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
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:
In order to love your enemy, you have to identify someone as your enemy.
I was talking to my husband's aunt about some recurring themes in my life, and like a true empath she immediately recognized that I was living in two distinct lies: rejection and abandonment. She said that I keep running away because I'm believing that I am unwanted and unacceptable just as I am. And I need to renounce those things. I need to live in the truth that I am acceptable and lovable just as I am.
When I live in these lies, I classify people in two categories: allies and enemies. Granted, when Jesus addresses the disciples, he's talking about people who are legitimately persecuting them in their cause. But I think sometimes we project false perceptions onto others. We project that they hate us, that they curse us, that they mistreat us. Because I live in this false sense of rejection and abandonment, I interpret people's motives in aggressive and opposing terms. Instead of recognizing sincerity and support, I see the exact opposite.
And so those last words, "Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you," it seems like such a simple idea when read. But I had to simplify it even further. So, I came up with this: