In the past, I’ve enjoyed Amanda Palmer’s music. She was a street artist first, a musician second, and an author third.
In February 2013, she gave a TED Talk entitled, The Art of Asking. The speech/video was an instant success that is still making the internet rounds today.
In my mind, I figured that if a 13 minute speech could be that popular, then perhaps the book that came after would hold some additional knowledge and inspiration. Unfortunately, her important message in the book can be summed up in a short essay. The rest of the book seemed to be the life and times of the “amazing, loving, talented and selfless (but not really)” Amanda Palmer.
Palmer does emphasis throughout her book the importance of asking for help in any number of ways and situations. Asking for help in one’s personal life, at work, at school, etc, should not be viewed as a sign of weakness, but rather it should be viewed as a sign of strength. As people find the strength to ask for help, they can find their self esteem; better their situation; and perhaps better situations for others.
She also makes the strong point that it is important to make connections, and you never know where that might happen. A complete stranger that you begin small talk with can later have a great impact on your life.
As an artist, creator, or business person, it is ever so important to find your audience and continue to learn from them and learn about them. If you do not know your audience, you will not be able to connect with them.
In all things, you must also know your worth. This will give you the confidence at times to ask for help, advice, or tangible things.
The one quote that really stood out for me was:
“Asking is, at it’s core, a collaboration.” (page 47)
Unfortunately, the rest of this book was a complete disappointment. Palmer proceeds to tell the story of HER. Although she preaches the art of asking, and discusses the importance of kindness and others, there seems to be an underlying theme throughout the whole book, and that is the promotion of herself.
I can see where her most devoted fans would argue this to the bitter end. At face value, it seems that Palmer is a very sweet person, but she also has narcissistic tendencies, a lack of focus (the narrative bounces all over the place), and a skewed view of society as a whole.
While it would be lovely if everyone would give to each other – gifts, needs, kindness, love – it’s not something that one should ever expect all other humans to understand or believe. Palmer expresses her sadness anytime a complete stranger is not willing to play along with her carefree artistic and sometimes impromptu escapades, nor should she expect random strangers to stop and help her exactly the way she asks. She also makes note that she lives every moment of her life very publicly via her blog and Twitter. She prides herself on sharing and trying to connect others through her voice. However, upon any criticism or backlash, she seems to become hurt and loses a bit of faith in humanity.
The world simply does not work the way Amanda Palmer would like it to work, and it never will. She may know HER audience, and they may trust her with their lives, but she fails to look outside that realm and comprehend that there are other audiences — a whole world of people — out there. No one will ever be able to cater to all audiences, not even Amanda Palmer; but everyone can at least listen, respect, and try to be considerate of others. That, I believe, is a reasonable goal.