Learning from TED: March 2, 2013

Finally back to watching some TED talks.  When I logged on this morning, I discovered that today’s talk was Amanda Palmer: the art of asking. I recognized her name because of my husband’s interest in Neil Gaiman.  Palmer and Gaiman are married, in case you didn’t know.

The talk is about her life as a performer.  But more than that it is about being willing to be vulnerable, being willing to ask. She talked about her experience staying on the couch of Honduran immigrants in Miami and asking herself if it was fair to burden these obviously poor people with her presence.  She decided that, yes, it was fair; the family wanted to show their appreciation for her and her music in the only way they really could: sleeping on couches while she and her band slept in the beds.

That story brought tears to my eyes, and it reminded me of the countless times I have been in houses in Latin America with dirt floors and little else.  We would sit on the only chairs while the mother sent her children to the store to buy sodas for us to drink. In the beginning it seemed unfair to me, but I came to see the joy (and sometimes the prestige) it brought to the people.  I stopped worrying and started to appreciate the gift they were offering us.

Palmer’s talk was interesting to me as a writer.  I like the idea of asking people to pay what they feel a product is worth. I buy books that way.  When we finish our novel, my son and I may sell our book that way.  I think crowdsourcing is a great idea, but I doubt I would ever try to raise money that way.  It is, however,a wonderful way to allow real people to pursue their dreams, to come up with the next great invention or to create the next perfect work of art.

While the talk was interesting, I found the comments on the site fascinating.  I seldom read the comments on TED, but these were definitely worth the time.

So what did I learn?  I think I learned — or relearned — the power of vulnerability.  It is scary to put yourself out there as a performer or as a writer or even as a person.  But when we open ourselves up to others, everyone benefits.  Amanda Palmer gets pianos to practice on.  Someone else gets more money for her book than she ever would have dreamed possible.  And I… I get the knowledge that I opened myself up to people.  That is something I have lost over the last couple years.  I have become more closed, more guarded.  And I don’t like it.  Time for a change!

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