I just finished “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help,” an autobiography by the performance artist and musician Amanda Palmer. Although she wrote the book to explore her journey learning to “ask for help” and inspire others to do the same, my biggest takeaway was the author’s incredible resiliency. Amanda is an inspiring example of a woman who runs, arms wide open, towards risk.
Her book details her journey from performing on the streets of Boston to her current success as an NYT best-selling author and beloved punk musician (who happens to be married to Neil Gaiman). By embracing her mistakes and the public controversy surrounding her decades-long career, she seems to have become an expert at overcoming a wide variety of setbacks.
What’s her secret?
Bold, unapologetic vulnerability.
Amanda’s life choices are the opposite of “playing it safe.” When she falls down (or falls apart) she tells her fans all about it, and uses the momentum that is generated from such raw honesty to pick herself back up. She demonstrates this technique many times in her book.
You don’t have to be a fan of her music to find things to admire about this woman. Whether dressed as a bride handing out flowers in the rain, or singing about a soul crushing moment in her life, Amanda honors her gift for self-expression and repeatedly shows her vulnerability with fans – and they love her for it.
Amanda lives what I call an un-edited life, all raw and naked (metaphorically and literally: she’s performed naked on stage). For years she’s been easily accessible to her fans and critics alike online and now she peels back even more layers of personal vulnerability in her autobiography. With each communication or “ask,” whether she’s divulging fears, misunderstandings, or mistakes made, she emboldens herself as new connections are made and tethers are reinforced with loyal fans.
As I read this book, I began to see her acts of sharing and starting again as inoculations against future setbacks. Her tenacity is praiseworthy. Luckily, the resiliency she shows throughout her book is not an innate gift. Resiliency is strengthened like a muscle and gets better the more you use it.
We will all make mistakes and get knocked down in this life. When we do, we are given a choice: we can contract or expand. We can react by doubting ourselves, shrinking back, or shutting down. Or we can do like Amanda: “Eat the pain. Send it back into the void as love,” and try again.
(Buy “The Art of Asking” on Amazon here.)