When was the last time you asked for something you really wanted or even needed to support your dreams?
Amanda Palmer ran one of the most successful crowd funding campaigns ever to raise money to support her music. The record company was not satisfied with her results with only 25,000 units sold, so to keep pursuing her art she took matters into her own hands. She set out to raise $100,000. She raised $1.1 Million.
When people asked her how she got them to give her money she replied:
“I didn’t make them. I asked them. Through the very act of asking people you connect with them. And when you connect with people they want to help you.”
In her TED Talk titled The Art of Asking, Amanda shares her story and challenges us to think about why we don’t ask for what we want. She also makes the case for why we should anyway. Below is my attempt to distill some of her wisdom, but I encourage you to watch this insightful and enjoyable 13 minute talk.
Why Don’t We Ask?
We Might be Misunderstood
Needy and greedy are unfortunately common, and often ungrounded, judgments cast when people ask others for help or support. In her days of “freelancing” as a human statue on city streets, Amanda shares the story of people yelling at her to “get a job” from their cars as they rode by, thinking it was appalling that people were paying her in exchange for nothing,
What one could not see from afar, she explains, is the value exchanged during moments of uncommon intimacy on a busy city street. There was no price listed, or even a price expected, for the experience. There were simply two people sharing a moment in which only they could understand the true exchange of value. It was personal. Both parties were free to choose.
Asking Makes Us Vulnerable
What if they say no? We may intellectually understand that “no” inherently does not mean anything about us, except it can be hard for many, if not most of us, to not experience at least some level of being unappreciated, not valued, rejected, etc,, at least without a lot of training! I’d venture to say we have all at one time or another made someone’s “no” to us mean something derogatory about us.
The vulnerability and fear of being misunderstood and poorly judged may cause us to stay locked in a mindset that can be described as “I can and should do this myself” to keep us safe. Yet we must consider the opportunity cost of choosing safety over taking bold step toward the future we want by simply asking for what we need.
What Does It Really Mean When You Ask?
Amanda’s response is both insightful and informative: “I trust you this much. Should I? Show Me.” It speaks to what can be intense vulnerability when we are asking for help or support in something that truly matters to us.
She goes on to say that “For most of human history musicians and artists have been part of the community, connectors and openers, not untouchable stars. Celebrity is about a lot of people loving people from a distance. The Internet, and the content we are freely able to share on it, is taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough.”
Why Ask Anyway?
Modern life may have given rise to individualism in many cultures, but nothing magnificent is ever created by just one individual. Despite our attempts to be separate we remain inextricable connected. I wonder how many countless dreams, magnificent art and possibilities that could enrich our lives are wasted because of fear to be bold enough to ask for what could give it life.