Naked and Silent

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What if the only thing standing between you and what you want is you, but you have no idea it’s true?


Sampson: I’ve built something incredible, we’re working with world-class people and world-class clients. We’re the best at what we do, nobody can touch us. I’ve gotten us here and I’m steering this ship. I’m really smart, work insanely hard and yet, we’ve stalled. We’re not growing. I can’t see my own blind spots. Don’t know our next move. Can you help us? Can you help ME? Please, I’ll do anything.

Mentor: That depends. Are you open to receiving?

Sampson: I just asked for your help. Of course I am.

Mentor: Then, let’s begin.

+++ Months Pass+++

Sampson: Why isn’t anything changing? You said you’d help. But everything’s the same. I don’t understand.

Mentor: You came to me seeking help. You need it deeply. I was and still am open to giving it. You shared you were open to receiving it.

But your actions belie your words.

Your biggest blind spot is not the market, it’s not resources, ideas, or strategies. It is your own unwillingness to be vulnerable. To own the fact that, though you’ve gotten yourself here, at this moment in time, you don’t know what you’re doing or how to move forward. Until this changes, nobody can help you.

Sampson: But I asked you for help. How can you say I’m not vulnerable, open to receiving?

Mentor: What you ask for and what you’re open to are not the same.

I have shared ideas. I have brought others into your orbit far smarter and accomplished than I, willing and able to help. But every time we talk—you, me and them—you stop listening and instead talk over us, our ideas and offers of help. Instead of receiving, you posture. And it’s become so automatic, you have no idea you’re doing it.

Understand, you do not do this because you are rude. Not because you’re ignorant. Not because you’re incapable. You are, in fact, immensely bright, kind and capable.

You do this because what you are being offered is not coming from you.

You’ve been conditioned to believe, through no fault of your own, that you need to be the ONE who figures it all out. That if it doesn’t come from you, you will be perceived as weak. As unknowing. As incapable. This thought destroys you. You need others to feel you’re “on parity” with them.

So, instead of listening, learning and receiving, you talk. You posit. You rebuff. You revert to the illusion of strength and retreat to the blockade of false-confidence. You refuse to acknowledge the “new-ness” or validity of any proffer.

And, in doing so, you push all those who would line up to help you away without even realizing you’re doing it. You punish their arrival by raising your shield. Leaving them to bang their heads against an armor that protects you from the very thing you claim to seek.  It’s incredibly frustrating to be asked for help, then refused a way to give it.

Sampson: So, are you saying all those people who have offered to help me over the years, but then abandoned me…that wasn’t about them, it was about me?

Mentor: I can’t speak for all people. But I can tell you, the people I gathered to help you who, most of whom have, using your words “abandoned” you, yes, they have all shared this reason.

When you first came to me, you acted on a moment of deep pain, you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and that led to a temporary openness to receiving help. Yet the moment it arrived, the fact that you needed it and the reality that accepting it would require you to own your own unknowing in the eyes of others terrified you. So you shut back down and defaulted to a show of bravado.

But maybe the most dangerous part is this. You don’t see it. You’re not even aware you’re doing it. So you keep asking for help. Wondering why nothing changes. And why people keep saying they’ll help, then walking away from you.

Asking and receiving are two very different things.

I know this dynamic so well. Because…

I have been you.

I am you.

I will be you again.

I am drawn to create. I am both burdened and gifted with ego. I am immensely human and sensitive. I struggle with my need to feel strong, to have all the answers and not be seen by others as “lesser.” I, too, have armor.

But I have also learned, very much the hard way…

There comes a time when you need to stand naked and silent in the room.

To not just lower the shields, but keep them down. To own the value and truth of other peoples’ ideas and efforts. To not discount them simply because they’re not coming from you. To stand in a place of deep vulnerability, not as a show weakness, but of strength.

Sampson: So, I need to come clean to the world about where I am?

Mentor: No. Start with a single person, or a small group of people who are there for the right reasons. Who love you, respect you and want to help. It is often brutally painful to remain in this raw, exposed place long enough for true change to happen. Yet, sometimes…

Naked and silent is the place where your next better self takes root.

And where the thing you most want to grow begins to blossom. Or, in your case, come back to life.

So, I ask you again.

Are you open to receiving? To standing naked and silent?

If so, the real work begins.

If not. I wish you well.


[Note: I’m in Costa Rica for the next few weeks with very spotty internet, so please forgive if it takes a bit of time to approve first time comments. Pura vida!]

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49 responses

49 responses to “Naked and Silent”

  1. Oh, Jonathan, please tell us this is not just a blog post, but actually the first chapter of the book, your book on the true essence of coaching. I want the whole book now! Guess I can wait until you return from Costa Rica…

  2. Terry says:

    Welcome to Costa Rica! Hoping you enjoy your stay.
    This hit home more than a bit, relinquishing “control” has been my biggest stumbling block, and it’s not like I don’t know it, but I get defensive and spend what energy I have to defend myself instead of learning/accepting help!
    Thanks for your insight!
    I have great internet at my house BTW. 😉

  3. Patty Holmes says:

    Over and over again it is proven to me that the right teaching comes exactly at the right time. Now…to act on it. Thank you Jonathan, you are a gift in my life. BTW, I also agree with Mia’s comment about your!

  4. Giselle says:

    Jonathan, this is tremendous. You’ve provided insight and answered a question I’ve long tried to answer about why folks ask for help then behave as if they know everything already AND complain that after your intervention – nothing’s changed.

    Thank you for not offering a thought but unraveling it by going deep – turning the situation inside out so that I can see what’s happening to those I serve but also be able to see myself when I do the same thing!

  5. sharon says:

    Thank you for today’s post. It knocked a couple of bricks off around my heart. Yes, it is true that it is my unwillingness to be vulnerable has been my roadblock to so many things, just taking the next step in life is so difficult. Years ago my tribe abandoned me, more like they shunned me when I took the step to leave. No good luck in your next venture. No we’ll pray for your success. Backs turned. Photos edited (really). I was wiped out of their world in a second.

    Yes I know it won’t be easy to stand naked and silent before another person. Gosh, to do that consciously and decidedly…my brain cells are exploding! I am deciding today that I will dock my boat and come to shore.

  6. Carmen says:

    I think what happens, and what has happened with me too, is you get the great advice and keys to move forward, and that’s when you first realize new obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated. The adv

  7. Micky Wolf says:

    Beautiful, Jonathan. You have such a way of giving voice to the deep things of the heart and soul that we can breathe in and receive, in the midst of realizing the need and value of being ‘naked and silent’. Thank you.

  8. Carmen says:

    …the advice uncovers things you couldn’t see before. Things we must overcome before moving in a certain direction.

  9. Brilliant stuff, Jonathan.

    So many truly great things in the world have come about from moments of ‘nakedness’ and ‘silence’.

    Naked and silent are two states that have so much meaning and impact.

    Keep ryzing 😉

  10. Teri says:

    Thank you for this post Jonathan. Even though I appear passive on the outside, I know I have a difficulty with giving my control away. Your words hit home when you said – ‘what you are being offered is not coming from you’ – wow, that’s it isn’t it, we think we have to do it all ourselves. I will try to overcome, thank you.

  11. Lee says:

    Been working on this in several venues of my life, particularly on a personal level. Thanks for the good words.

    @Sharon, build your own tribe, your own version of family, and fill it with like-minded, like-hearted souls. (If you feel like you need some direction, the Ugly Duckling chapter in Women Who Run With The Wolves can give you something to steer by.)

  12. So utterly true, relevant, and poetically expressed.

    Deeply grateful for your wisdom and vulnerability in sharing it.

  13. gail says:

    Excellent format and deep dive on the importance of being vulnerable.This line sings: “…accepting it would require you to own your own unknowing.” Thanks for this timely post!

  14. Patty Gordon says:

    Naked and silent is so terrifying-and necessary …and I have to admit, it’s taken me over a year to understand this. (Well, a year since I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to work with you, Jonathan). Thank you for continuing to give, despite the ego shield that I am only now learning to lower. Enjoy CR!!

  15. I am so glad, after stripping myself down, in many ways to ‘blind loving silence’ as Rumi puts it, that I still receive your blogs. They are good medicine. Thank you Jonathan. Very much

    with love

  16. Sharon says:

    Wow. This just happened to me. Class presentation for my graphic design degree. Presenting my web site and portfolio. I knew going in, it was not me, but I stubbornly stuck to the design, even after earlier suggestions of a different approach. I gave my presentation and waited feedback.

    I received a lot of good, gentle suggestions and was shocked when the tears began to flow. I stood at the front if the room, tears streaming down my face for 20 minutes. I knew in my heart the design was all wrong and not me and I was trying to pass it off as something I was proud of.

    But strangely, it felt ok to be in front if these people and totally breakdown and accept their help.

    Thanks for a timely post! Enjoy Costa Rica…an amazing place!

  17. Pip D says:

    Just sat here with a friend about how hard it is to take advice and to truly listen. I am learning – slowly but surely. Thank you so much for your words Jonathan.

  18. Donna says:

    I want to gush and gush some more… I could not agree more with Mia and Patty and Micky and their elegance in expressing their gratitude…just lovely…
    I can’t think of a single blog post of yours that has not touched me in some way, resonated more/beyond anything I’ve read before, but, again, you have surprised and amazed me in the depth of your writing, your ability to truly reach so many of us. While this is not my particular issue (my problem is the opposite end of the spectrum!), I am blown away by your generous and gentle, yet direct response. With love and gratitude to you for all you do!

  19. Wow, this feels like it was written for me. I am that person so many times. What you wrote went straight to my heart. I’m going to save this and reread it frequently. I need to keep hearing it: it’s OK to not have all the answers myself. It’s OK to listen and receive instead of always giving, giving, giving. I don’t have to always be impressing and proving that I’m on the same level as others. A part of this comes with the confidence of knowing deep down that we’re all equal. I have noticed that when I have that certainty in my heart, that we all have something of value to contribute, that the right information comes through the right people at the right time, I’m much more likely to open up, let my guard down and receive and listen. It’s hard, but making space in your energy and in your mind and heart to receive what the other person is saying (especially if you’ve asked them for advice) can make a huge difference. Thank you for this! Enjoy la pura vida 🙂

  20. Gina says:

    This is so brilliantly shared, and so true. I wonder about having clients read this at the onset of the coaching relationship. It says everything that needs to be said, as a precursor to what is about to happen to them. And, what you said about standing naked and silent in a room, sharing about where you are truly at in that moment… It is transformative. Several months ago, I was compelled by my soul to bare my truth in a room with 500 other women, each on a similar trajectory as I. It happened organically after someone else’s story shared, shot right through my heart and triggered the melting of my walls. I seized the day. Standing in my truth, so naked, so vulnerable, triggered the biggest transformation of my life. It is terrifying, in the moment, and certainly does not need to be in front of 500 people. As you say one, or a few will do just fine. This is in part, why I am an advocate for group programs, and masterminds, where a safe container for showing up naked and silent is prepared and offered in loving kindness. Thank you for this truth, this perfect story and explanation about what happens. To all of us.

  21. OMG Captain Fields, you’re hitting a spot that feels so tender and relevant to me both personally and professionally. There’s a way I was unable to receive the love and kindness offered by the tribe at first and was unable to see how my lack of confidence was a defense… And professionally I’ve had many clients villainize me vs take responsibility for how they withhold their vulnerability. Thank you.

  22. Mark Henson says:

    Yep. Been an entrepreneur for 14 years & have hit this problem over and over. Sometimes I’m open to it, sometimes I’m not. It’s like being an alcoholic: once a thick-headed entrepreneur, always a thick-headed entrepreneur. It’s a daily battle.

    Dan Sullivan from Strategic Coach calls this the “Ceiling of Complexity” — where you reach a point you can’t advance any more on your own current strength, skill, experience, etc. To break through you HAVE to rely on the ideas, skills, talents of others. It’s the only way.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  23. Brooke Steff says:

    Thank you Jonathan. My desire is to move through challenges and sticky spots with GRACE. I’ve found that embracing vulnerability gets me closer each time entrepreneurial “loneliness” hits. Bless you for the reminder!

  24. “Asking and receiving are two different things”

    And as hard as it is to ask for help, it’s even harder, in my experience, to truly accept it. Let’s just say I’m a work in progress, as we all are.

  25. Linda says:

    JF – Even though it might not seem like it (LOL)…it’s really difficult for me to ask for help. I’m an open vessel, longing for support, ideas, strategies that will move the needle. And, I know when I DO ask, and receive, it feels like love washing over me. Why is it so tough to be vulnerable in the “for purpose” world? I’m still learning, I guess.
    I agree with Mia – if this is the start of your next book…I’m open! 🙂

  26. Renee-Ann says:

    One word sums this up for me… WOW!

    Such great advice. I always thought of myself as vulnerable but, but after reading this post, I see how blind I’ve been.

    Thanks for sharing, Jonathan. Keep them coming.

    Blessings, Renee-Ann <

  27. Wendy says:

    Being naked and present, terrified and hopeful. We are unwilling to be that open to being seen but yearn to be welcomed in. Love your heart, Jonathan.

  28. jan bourdo says:

    Ugh! Wow…Your timing couldnt be better! I really needed to hear this. Thanks for being brave and willing to share!

  29. Jeff Firmin says:

    Just been through this type of experience. Amazing feeling. Being introverted it was against my natural inclination to host a meeting of strangers to discuss how we find and live our passions(Live Your Legend – Scott Dinsmore). But I pushed myself forward, organised and hosted the meeting and opened proceedings by laying myself bare, including losing my business and subsequent bankruptcy. It was scary being so open, especially as it was the first time I had done so, but it was so liberating. As the rest of the group introduced themselves their strories began to flow. When the evening ended everyone said how amazed they were that people had been so open and honest. It was a great lesson for me. Jonathan, this blog highlights those lessons so well. Thank you.

  30. Jonathan, we have never met or spoken to each other. For a moment I thought this was ‘our conversation’.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

    Kind Regards


  31. As always, great stuff Jonathan… thanks! Your work is awesome as is your honestly. “To stand in a place of deep vulnerability, not as a show weakness, but of strength”…. perfect and powerful.

  32. Linda Whidby says:

    Jonathan, Thank you so much for sharing this post! It is very timely for me. On my walk this morning, I experienced this raw feeling you speak of. It feels like I have been whole-body scalped and just being in the air burns my raw flesh. It’s very uncomfortable to sit in the truth of my bullsh%t. But I know it’s the only way to heal, to get healthier. Peace and blessings to you, my friend.

  33. This post accurately describes 80% of all clients I’ve ever worked with.

  34. Rachel Gogos says:

    Maybe in your next post you can talk about how to “take our clothes off,” open our hearts and ears. : )

  35. Pankaj Kumar says:

    Very good article, I also observed the something when people said they are open to receive but when things come to them they stop themselves.

  36. Scott Asai says:

    Almost thought you were going to plug Naked and Afraid for a while…you’re right about the giving and receiving. Most people are comfortable with giving, but it’s the receiving that can be a bit humbling at times. If you can get over that you’ll realize how much joy you give the giver by accepting their gift.

  37. Tony H says:

    Great post Jonathan, this post definitely hits home with a client I have been working with recently. Thanks for sharing!

  38. […] also be a powerful read for those of you looking to lead healthier, fitter, and happier lives. You can click here to see the actual blog post or read below for the copy and pasted […]

  39. THANK YOU for bringing this conversation to the table. Creating or seeing any change truly starts with honesty with ourselves and to allow ourselves to embrace failure in a powerful way. When someone can sit across the table from you in the most real place of ‘I don’t know…’ they are shifting into true creativity and creation – with endless possibilities before them. Thank HECK for mentors that are patient and kind and stay the course to allow that person the time needed to get to a place of vulnerability then reflect back for them their journey to that moment. Powerful.

  40. Wan says:

    To become more vulnerable…such a lofty goal.

    Being vulnerable is not easy in a world that craves perfection, being correct, and conformity. But when we can detach ourself from these kind of superficial cravings, being vulnerable is easy and natural.

  41. “Asking and receiving are two very different things.”
    Perfect, lovely, powerful and timely!

    Thank you for sharing, Jonathan!

  42. Beautiful Jonathan, vulnerability is the key. I have always found it intriguing that allowing myself to be vulnerable feels, at first, as if I am narrowing and restricting myself, it feels UNCOMFORTABLE. But as this feeling shifts, I see the expansion and opening up that the “beingness” of my vulnerability has created. Almost feels like squeezing through a very tight space between two rock faces and then to be suddenly popped out into a view of the most wonderful landscape imaginable. Thanks for the post, love it……

  43. Subhash Nair says:

    Gratitude for voicing it so profoundly Jonathan. You have actually given a definite shape to the issue I was trying to figure out with my Boss, who is now running into bankruptcy due his inability to be “naked and silent”. Like Jessica Robson mentioned- unless we embrace failures powerfully, we cant really begin to change.
    Thank you and Scott Asai- I realize “Giving” is so different from ” Receiving” . I need to be more receptive.
    Looking forward to read you more…

  44. Sarah Cooper says:

    Great post Jonathan, this one really resonated with me. I enjoy reading your posts, please keep writing

  45. […] feeling you just got reading that sentence, yeah that’s what vulnerability feels like. But in this post, Jonathan Fields suggests that is exactly what we need to do if we are going to step into our best […]

  46. I particularly enjoyed this post. I often read without commenting, but this time I decided to jump in. I find that increasingly, and paradoxically, social media and tech tends to force wedges between people. How often haev you received an email that you misread, and then later on, perhaps a day or two later, you speak to the person and understand their point? But you wasted two days feeling angry. I think a lot of people over (say) 20ish have learned to use social, but it is not part of their core being. They didn’t grow up with it, and it can feel odd. My 3yo daughter is already an iPad expert and will, I’m sure, soon be begging for a Facebook account. I hesitate. I think this post by Jonathan is about reconnecting with the basics. More than ever before, tribes (our families and closest friends, and colleagues at work) are more important. The further we travel in the world and in life, the more grounded we need to be. That used to mean you belonged to a village, and it still does, but now that village is physically dispersed. Welcome, new tribal elders! It’s a new world, but the same as it always was.

  47. TLB says:

    Reading the above story, and the comments, made me think back over yesterday and the conversations I had in which I had responded to advice or suggestions with-
    ‘Yes, I know.’
    (I am in the process of thinking about starting a small business and have been asking for advice)
    From this brief reading it has occurred to me that I say ‘Yes, I know’ a lot more than I accept and say ‘Thank you for your advice’.

    Thank you, Jonathan, for the writing.

  48. Bess McCarty says:

    Thanks Jonathon, I see myself here. When we think our value lies in how smart (or together) we are, it’s hard to be coach-able. For me, the need is self-acceptance. ~ A friend gave me another tip-off to why she wasn’t coach-able: she found it hard to trust others’ advice. So the need this time would be discrimination: trusting her own inner guidance to select the right advice from others. ~ Real Conversations gets to the underlying need

  49. […] feeling you just got reading that sentence, yeah that’s what vulnerability feels like. But in this post, Jonathan Fields suggests that is exactly what we need to do if we are going to step into our best […]