The Art of Asking

The beauty of the Internet is that it can open doors to content that in years past would have been inaccessible and perhaps permanently unavailable to large segments of the world’s population. The TED conference is one of the many doors that has been opened to the world at large. What began as an exclusive conference for thought leaders in many fields of study has grown in to a multi-faceted organization with numerous events that attract everyone from industry moguls to tech hobbyists and expert scientists to cabaret musicians Thanks to the TED Talks videos being made available online, we can share in the profound insights and genius of an engaged culture of humanity that continues to think inside and outside the box in a forum where we share because we want to make a difference in the world.

I happened upon a TED Talk, “The Art of Asking”, by Amanda Palmer of Dresden Dolls fame. In her talk, she is really addressing the issue of payment models used in the music industry, but for the majority of it, she discusses human nature and the longing for connection. Amanda says,

Through the very act of asking people, I connected with them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you. It’s kind of counter-intuitive for a lot of artists — they don’t want to ask for things. It’s not easy to ask. … Asking makes you vulnerable.

But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly — but more importantly, to ask without shame.

I think that Palmer’s talk is empowering for current and aspiring artists in any medium. As a creator, you must be willing to ask — for money, for help, for fans, for feedback, for connection. Artists are already putting themselves on display for the world to see and interpret which can be risky and frightening, so you would think that asking would be easy, but when you are already vulnerable, that simple act can be a daunting challenge.

I believe that as more artists take back control of their creations, connections will grow and asking will become easier. It will never be easy, but it should not be so difficult. We are all human, and we are all in this experience together. Through online tools like Kickstarter, and artists like Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer, and content creators like Ze Frank, we are seeing the beginning of a new culture of connection — a culture of asking. A culture where we really see each other, and as Amanda said,

When we really see each other, we want to help each other.