This week’s book of the week is The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Amanda, a rock musician who’s TED talk went viral, uses those experiences of being a rock musician and a street performer describing the lessons she learned from asking. Her Kickstarter went on to raise 1.2 million dollars for her project. Today we’ll talk about four important lessons she learned.
Everyone Struggles with Asking
“If I learned anything from the surprising resonance of my TED talk, it was this: Everybody struggles with asking. From what I’ve seen it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyses us – it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.”¹
First, each and every one of us struggle with asking. Some people are just more practiced than others. We may be afraid of other’s perceptions of us. I know when I’ve sold CD’s in the past to Borders Books and Music it was scary at first. But I also know that sounding confident, or being confident even when it’s scary creates a much easier path to getting a yes. When you don’t have confidence, people tend not to trust you. And the only way you can gain compliance in what you ask is by people believing they can trust you.
Successful People Ask
“American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common:they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.”¹
Successful sales people ask for the sale. Business owners ask for the loan. Leaders move people to follow. Professional athletes ask for the big salaries. Politicians ask for your vote. And it’s just like anything the more you learn to ask the better you get at it.
The Possibility of “No”
“And be sure: when you ask, there’s always the possibility of a no on the other side of the request. If we don’t allow for that no, we’re not actually asking, we’re either begging or demanding. But it is the fear of the no that keeps so many of our mouths sewn tightly shut.”¹
No isn’t just a possibility, I can guarantee it. And some people will even be rude about it, even downright hateful. They’ll assign meaning to your asking, all because of their own issues and perceptions. And just because they have those perceptions don’t make them a reality. You have to learn to let it go and move on. The beautiful part of asking and getting a “no” is that your’e one step closer to getting a “yes”. When you’re not worried about the “no”, asking can be extremly fun. You can get wild and crazy with it!
When I was living in Ohio and getting ready to record my album, I gave a lot of thought about who I would like on the album. I said to myself, “If I could have anyone on this album who would it be?” The first was Kim Richey. Heartbreakly she didn’t show. I really don’t know what happened, if she got lost or changed her mind, I may never know. But what I do know is that that same day, I also asked Matt Rollings to play piano on my album Real Action with Words. He did show up. Matt had played on some of my heros albums including my all time favorite album, Stones in the Road by Mary Chapin Carpenter.
We Think We Don’t Deserve It
“Often it is our own sense that we are undeserving of help that has immobilized us. Whether it’s in the arts, at work, or in our relationships, we often resist asking not only because we are afraid of rejection but also because we don’t even think we deserve what we’re asking for.”¹
This one easily creeps in. And with good ole’ social media able to feed into this doubt it’s even more challenging to ward off. The truth is it’s about exchange. And if there is an exchange happening, people enjoying what you do, a connection, those are the things we have to remind ourselves. Any type of service industry or the arts, it’s easy to let that creep in. I think the more we focus on giving and in exchange not being afraid to ask we can squash this doubt.
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Vigilant Poster Girl
Every week I talk about a book that we’re reading on leadership and self-development. You can follow along by going to the Book of the Week page at the top. And order a book (either kindle, audible, or paperback) by clicking on the photo of that book. When you do that, it also helps fund this site.
- “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer