If you want to achieve greatness stop asking for permission. – Anonymous
What does that mean?
To me, this quote is about the eternal struggle between innovation and the establishment. Things have always been done a certain way, and no one sees a reason to change that.
Until someone does. If they ask permission to try something different, what do you think the answer is going to be? What was the answer when you have asked in your life? Sometimes you get a ‘yes,’ but most of the time? ‘No.’
This leaves you with two choices. You can continue to do what has always been done, and be just like everyone else, or you can do something different. But if you ask permission, they’ll say ‘no.’ Again.
So, if you want to break out, to do your own thing, to try to find a better way (even if it’s only by your own opinion), what is left to do? You act first and get forgiveness after. Hopefully you think and plan a little first.
Why is taking action important?
This quote is about the conundrum of the working class. They have an idea, a way that might improve a product or reduce the cost of making it. Yet, there is no interest in trying something new. What are you to do? The quote is recommending an option, take action.
Yes, you might have a great idea. But what are the consequences of acting without permission? In some cases, you can get away with doing it, so long as it works. Other places, even if it works, not following established procedures will cost you dearly.
You will have to think a little before you act. Rules exist to control unwanted behavior. Sometimes we have to think outside the box, other times we have to go outside the box. But we have to understand the consequences, should we fail. Think before you act, but act when you can!
But the great people of our world didn’t ask permission. Who did the Wright brothers ask about closing their bicycle shop for the trip down to Kitty Hawk? Who did Edison ask before he put the candle making and lantern making industries out of business?
Where can I apply this in my life?
I would imagine there have been times in your life when you asked for permission, and became discouraged by the ‘no’ you usually received. Perhaps you even quit asking, and just assumed that the answer would be no before you even started. That’s not a path to greatness, is it?
It all starts with an idea. But not all ideas are ready for prime time, are they? Sometimes you have to develop them, perhaps even make a prototype or two. But if you aren’t authorized to do it on Company time, you better be doing it in your garage, right?
Take a little time and think your idea through. What will it take to make things happen? What are the chances it will work, and what are the chances it won’t? What will you get as a result of success? What if it’s only different but not better? What if it flops? Then what?
Once you have a feel for the chances, as well as the potential rewards or punishments, you have a serious decision to make. Not every case is worthy of action. Sometimes, you just have to let it slip away, quietly. It just isn’t meant to be.
Other times, it may be a great idea, you just can’t pull it off. Perhaps you can get someone else interested in your idea, and they might even give you credit. Or they might just use a little bit of it with a plan they already had, and ignore you. You never know.
What thoughts have you had? What ideas have you come up with, but you either never asked permission, or just got a ‘no’ when you did? Do you believe in it? Can you make it work? Are you willing to take the hit if it doesn’t? Is the reward worth the risk?
The answer will be different for every idea, and for each person. Options include getting some extra expertise to evaluate and improve the idea, getting busy with a smaller portion of the idea, or finding a sponsor or ‘white knight’ to help take up your cause.
What are you willing to risk for the ideas you have? Some of them are just fun ideas, others may just have what it takes. What do you need to make them work? What other skills might you need to pull it off? What do you think the odds are? What are the rewards or consequences if you try it?
Think it through, plan it well, and if you feel the reward is worth the risk, take your best shot.
- Permission Granted (rondapalazzari.typepad.com)
- Do More of What you Want at Work: Productive Partnerships (8thlight.com)
- Entrepreneurial Thought and Action – Babson style (helenots.wordpress.com)