing beverages with a rare Amazonian tea called guayusa. Kate Northrup is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and activist who empowers women to create successful businesses while navigating motherhood. The two recently sat down to discuss the strength hidden in vulnerability, and how to turn a dreamy idea into a powerful reality.
This conversation has been edited and condensed. To watch the full version, click the video below.
Tyler: You live quite a full life, and it always seems to be getting more full. A major part of your practice is not feeling guilty about wanting more, and at the same time, not feeling guilty that more is never fully achievable. I’d love to hear more about how you balance those two tensions.
Kate: I never really thought about it that way, but it’s true. In an accepting way, I’m always like, “Well, that’s not going to happen,” but then I’m always expanding my vision for what’s possible—writing another book or having more kids.
The principle of un-attachment or detachment comes into play here, where I get so much pleasure out of dreaming up ideas that I don’t even care if most of them happen. I had a coach [who] called it “future tripping.” I am a future tripper, and that can be problematic because so much of the sacred is missed if we’re always living in the future. But part of the way I enjoy the present moment is thinking about what else might be possible. It’s enjoying the mouthwatering anticipation, just dreaming something up and living in the “what if.”
Tyler: Yeah, it’s a dream space. In indigenous cultures, they say that the most complete form of nourishment we have is dreams.
A related [idea] is that in a lot of the native cultures, they have a flipped view of what’s forward and what’s behind us. In the modern western world, we [think], “The future is ahead.”
Kate: Right, because we are very linear about time.
Tyler: But they’re much more circular. Also in their view, the past is in front of you. If you look at anything in your life, it’s all a result of decisions and actions you made. If I’m sitting here in my house, the history of my decisions [is in front of me]—deciding to move, choosing a color. The future is actually what is unseen.
I like your future tripping idea, because it seems like a way to pull the threads of the future. We don’t see the future, but what we do see, and have a lot more immersion in, is the past, which is largely what creates our present.
Kate: I love that concept. I’ve never thought about the past as being ahead of us with the future behind us.
Tyler: I spent a lot of time thinking about that spectrum that you travel between dreams and reality, looking at the shamanic world and its applicability to business. “How do you go from this nonexisting dream space into reality, and what are the touchpoints and tools that can bring the two closer together?” That can seem like a folkloric concept, but it’s what any business person is doing on a daily basis. I imagine it’s what you’re doing as a mother, thinking about the future of your kids.
“The vulnerable places of ourselves are often the ones where there are invitations to help.”
Kate: Yes. I’m a future tripper and I am ambitious, but motherhood has been incredibly grounding. In a beautiful way, it has forced me to be in the mundane—wiping a nose, changing a diaper, doing the same songs before bed. The things that used to be torturous for me—routine, structure, doing the same thing every day—have become not only the safety net for my daughter, but also a source of salvation for me.
I’m curious, do you have any daily practices or routines that ground you in, “Today is actually happening, and I’m living right now”? We entrepreneurs [tend] to not be in the here and now.
Tyler: Yeah, I think you’re talking about finding value and nourishment in the mundane, but then also not sacrificing exploration or our creativity. How do we, as humans, access the full spectrum?
For me, the key is taking time when I wake up and before I go to bed to transition to being a body. Oftentimes that’s meditation, oftentimes that’s prayer, sometimes it’s a walk. Sometimes it’s lying in bed for an extra 20 minutes, just journaling or remembering my dreams. I get an irreplaceable degree of stability and bandwidth from that time.
If I get up and immediately start looking at my phone, that is the death wish of my day. If I get sucked into incoming messages and other people’s expectations of what I should do and how I should show up today, it doesn’t give me the ability to honor the way I’m feeling and bring my honest truth forward. [So I] take that time to honor, “Okay, I’m back. Today is a new day. I have a responsibility to myself, and my wife, and my businesses, and my family to show up.”
Kate: I feel like this connects with something that you talk about—the importance of vulnerability. Because in our culture, we’ve been raised to believe that we need to be strong, and that part of being strong is not ever showing that you need help, which is seen as a sign of weakness. But being vulnerable and asking for help is an incredible sign of strength, because it shows that you’ve actually taken the time to identify your strengths and where you need help. It takes insight and personal strength to do that. For you, where are you asking for help in your life?
Tyler: It frustrates me so severely that this concept of vulnerability in life, but especially in business, is so looked down upon. The vulnerable places of ourselves are often the ones where there are invitations to help.
I struggle with depression and anxiety, and have found a lot of help with shamanic practices and plant medicines. [I’ve adopted] this idea that depression is the body’s invitation for change, an invitation to recover and regroup. [Instead] of thinking, “Oh, there’s a problem. Bad,” I think, “Huh, there’s a weakness. Maybe there’s something there to develop. There’s an opportunity for growth. There’s an opportunity for connection.”
“We cannot take our eyes off a child or an animal because they’re always telling the truth.”
When I was 23, I came out of school and decided to start a business and beverage company by producing a rare Amazonian leaf. With my degree in literary arts and my business partner’s degree in marine biology, we could have pretended that we were business people, but we took a liberal arts approach to business. We recognized that what we did know how to do was ask a lot of questions, make connections, listen to people, and evaluate information, and that [we could] move to the jungle two days after graduation and tell people, “Hey, we just graduated from school. We have this vision. We’re really excited about the potential here, and honestly, we have no idea how these pieces are going to come together. But we want to learn from you and get your perspective.” [We could] have this collaborative space from this invitation of vulnerability.
For us, we found a tremendous amount of strength in vulnerability because it invited incredible amounts of knowledge and information that we never would have gotten if we just thought we had the answers. It attracted an incredible network of people that were the foundation of the business. Without that collaborative group, we 23-year-olds would have burned through our savings and then scrounged to get back to the U.S. in a matter of months. I think that early experience informed the startup mode of constantly finding strength and recognizing the magnetism in vulnerability.
Kate: Yes. I believe that if we’re paying attention, we know when somebody is telling the truth and when they’re full of BS, and we want to be around people who are telling the truth. My friend Josh Pais teaches this class called “Committed Impulse for Actors and Entrepreneurs,” and he talks about how the truth is so captivating and so riveting, and it’s why children and animals will always upstage adults in the theater. We cannot take our eyes off a child or an animal because they’re always telling the truth.
And telling the truth comes from a vulnerable place. It’s so magnetic, as you said, and if you want to attract resources, form connections, and experience a full life, that’s so key—feeling like, “Well, I don’t know what I’m doing, but here’s the part I do know, so I’ll just put it out there and see what happens.”
Tyler: I love that. One of the things you said in there is often the crux of this question. You have this duality of [on the one hand,] “I’m going to be super business and work 20 hours a day and go for it, and I’m going to find the answer,” which has validity and potential. Then the other side you noted is this, “I’m just open. I’m just going to attract everything. I have the intention, but I’m not really doing anything about it.” I think the reconciliation of those two can often be very difficult.
One of my favorite sayings on this is from Larry Page from Google. He has a quote that’s something like, “I find that my intuition isn’t very good when it comes to things I don’t know much about.” In some ways, our hard work and exploration is like our prayer, in a way. It is our way of magnetizing it. It’s not saying, “Oh, I have the answers and I’m going to work towards that.” It’s saying, “Hey, I’m going to spend the time and energy because I care to ask the right questions and get the right support.”
“As you pray, move your feet.”
It’s not just taking your hands off the steering wheel and saying, “Oh, well. If it’s meant to be, it’ll come,” and it’s also not saying, “I know what it is and I’m going to make it happen.” It’s this unique reconciliation of the two where there is energy, intention, and real action. It’s real commitment that’s breathed, that’s sweated, and at the same time, done so in a way that is open. That combination is often difficult, but there you get the potency of both sides of the spectrum.
Kate: I totally agree. One of my all-time favorite quotes is an African proverb that says, “As you pray, move your feet.” It’s like, “Do the affirmations, and also go to the meeting.”
Tyler: You could teach a master class on how to effectively ask for help. Are there any tips and tools?
Kate: The first thing is that we have to reconcile our inner conversation around what it means to ask for help. We need to look at, “What is my core belief around help, and how can I shift that to seeing asking for help as a sign of strength? It’s strengthening my life, and strengthening the lives of people around me, and also strengthening the interconnections between all of us.” Because none of us is meant to live on our own. We’re tribal animals, herd creatures. We’re supposed to be interconnected.
I believe in asking for help early and often and kindly. I am getting better at asking for help way before I think I’m going to need it. I recently hosted 20 people for Thanksgiving, and I asked for help from a girlfriend two weeks before to just talk through the menu and who was bringing what, because hosting dinner parties is my kryptonite. She helped walk me through it, and I over-asked everybody to bring stuff, so I ended up being responsible for [only the] mashed potatoes. It was the most awesome thing, and everybody had a great time because I was happy, and they were not burdened by doing too much either.
Tyler: Early, often, and kindly—I love that. “Early” has historically been a challenge for me, especially in the entrepreneur mode of flying by the seat of my pants.
Kate: It’s kinder when you ask somebody for help early, because it doesn’t put pressure on them. If you do less and whittle down so that you are mostly working on a vital few [things], then you have the mental spaciousness to look at, “Oh, wow. Three weeks from now, this thing is coming up, and I am going to need some assistance on that. Why don’t I ask for help now, to give the other person the kindness of three extra weeks of wiggle room.”
I’ve learned a lot about this over the past year. It’s made me so much better at looking ahead and being considerate of my own needs, but also other people’s needs.