That Time I Failed with Amanda Palmer

Photo by Burns! on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Photo by Burns! on Flickr (Creative Commons)

About a week ago I saw that Ksenia Anske, a fellow indie writer, landed a special guest spot on one of Amanda Palmer's "The Art of Asking" tour gigs and would be on stage with Amanda in Seattle. I read the news from Ksenia on Facebook and was over the moon for her. What a fantastic opportunity! To be able to get up on stage, sing or dance or read a bit from her work would be such a fantastic opportunity. If you don't know who Amanda Palmer is, stop everything and watch her "The Art of Asking" TED talk. It's brilliant.

After the congratulations and warm, happy fuzzy feelings went out for Ksenia and I congratulated her, I rushed off to work and my brain went like this:

  1. "Hey, Ron, why don't you see if Amanda is coming to Philadelphia?"
  2. Then: "Hey, why don't you reach out to Amanda and ask her if you could be her special guest if she is coming to Philly?"

All of these thoughts swirled around in my head while I was on the train headed to work. I pulled out my iPhone, looked up to see if see was coming to Philadelphia and saw that she was in November. I saved the page and then struggled with point #2. I wanted to reach out to Amanda and ask her if I could be a guest at her Philly show.

Was this crazy? Yes. Why would I want to do that? What made me think that I had any right to reach out to Amanda Palmer and that I could be worthy enough to even be considered? Was I delusional? All of these thoughts zipped through my head faster than I could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I just had this intense private moment. No one on the train knew I was thinking this or debating this inside and I simply held my iPhone in my hand and knew that at that very moment I had the power to reach out to Amanda Palmer and ask. I could do it. I could. And when I realized that I had the power to do that, I then understood that the only thing holding me back was my fear. Pure and simple.

Maybe it was a combination of many things: Working hard writing novels over the last five years, holding a full-time job and doing my best with balancing the work with raising two kids with my wife and maybe it's a bit from Chris Guillebeau's book "The Happiness of Pursuit" in which one of the stories he tells was about a guy who just kept trying things to get rejected--he just kept trying and trying and trying. But all of these thoughts came inside my head and I thought back to the time I had seen Palmer's amazingly wonderful "The Art of Asking" TED talk and just knew that I had to try.

It didn't matter that I would fail. What mattered is that I would gather my thoughts, write the tweet to Amanda and then send it out. The train I was headed on was about to go underground so I had a deadline. I had another few minutes before I would go underground and lose signal so I had the perfect deadline. I struggled with fear, anxiety and worthiness. In my moment of weakness, I pulled together a shred of hope and I thought about Brené Brown's "The Power of Vulnerability" and then it all clicked in my head and I composed the following tweet: @amandapalmer Just saw that you are coming to Philly and that made my day! Afraid to ask but going to brave: Can I be a special guest?

Here's the tweet I sent to Amanda Palmer.

Here's the tweet I sent to Amanda Palmer.

I wrote the tweet, edited it to make it shorter and saw that I had less than a minute before the train went underground. I read it through a couple of times and then hit the "Send Now" button in Hootsuite. The tweet went out and I then had a moment of panic. Anyone who has ever written a book and sent it to an agent, publisher or out to the world has this moment: Your brain starts doing all sorts of creative scenarios in which you wonder: "What if?"

What if Amanda sees the tweet and says, "Yes"? What would I actually do? Before I had hit send, I looked inside and asked myself if I could actually get up on stage and do something cool for the audience. And a beautiful thing happened. I realized that I could do it. I knew exactly what I was going to say, how I was going to say it and rehearsed my talk in my head. I knew that I had one or two sections in my Lost: Cinderella's Secret Diaries book that I would read out to the audience and pull it all together with a smile. I knew that I could take a risk, be vulnerable and ask the audience to come with me on a journey and then I would simply share what was within my heart and within my soul. With my story, I would connect with each member of the audience. I saw the crowd in my mind's eye, heard my voice shaking at parts in which I talked about my childhood and my abusive/alcoholic father and how I had a choice. As a kid growing up, I had a choice. I could repeat the dysfunctional patterns that I grew up with or I could face the demons and choose a different path.

That key moment in which I had a choice in my life is what I would share and that I would read a similar passage in my book in which Cinderella had come to the same crossroads. All of this went around in my head and I got teary eyed on the train. I took a deep breath, smiled and realized that with the power of the internet that I had reached out and asked for help, to be included, to share my stories and to step outside my own head.

Was this whole idea of reaching out to Amanda Palmer crazy? Yes! But that is why I loved it so much. I've since learned that Palmer's new book, "The Art of Asking," has Brené Brown doing the forward so that in itself is such a funny thing to me. I'm not the only person to have put Brown's work with Palmer's.

In order to succeed in life, sometimes it's necessary to take a really difficult risk and face down your fears.

Now you'll want to know what happened: Did I hear back from Amanda Palmer? No, I haven't, but her Ukulele Anthem is still ringing in my head. Would I have been happy if she had agreed to have me talk at her Philadelphia show? Yes. But life is not always about succeeding. Life is full of failures, but if I really listened to myself in what I wrote here I realize that I have built a bridge for where I was two weeks ago and where I am today. I tried and failed, yes., that's true. But I tried. And if I had the courage to try last week, then I will have the courage to try something else today, tomorrow and into the future.

I am building a bridge of courage over time that is constructed from my past failures. Those failures are hard won and knotted together with blood, sweat and tears, but together they are building me a connection toward my future success. If I can try and fail, so can you. We can do it together.

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Ron Vitale is the author of the Cinderella's Secret Diaries series who hopes that his own children will overcome any obstacles in their way and find their own happily ever after.