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Recently I watched Sarah, an older woman with Parkinson’s, climb onto a stage to read her poetry. “I’ll do my best to read,” she said softly and smiled at the audience. “In spite of the shaking.” Suddenly I realized I was witnessing what it means to be courageously vulnerable.

It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? I mean, how is it possible to be courageous and vulnerable at the same time? But from what I’ve learned in my own creative life, both are essential for anyone who, like Sarah, dares greatly enough to wear their art on their sleeve.

One night during our writer’s group meeting, my friend, Joy, noticed that I was not my normal happy self. At that point I was two years into writing a gut-wrenching memoir, and questioning my decision to put it all down on paper. “Martin, that painful stuff you’re writing about? That’s the good stuff,” she said. “That’s what we want to read.”

If you are starting a business, writing a book, or engaging in any other creative endeavor that you’re passionate about, you understand courage. But if you intend to release your vision into the world, you need to get comfortable with vulnerability. And the best place to begin is with the dictionary.com definition for vulnerable:

“capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt”

It may be only four words, but I believe there’s a world of difference between “capable of” and “susceptible to.” Two are the energy of abundance, and the other two are the energy of fear. And for me, they’re the difference between releasing your vision into the world and allowing it to fade away.

So I have two questions for you:

What are you susceptible to?

What are you capable of?

When the list of answers for your capability is longer than the list for your susceptibility, you’re on the path to sharing your passion and gifts with the world. So while Sarah uses courageous vulnerability to change the world with her poetry, I’m curious how you will use yours to change the world?

I can’t wait to find out.