…is as futile as waiting for Godot. I’d give a synopsis of the play except that a cursory view of the play as explained on Wikipedia makes it clear there is little consensus on what it meant. Having seen the play (as I have) does not help, at least in my case. My analogy about permission, then, is apt for this reason: nothing really happens in the play and the wait for Godot, is, well, pretty agonizing for its nothingness.
The same holds true in life as far as Waiting for Permission goes. Because while you wait, life goes by and nothing much happens. I’m not talking about those lucky few who grab what’s theirs (and then some)—the ones first in line when Entitlement was passed out. I’m talking about the rest of us waiting for Permission to show up at the door in a cute brown outfit.
Here’s an irony: We think we’re not clever enough to (fill in the blank), but we’re infinitely clever when it comes to constructing a wall of reasons blocking our way. Why is that? Sure, you might want a medical degree before slicing someone open. But you don’t need a degree to slice bread for that sandwich business you always wanted to start.
Here’s another irony: From my unscientific observation, the more clever, talented, kind, resourceful and generous a person is, the more they question their “right” to create or succeed. This is not to say that those who do create and succeed lack those qualities. But none of these people have to worry about egos, just yet anyway.
For years, I’ve wanted to write a self help book. Funny, you seem to have a lot of issues, someone might say. But as the saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” What has stopped me is that I kept picturing the bio in the back of the book below the photo of me with my hand on my chin. It seemed ridiculous to say “Jane is a graphic designer in Portland, Oregon living with a cat that doesn’t belong to her.” Who would buy that book? I did start writing that book but only because I finally stopped attaching the need for special qualifications to the process of writing. I also stopped attaching publication and sales to the process of writing. All along, I forgot to realize that no one has to buy that book if they don’t want to.
A friend embarked on a food business after years of thinking she was unqualified. Every so often she sheepishly corrects people who dare to call her a chef, humble as she is about her lack of “official” training. I suspect she and I are a lot alike in our respect for the focus, dedication and sacrifice that official training can require. So we err on the side of caution. Too much caution.
Are you Waiting for Permission?
• Question your inner naysayer. If it’s not unsafe, illegal or immoral, then pick up the guitar, the knife (good knife skills please), the paintbrush, the microphone, the pen, the soldering iron (again, safe operation please) and stop using excuses like talent, education or expertise. Your inner naysayer is really good at asking what the point is of this activity if the painting will never see the light of a gallery, the song an audience, the soup a customer. Your inner naysayer is a clever S.o.B., but so are you, so come up with some good comebacks.
• Have appropriate humility. Too much humility stops us from exploring our interests. Too little and you forget there are masters out there whose talent, education and expertise is what makes them great. If wanting to be great is stopping you, then stop needing to be great before you even begin. That being said, know enough to know what is at stake so you can behave responsibly. If you’re selling services or products where quality is an issue, be careful what promises you make, spoken or implied. Many people ask if a degree is necessary before becoming a designer. The bigger issue is whether you’re confident that what you’re selling is understood by the buyer. Confidence is great. False claims are not.
• Go where the road takes you. We are too often looking for signposts that say “go this way.” Unfortunately, life is not terribly linear, except when it comes to those pesky birthdays. Sometimes you have to take a convoluted trip to end up in a pretty cool spot you never envisioned. “Well, how in the world can I plan for that? And what if I spent time going to the wrong place.” If it’s any consolation, you probably already waste lots of time doing things that are of no benefit, like hanging out with boring people or watching TV. So don’t get hung up on wondering where the signless road will take you. You might have to take up belly dancing only to realize you really wanted to write poetry. If you have an inkling of desire to (fill in the blank), you will not be wasting time pursuing it. Why? Because you always learn something by engaging in any endeavor. Always. (See next bullet point.) You only have to pay attention. If your problem is Waiting for Permission, chances are you are not about to sink thousands of dollars and years of time into a Masters Degree. Do the small stuff first.
• Be on the lookout for hidden benefits. The surest way to kill any endeavor you do embark on is to focus on the big prize, whatever that prize might be. They say people tend to drop therapy the moment they start to figure stuff out, quit golf lessons the moment they really start learning, and so on. This is because we start with confidence or a childlike attitude. We start to learn a little, then we realize how much we don’t know, we get discouraged, and so we stop. You have to have a goal, but if enjoyment or success is dependent on catching that big fish, then you will miss out on all the side benefits, which might be even better. Those unintended side benefits might hold the secret to our success. They might be the signposts on the road.
You’re welcome to sit by the tree waiting. But it might be a long wait.