Being More Relatable — Authenticity and vulnerability invite you, yourself, to authentically look at situations from the other person’s point of view. It’s part of the generosity you’re extending in listening to others in such a way as they know that you “get them”, entirely. It opens the door for them to do so return, as well. Though, they shouldn’t be expected to. Generosity involves giving of ourselves without the expectation of anything in return. Think instead along the lines of how to enhance the “relate” in the relationship. We’re all in this together.
Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Sisson.
Ken Sisson is a Realtor® and Associate Broker with Coldwell Banker Realty in Studio City, CA with over two decades of local industry experience. Ken represents all aspects of the residential real estate transaction skillfully, ethically, and professionally and has built an unsurpassed reputation for being laser focused and highly effective in the business.
He is passionate about local Los Angeles real estate and welcomes the opportunity to share his expertise and professional approach with you and looks forward to providing an outstanding, relationship-focused experience that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Sure. I was born and raised in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Raised mostly by my hard-working, devoted and loving single mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. My father moved to Los Angeles when I was about seven years old. As a child, I certainly felt loved. I never wanted to let any of the wonderful women that raised me down or disappoint them. I was a latch-key kid for a bit when I was a young teen. Learned some independence. I was a really quiet kid, too. Pretty shy and introverted throughout most of my childhood and even my teen years. I really had a great upbringing, though. My cousin (actually, first cousin once removed) was Caroll Spinney, one of the greatest and most talented puppeteers of all time. You may know some of his work as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street for nearly 50-years. Always felt that was an incredibly special thing and such an amazing blessing. Somewhere along the line, well after moving to Los Angeles at the age of 27, I learned that really anything is possible when you pour your true self into what you’re out to do in your community. Probably learned that a lot later than I could have!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A coach that I worked with in the past always said to me “it ain’t nothin’ till you call it”. A slight variation of the Bill Klem quote. Meaning things that happen aren’t inherently good or bad. They’re simply things that happen. How we deal with those things, and certainly what we label them or call them for ourselves, makes a ton of difference. I guess it’s like we’ve all got little umpires in our heads! As far as relevance in my life, my gosh, I can’t even begin. Overall, it’s helped me become a far more rational and positive person both for myself and for those around me.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Well, there’s the documentary film I am Big Bird, of course. But I’m partial because that was all about Caroll, and my amazing Godmother, Debra Spinney and it’s got my extended family written all over it.
But I’d have to say, the film The Big Short because back in my days of working on the mortgage side of the residential real estate industry, I lived through that. Going into the financial crisis for I don’t know how long leading up to it, I just had this incredibly ominous feeling and sense about me on a daily basis. Every day I’d wake up to the thoughts that something really bad was going to happen and there’s not a darn thing that I could do about it. Honestly, the whole experience was one of the most frightening and depressing time periods in my life. Brad Pitt’s dialogue exiting the Vegas casino with his cohorts when they are celebrating, and he implores them to stop it is just so real and gets to the heart of the matter. It’s not about the money. It’s about everything, in some cases, and that was so tragic.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean?
Being authentic, for me, is all in the “being” part. We are human beings, after all! How are you being? Be how (and what) you are. Or, I should say, what you’ve purposefully constructed yourself to be as an individual. Be imperfect. Be with integrity. Be honest, genuine, true; true to your nature, your core values, your beliefs, and your principles. Being consistent in word and deed, in other words, you do what you say you’re going to do. Saying is not being. The being part is all in the doing. Generosity in sharing your true thoughts, beliefs and opinions along with even more generosity in listening to others in such a way as they know that you “get them”, entirely, and you’re interested in what they have to say. There really doesn’t need to be much in the way of over thinking authenticity. Over thinking is a clue, perhaps, that authenticity is lacking. There’s definitely an actual being in the moment type of thing going on when it comes to authenticity.
What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain?
Being vulnerable is being unguarded, open, and unconcerned with the possibility of rejection or failure. When you think about it, vulnerability is a stunning exhibition of courage and trust and is far more attractive of a virtue or trait than being closed, guarded or fearful. As human beings, we all have weaknesses. They are inherently part of who we are. We all have places where we can get hurt. In other words, whether you’re being vulnerable or not (in the sense we’re discussing today), you are vulnerable. It’s actually quite silly, right? Look, there’s danger at every corner. Get over it! Yet it’s not easy to put aside our fears and open ourselves up. Vulnerability is acknowledging that and being courageous enough to do it anyway.
Language is a funny thing. Vulnerable is an antonym of invincible. Yet the courage that’s required to exhibit vulnerability might make one seem fairly invincible and is really quite attractive. It’s like it’s the type of confidence that can’t be misconstrued as arrogance. Again, understanding language is equally as important as understanding self. It’s how we effectively communicate with each other.
What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
Too many to cover in the finite amount of time we’ve got for this interview! Could be endless. I think the positive aspects are certainly all in the category of stronger, perhaps healthier, and better relationships with people. I think it actually gives you your true relationships (like as a gift) when you fight through fears and concerns and internal self-preservation, or whatever it is, and you really start being authentic and vulnerable with people. It’s certainly a deeper connection. Relationships maybe even at a level you might not have even thought you could have.
My father and I used to have mostly superficial conversations when I would see him and even when I moved in with him, when I first moved to Los Angeles. I remember the most authentic and vulnerable conversation I ever had with him, though. We talked about how young he and my Mom were when I was born and that I, now understood things that for most of my life I hadn’t. I explained to him that I really got that he was a 21-year-old kid, basically, and that he did the best he could with some very difficult decisions and that I knew he loved me all along. Then I just listened. Really listened. The type of conversation we had that day, for the very first time, had me understand and know him more, which was a huge part of what I initially moved to Los Angeles hoping to have happen. From that point on, our relationship improved far beyond what I had initially thought would ever be possible.
Are there negative aspects to authenticity and vulnerability? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
Not really. I mean other than the internal head-game around all of that. I could share countless stories about the internal head game but that’s probably not going to go anywhere good! See, we’re going to perceive positive or negative or a win or a loss or whatever other label we consciously or subconsciously make the call to label something. “It ain’t nothin’ till you call it.” In this case, the something that we’re labeling being our experience of someone’s reaction to our authenticity or vulnerability. Fact is, you’re never going to please everybody or get 100% of people to like you.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable?
Self-preservation and fear of rejection and not being accepted. Concern for feeling like your true self will be made out to be a fool. Nobody wants to get hurt. It’s like fight or flight really. Thing is, though, anyone that would humiliate, hurt or not accept you for your vulnerability and authenticity was probably already out to do so no matter what version of yourself you brought to the party!
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?
- Being Available for More Opportunities — There’s a distinction here between being in your own head versus something I’d call “intheworldness”. Spending more time authentically and vulnerably self-exposed and fully self-expressed out in the world with people, and less time closed-off in your safe-zone or in your head. Equally, there’s a difference that actually makes a difference when it comes to the quality of our conversations and interactions. How are we showing up to them? Authentic and vulnerable or superficial and closed-off, phoning it in? How we show up is a choice, of course, and affords more opportunity for connection (and hopefully more meaningful connection) with others. I know, for me, that the opportunity only starts with my willingness to be fully available, in the first place, and put myself out there in both an authentic and vulnerable way. I surely also know that I can easily kill that all off by putting aside my willingness to participate in this and, instead, stay where it’s “safe”. That would be letting myself off the hook easy. I’m not going to get, or be, known for who I am or what I do if I subscribe to the latter.
- Being More Relatable — Authenticity and vulnerability invite you, yourself, to authentically look at situations from the other person’s point of view. It’s part of the generosity you’re extending in listening to others in such a way as they know that you “get them”, entirely. It opens the door for them to do so return, as well. Though, they shouldn’t be expected to. Generosity involves giving of ourselves without the expectation of anything in return. Think instead along the lines of how to enhance the “relate” in the relationship. We’re all in this together.
- Being More Likable — While it’s impossible to get everyone to like you, people generally like “real” or genuine people. People love to talk, and especially love to be listened to and heard and to feel like they are interesting. When a person feels that you might find them interesting or that you show a true interest in what they are saying, there’s a greater chance that they’re going to like you. There’s a popular saying in business and that’s people do business with people they know, like and trust. In my line of work, this saying holds true 100%.
- Being Perceived as “count-on-able” — We covered “intheworldness” so let’s tackle “count-on-able”. As we bring more true authenticity and vulnerability to our daily interactions, it becomes established that we’re real (not superficial). We can be counted on and trusted. Though I say trusted, it’s really about the accountability that leads to trust. How important is trust in our relationships? We have limited control regarding another person’s actual trust in us. We know we can be held to account, though. We’re not about gossip and we get to the heart of the matter. We know what we’re talking about, and when we don’t, we’re willing to raise our hand and say so (regardless of any perceived danger in doing so).
- Expanding Community — Rolling all around with authenticity and vulnerability, it becomes increasingly possible to align more closely with other individuals. As many of them as we want. To get where others are coming from and allow ourselves to be gotten, so to speak. Building community is a win, all around. You need to accept the danger and take the risk, though. Purpose is enrolling. You have to be willing to share that purpose and share it unabashedly. Two can accomplish more than one and five, exponentially more than two. Expanding your community and getting people on-board is a big win for anything you’re up to and out to accomplish personally or professionally.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Wow! Great question. While an inspired movement to end homelessness or poverty would be an incredible undertaking and a noble cause, I have to say that, sadly, it would likely not go very far because we have a huge problem with acceptance. You kind of have to accept something before you can affect it. I shouldn’t even say “kind of”; You totally must accept something before you can affect it.
So, let’s inspire the Acceptance Movement! Let’s accept that none of us is perfect and start dealing with things the way they actually are. We can sit around and say this shouldn’t be this way and this should be that way and that should be this way. We can all “should” all over the place and it’s not going to make one bit of difference, right? At the heart of the matter, though, is we (all together) must accept what is and how it is, no matter what, and start to work from reality.
Maybe you’re a Republican and your neighbor’s a Democrat. Guess what? That’s what is. Stop cutting each other off at the knees right there. Stop trying to change other people or things or situations. Choose all of the above how they are and deal with what there is to deal with from that space. This is the kind of movement I think we need. People’s behavior, at times, on social media is like they’re driving in their car, and someone just cut them off. Throwing a fit and cursing them and their family because there’s a piece of glass in the form of a driver side window or iPhone/Android/whatever screen between you. They swerved. They posted something. You’re triggered. Accept it. Not everything is an attack.
I promise, I didn’t intend this to be a rant. I just think if we start dealing with the other major problems affecting our society from a place of acceptance and reality, we can effect some real changes in some significant ways and that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
In my line of work and living in Los Angeles, I’ve spent time with so many extraordinary people. As far as lunch is concerned, though, I’d have to say either Frank Oz (though, I may have to bring my daughter, Poppy, along) or Dave Grohl.
Two very talented and extraordinary people and I think both of them have made an incredibly positive difference in the world with their work. I’d love to have lunch with Frank because of the connection with Caroll, of course. Can we make it Frank Oz and Dave Grohl? That would be amazing!
How can our readers follow you online?
You can visit my website at https://kensisson.com/ or follow me on most social media by searching the handle @LAHomebuying
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.