Stop Waiting For Permission

I’m currently in the middle of a project. It’s a big project — developing a desktop app — something I’ve never done before. It’s exciting and engrossing. I think I’m creating something unique that people are really going to like. However, for each development task, it seems like I need to spend more time researching and learning how to do the task than doing the task itself.

So I feel like a novice. I feel unqualified. I used to run a very successful development company — full of very smart programmers. I’ve been making websites for over 25 years. And still I feel like a complete noob.

Moreover, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. I’m breaking the rules. I don’t have a computer science degree. I have very few qualifications to be doing this. And someone more qualified is going to come along, laugh, and tell me that I’m wasting my time. So I find myself looking for permission — someone to say “It’s okay. You’ve got a good idea and you’re the right person to be creating it.” (In my imagination, they also give me a thumbs up. A real-life one. Not just an emoji.)

I remember waiting for permission for other things in my life. It never served me very well. In fact it was usually precisely when I stopped waiting for permission that things started being successful.

When I started yet-another band, this time determined to do-it-ourselves, starting our own independent record label and making the music that I wanted to hear, rather than trying to build some consensus of what “others” wanted — that’s precisely when the audience got excited and we got offered a major label record deal. Likewise, when I started a Drupal consulting company — with very little knowledge of Drupal or the Drupal community — but because I was so frustrated with the gap between the software’s great potential and its (at the time) terrible documentation — that’s when the phone started ringing off the hook. (It was an email form, but I’m going to stick with the antiquated metaphor.)

But with both of those things, it seemed like the permission came AFTERWARDS. No one came along and told me what creative vision to have or how to have it. There was no certification or authorization. No one looked at my resume or ran a background check.

So maybe I need to shed my feeling of inadequacy and stop waiting for someone to grant me permission to create this project.

Maybe I’m writing this post to remind myself, more than others — that if you’re waiting for permission, you’re probably doing it wrong. I’m not saying that there’s no value in feedback, triangulation, polling, and seeking opinions. A bad idea is a bad idea, whether or not you get permission. But likewise, a good idea isn’t necessarily good just because someone has given you permission to pursue it.

Jeff Robbins is a business coach, mentor, and virtual business partner who works one-on-one with company owners and leaders to help them build vision and direction for their companies while building productivity, stability, and happiness for their employees and themselves. You can work with him too. Reach out to set up a free consultation session.



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Jeff Robbins

Cofounder at @Lullabot. Executive Coach at @jjeff. Rockstar at @Orbitband.