2015-05-20-15.57.31“Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we’ve made.

When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power and made ourselves naked
in front of the person we’ve given
the gift of our art to.

We have no excuses, no manual to point to,
no standard operating procedure to protect us.
And that is part of our gift.”

–Seth Godin

 

There is no quotation on vulnerability that’s touching me more than this one. It’s so spot on and written by someone who has gone through this experience, over and over again. It’s the essence of many different situations, such as publishing a blog post, an article or even a book, delivering a presentation at a conference, or leading a workshop or a seminar.

Prior to those situations, you have spent lots of time to create your art. Here, I use the term “art” as equivalent to “work” as outcomes along a creative journey. You focused on making your work as best as possible until what you have created is ready to be shared. And then suddenly, you are “on stage” with your art. It’s the same feeling whether you click the “Publish” button on your blog, or you walk onstage to deliver a presentation or you enter the seminar room to meet your attendees.

For me, those situations are so vulnerable because it’s my art, my work that I’m going to share. My work, my insights, and my creativity are based on me as a unique character. I’m completely “in” my art or anything else I do, or I’m out. I’m inseparable from the person creating, delivering or presenting my art. I don’t know how that feels for you, but this is my truth. Think about a writer’s specific content and style, a filmmaker’s preferences and techniques or a photographer’s specific lens how to look at the world. What they create, reflects their individual journey, their experiences, their suffering and their viewpoints until they create and deliver this specific piece of art.

Vulnerability is a powerful energy, a strong emotion and always an individual experience. Your perception of your vulnerability will be different from my experience even if we use the same term. There is no right or wrong. It’s simply unique and, therefore – different. My perception of my vulnerability is my reflection of my perceived reality. And so it is for you, your perception, and your experience. Different.

I have written about vulnerability from a very personal perspective. More about that, click here. It sounds counterintuitive, but my perceived strength, power, courage, and creativity come from my very vulnerable soul. This part of my soul can make me highly emotional and vulnerable in private and professional situations where other people, even friends who know me pretty well, would never expect me to react like this. However, I’m more than aware of this, and I will always have the challenge to connect the dots between these different character traits in me.

I have also written about the difference between perfectionism and excellence, how I experience these terms and what I learned along my way. Walking away from too much perfectionism (a limiting element at this time), allowed myself to open up, and to embrace my vulnerability. Here are a few principles for the vulnerable souls out there that I learned during my professional career and my spiritual journey. 

You control what you share, when you share and with whom.

Often overlooked, but so important. It’s you who decides when your art is ready to be shared. Processing a few iterations before sharing your art with “everybody” helps to sharpen your art and to make it as excellent as it can be at this point in your life.

It’s important to understand that “as excellent as it can be” simply means to do your best. But doing your best is going to change, it depends on your current stage of your life journey. If I read my articles from two or three years ago, I clearly see the progress I made along my journey. Writing about the same topics today would be different. Of course, I made progress along my way, and I learned many new things.

Getting real feedback from people who respect your work and art, and who understand your thinking, helps you to sharpen your art, your messages, and your outcome. You don’t want any “great”, “nice work”, “excellent” or other polite, but meaningless statements. In this situation, you want to get true feedback. Even if it’s hard. I learned along my way that this is an essential step to make my work stronger and better. The ideal counterpart here is probably not a person you are in love with, it’s better a friend, a peer, or a colleague you respect and trust. Most important, don’t waste your time and energy with feedback from amateurs who have no idea what you are talking about. Then, whatever this feedback is, be grateful for the gift and take it seriously. The person who provides you such an honest feedback, opened up the same way and made herself vulnerable. Then, with this feedback in mind, rethink your whole approach. If your approach were already strong, it would remain, but it will be sharper here and there. If you missed relevant elements, they would be discovered, and you can integrate them.

If it’s not about writing, concepts etc., but about delivering presentations, keynotes, seminars, etc., practice, practice, and practice. For the content part, chose the same iteration as mentioned above. Then practice on your own, practice with your smart phone and practice with others. Especially for keynotes, counterparts who are not experts in your area, but good thinkers, are a great proof point. If you can explain it simply enough that they understand, you are very well prepared. Then, it’s time to be “on stage”.

You cannot control other people’s reaction. That’s their perception of their reality; it’s not yours.

This principle was essential for me to live and to embrace my vulnerability while having a professional role with lots of exposure in writing, publishing and public speaking.

It goes back to the second of The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. It says, “Don’t take anything personally.” Because: “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

It has taken me years and many iterations and experiences to understand the true meaning of it. Understanding is one thing. Having an ambition is another thing. And living and embracing it is another animal altogether. So, I got it, and I have my ambition how to live this, but let’s face it: I’m not living up to my ambitions every day in my life. But I get better every day and every time I have to deal with this challenge.

What does that mean for our “Publish” button scenario? As soon as you have clicked this button, the whole world can read and see what you have created. You have done your best to get there; it’s as excellent as it can be at this point. And that’s all that matters for now. The first thing to do is to thank yourself for what you have created. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. And be aware that you will never be able to please everyone (if so, it would simply mean that you didn’t take any position). So, the natural consequence is that there will be people who disagree with you. And there will be people who love what you have done, who will share what you have created. And others, ok, they will simply ignore what you have created. If so, it simply wasn’t for them.

And then, have a look at feedback and critique when it’s a good time for you and you can fully embrace the second of The Four Agreements. Whatever anybody has to say about your art, is based on their perception of their reality. Knowing this makes it a lot easier to deal with critique and negative feedback. I’m not saying push it away. Not at all. Feedback from people who have done this, who have gone through similar challenges, can point you to important elements and perspectives that are maybe not part of your thinking and working right now. Embracing this kind of feedback and perceiving it as a gift can only make your art stronger.

These two principles are about inhaling and embracing your vulnerability. Processed this way, you can use your vulnerability as an early warning system that provides you guidance along your way, that makes your work, your art, even better. But don’t waste time and energy in feedback from people who have no idea what you are talking about, or who have nothing to say in your area of expertise. Dealing with this kind of feedback will only water down your art and make it weak. So don’t do it. But embrace strong and critical feedback  from people who understand your thinking and your creativity, from people you respect and trust.

How do you deal with your vulnerability?
How do you make your vulnerability a driving force four your personal growth?