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The Art of Asking: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help


Author: Amanda Palmer

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Publish Date: November 11, 2014

ISBN-10: 1455533777

Pages: 352

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

by Brené Brown

A decade or so ago in Boston, Amanda performed on the street as a human statue—a white-faced, eight-foot-tall bride statue to be exact. From a distance, you could have watched a passerby stop to put money in the hat in front of her crate and then smile as Amanda looked that person lovingly in the eye and handed over a flower from her bouquet. I would’ve been harder to spot. I would have been the person finding the widest path possible to avoid the human statue. It’s not that I don’t throw my share of dollars into the busking hats—I do. It’s just that I like to stay at a safe distance, then, as inconspicuously as possible, put my money in and make a beeline for anonymity. I would have gone to great lengths to avoid making eye contact with a statue. I didn’t want a flower; I wanted to be unnoticed.

From a distance, Amanda Palmer and I have nothing in common. While she’s crowdsurfing in Berlin wearing nothing but her red ukulele and combat boots, or plotting to overthrow the music industry, I’m likely driving a carpool, collecting data, or, if it’s Sunday, maybe even sitting in church.

But this book is not about seeing people from safe distances—that seductive place where most of us live, hide, and run to for what we think is emotional safety. The Art of Asking is a book about cultivating trust and getting as close as possible to love, vulnerability, and connection. Uncomfortably close. Dangerously close. Beautifully close. And uncomfortably close is exactly where we need to be if we want to transform this culture of scarcity and fundamental distrust.

Distance is a liar. It distorts the way we see ourselves and the way we understand each other. Very few writers can awaken us to that reality like Amanda. Her life and her career have been a study in intimacy and connection. Her lab is her love affair with her art, her community, and the people with whom she shares her life.

I spent most of my life trying to create a safe distance between me and anything that felt uncertain and anyone who could possibly hurt me. But like Amanda, I have learned that the best way to find light in the darkness is not by pushing people away but by falling straight into them.

As it turns out, Amanda and I aren’t different at all. Not when you look close up—which is ultimately the only looking that matters when it comes to connection.

Family, research, church—these are the places I show up to with wild abandon and feel connected in my life. These are the places I turn to in order to crowdsource what I need: love, connection, and faith. And now, because of Amanda, when I’m weary or scared or need something from my communities, I ask. I’m not great at it, but I do it. And you know what I love more than anything about Amanda? Her honesty. She’s not always great at asking either. She struggles like the rest of us. And it’s in her stories of struggling to show up and be vulnerable that I most clearly see myself, my fight, and our shared humanity.

This book is a gift being offered to us by an uninhibited artist, a courageous innovator, a hardscrabble shitstarter—a woman who has the finely tuned and hard-fought ability to see into the parts of our humanity that need to be seen the most. Take the flower.

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