I'll never forget the first moment I stepped foot on our island. We hadn't actually bought it yet, but the seller had agreed to let us camp on it the night before to "test it out". As soon as we saw the island from the boat I knew it was a done deal.
But the specific feeling I had when I stepped on shore was, "Why isn't anyone trying to stop me from doing this?"
It wasn't that I thought it was a bad idea to buy the island and that somebody ought to stop me, or that it was controversial enough that someone would want to oppose the purchase. It was a lingering echo from my days as a student where someone was always there to stop you if you were going to do something unusual.
I've done a lot of things that fall into this bucket. If you read my blog you're probably familiar with some of the bigger ones, like putting a swimming pool in my living room, getting into pickup, selling everything and traveling, living in an RV, buying various properties, and buying a Bentley as my daily driver.
Across all of those data points, as well as many others that I haven't written about, I've been surprised at how little friction has come up. No one ever tries to stop me. It's actually usually the opposite, where people usually enjoy the fact that I do these weird things, even if they don't want to do them themselves.
In some ways school and society does prepare us for real life, but in other ways it actually sabotages us. One of the most common roadblocks I see people come across is a hesitation to do the things they really want to do, only because they feel like they need permission to do them.
A very common email I get is someone telling me about a perfectly reasonable thing they want to do, asking me if I think it's a good idea. A lot of time they'll do it just because I say yes, not because I'm so smart, but just because they've gotten that token permission their brain needs to move forward.
It's an interesting thought experiment to think about what you'd do if everyone thought that everything you do is a good idea. You can skip over things like bank robberies, but you'll probably find that a tier or two down in insanity are some very reasonable things that only seem unreasonable because no one else does them.
Time and time again I've found that I get way more bang for my buck, time, attention, or effort doing unusual things, because they're undervalued due to the "you can't do this" factor.
Take a few minutes and think about what a lack of permission is holding you back from doing. What seems too crazy to do, but always seems like a good idea when you weigh the pros and cons? If you want a challenge, pick one and do it in the next week or two. Pay attention to the experience, especially the reaction you get once you do it.
Photo is from the plane, landing at SFO
Love this :) Thanks for the reminder that we don't actually need a permission to live a good life that's not according to the vision society has for it.
Congratulations on your island! I've kidded about buying one especially during the last election.
I should post on my blog and social media more often. I'm held back by not wanting to spam people, but I'm giving it another go! I know it will attract more readers and will build my platform. I'll have books to sell someday!
I run a Facebook inbox for a big page. 90% of the messages we get are folks seeking validation for things they've already done or want to do. I can confirm our society, and perhaps genes, deleteriously condition many of us to seek out validation or permission before doing something we know is OK and we want to do. This is a huge problem.
One of the great sacrifices of subjecting kids to school is that it trains them to ask for permission for everything, from turning in work late, to changing to a different class, to more mundane things like going to the bathroom. It's a tradeoff, of course: condition kids to seek permission for everything, and by doing so enable a system to exist where they receive an education.
Maybe that's a worthwhile tradeoff, and maybe it's not. But the real harm in it, in my opinion anyway, is that when we leave school, we're still in the habit of asking permission for everything. That's dangerous.
A manifestation of this that I come across with frequently is the questions that people send me by email. Here's a paraphrased template, which covers a good 60%+ of the emails I get from strangers:
This is probably obvious for most of you, but it wasn't for me. Maybe there's some other poor, like-minded person like me out there who hasn't figured it out yet.
Some people are very good at seeing 'the big picture'. Not me. I've always been a very detail oriented person. Every concept I process and every idea I visualize is almost automatically, unthinkingly organized in my brain. One idea suddenly becomes a bulletined list of each individual variable, the traits of each variable and the pros and cons of each variable trait. I think it's for this reason that I have a very controlling aspect to my personality.
To me, self control always meant forcefully suppressing negative or irrational emotions and willing positive ones to the surface. It's always been all about what I should/shouldn't feel. Or what I want/don't want to feel. What I actually currently felt seemed irrelevant. I always expected this complete emotional control of myself, as well as others around me.
Not only is this an extremely stressful and emotionally damaging way to live, but it's downright impossible. Every time I tried to forcefully control an emotion, only to end up exacerbating it instead, It felt like a personal failure. I thought this was how everyone did it. The fact that I couldn't do it must have meant that I'm an irrational person who can't control themselves. Or that I don't have a strong enough willpower. Thoughts like these only helped to further this counter-productive cycle.