"You can fix almost anything by authentically communicating."
It’s been a few days since I finished The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, and I feel as though I have only begun to experience the immense impact this book will have on my life. Palmer is an artist at her core and in creating art, she has created an incredible community. It is a community who supports her art in so many ways, and they support it because she asks.
The Art of Asking is a seminal life lesson about how it is okay to ask for what you need. Help. Support. Love. A pen. It is all okay to ask for. Palmer teaches this important lesson through numerous stories of her own life experience, including times when she struggled to accept help. Her openness and vulnerability is a humbling reminder that we are all human and that our imperfection is what makes us beautiful.
Asking is About Human Connection
"Asking is, at its core, a collaboration."
For some years Palmer worked as a living statue known as The Eight Foot Bride. She asked people to support her performance art and in return she would give them a flower – a gesture of thanks and a moment of connection. As Palmer demonstrates, it is that connection that lends itself to community building and collaboration. For example, when her bands have toured she always makes it a point to be available to her audience for signings after shows and talks to them from the stage during shows. This connection makes asking easier. The stakes are lower because we trust that the people we are asking will respond compassionately. Asking is an act of exchange, reciprocity, comfort, love and vulnerability. When we truly ask, we experience human connection.
Community is Everything
"It was a massive leap of faith for these people to believe that ‘just connecting with people,’ in an authentic, non-promotional, non-monetary was, is so valuable."
One of the cornerstones of Palmer’s success is her community. Across all of her projects (The Eight-Foot Bride, The Dresden Dolls, and so on), a community has been there to support her. Palmer has cultivated this community in the simplest ways – connecting and communicating. She’s used her blog, social media and signings after shows to talk to fans. Asking people for something is also a way that she builds that community. “Back when I only had a few thousand followers, I could ask anything, or ask for anything, in 140 characters at a time. The responses poured in. I answered. I thanked people loudly and publicly. Waving my gratitude like a flag is part of what keeps the gift in motion.”
The principles at work in Palmer’s community and her asking are gratitude, reciprocity, trust, and relationships. Her ability to ask for anything would not be as successful otherwise. In the broader applicability of these principles, everyone and every business can and should build a community. I think part of the trick is to do it more authentically.
Minimal DIY versus Maximal DIY
"Limitations can expand, rather than shrink, the creative flow."
Over my years of reading, I’ve read a lot of books on creativity that suggest that limitations can be good for creativity. With fewer options, we tend to get more creative. Palmer has a different way of thinking about these limitations as they relate to asking, which I really appreciated. The first is Minimal DIY, which is “the kind of DIY where you literally try to do it yourself. The emphasis is on total self-reliance and individualism”. The second is Maximal DIY, which is about asking for help and expanding your opportunities. “The emphasis is on collectivism; you throw the problem out to one of your circles to see what solutions will arise”.
The point that Palmer is making with this explanation of DIY is that you don’t always have to do it yourself. You can ask for help along the way, and sometimes if you are trying to do everything yourself having help can get you a better outcome. Palmer goes on to point out that Maximal DIY relies on trust and ingenuity.
The Art of Asking is a fascinating read. I appreciated the multi-faceted look at community, gratitude and help. Palmer is doing her part to make it okay for all of us to ask for anything.