What a special forces soldier taught me about the necessity of vulnerability

No one is completely strong or weak.

You would assume the topics of vulnerability and the SAS (Special Air Service, a special forces branch of the British Army) aren’t something you’d commonly find pieced together in a sentence.

Most people hear the word special forces and no doubt, imagine all types of extreme masculinity, The ultimate level of men being manly. Whilst this might be true in some cases, it’s a multi layered organisation and profession for the elite group of people in this community.

What most of us don’t consciously recognise is that being an SAS operative requires a high level of awareness. You need to know what your capabilities are and how to smash through them if needed.

Not too long ago, I went through a sort of binge of material focused on the mental perspective and mindset required of special forces units the world over.

Through the dozens of books, interviews, articles and shows I watched, I found one particular clip from a British TV show very eye opening and also somewhat relatable to my own work in the field of people development.

On this show, there was a short segment with one SAS operative who was detailing how soldiers need to recognise their own capabilities. My attention was grabbed when he mentioned the word vulnerable. In this case, the soldier was sharing how even in elite military units, you must have a degree of self awareness and vulnerability when assessing your own capabilities.

In my own work, I talk a lot about not fearing vulnerability. I believe, we all need to be vulnerable with others at times so that we can identify our own opportunities to grow.

The SF operative went on to unpack how vulnerability was the key component in an elite level soldier understanding their capabilities. To be able to know your blind spots and what you need to be mindful of, a degree of vulnerability is necessary.

For an elite soldier to operate in a high pressure environment, they must have the ability to recognise the things which might affect their performance. As an example, they need to be honest with themselves if they are too headstrong, self-critical or suffer from low self esteem at times.

These things can all derail not only the person but those around them in high level operations too.

Being vulnerable is not only helpful if you’re a special forces operative but also for anyone navigating their career. Many of us aren’t able to see our blind spots because we build a narrative that always supports our own story.

Embracing vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s one of strength. 

Even our special forces friend pointed out that we all have our things and our flaws in some way. No one person is perfect, nor can they operate at a high level without recognising their capabilities.

This brings me back to the rest of us navigating our careers (or civilians in military terms). 

You don’t have to be on the frontline of the battlefield to apply these lessons in vulnerability. No matter, if you’re in the boardroom, in the call centre or on the shopfloor – being vulnerable about your capabilities will help you grow and be at your best.

Take the time to recognise your blind spots, the things you need to be mindful of and take these into account in the work you do. It’s not about eradicating them. It’s about being aware and doing what you can to mitigate them if they cause a negative effect in how you operate.

No one is completely strong or weak. 

Find comfort with vulnerability and you might just unlock more opportunity for growth in life and work.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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