You Don’t Need Permission

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

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