The Life-Changing Realization that You Don’t Need Permission from the World

5 min read

Chipotle cashier: Would you like any chips or drink with that burrito?

Me: “No, but I was actually wondering if I could have the burrito for free.”

Cashier: Uh….why?

Me: “No reason, I just figured I would ask.”

Cashier: Oh…um, no, I can’t do that, I’m sorry.

Me: “Okay, thanks anyway.”  *paid and left*

I was inspired to engage in this awkward conversation with a Chipotle cashier last week, after hearing about the idea on the Tim Ferris podcast.

The concept is simple: to build confidence and overcome fear of the unknown, practice doing things that are uncomfortable but harmless. Tim suggests lying down in the middle of a coffee shop for a full minute or randomly asking for a free meal at a restaurant.

I know it sounds stupid, but it was actually an enlightening experience. Sure, it was uncomfortable, but afterwards I thought That wasn’t so bad. What was I so nervous about?

When I told my friends about this, they cracked up laughing. They asked who gave me permission to do such a stupid thing, to which I responded nobody. I didn’t need permission from anyone. There was no downside to it anyway. If I got the meal for free, that would have made my day. If I didn’t, life would carry on as usual. 

This brings up a strong belief I hold: you don’t need permission from the world to try new things. Whether it’s applying for a new job or asking for a free burrito, you don’t need permission to do most things in life. Yet, most of us act as if we do.

No Permission Necessary: Apply for Jobs

I recently had a conversation with one of my friends who is about to graduate college.

Him: I’m nervous because I don’t have a job lined up yet.

Me: “How many positions have you applied for?”

Him: Only one because I haven’t found any others that look like a good fit.

I told him he should blast off his resume and cover letter to 20 different companies in the area. He laughed, but I was dead serious. 

Countless people share this mindset about jobs. They’re not sure if they have the exact skills or experience required for a position, so instead of going out on a limb and sending in their resume, they sit back and play it safe.

I call this the “Tiptoe” approach. They tiptoe carefully around in the job market, only applying for safe positions, never risking rejection, even if that means avoiding their dream job.

This is a fantastic approach if you’re interested in prolonging your job search.

I haven’t told anyone this, but a month ago I applied for a data visualization job with the most impressive company I have ever come across online. It was a long shot. I am a self-taught programmer and I don’t have a decade of experience, but I went for it.

I got rejected, but one of the the higher-ups at this company reviewed my work and actually emailed me a personal message explaining what areas I needed to improve in. This was valuable feedback that I would not have received if I never sent my portfolio to the company in the first place. 

Anyone who feels stuck in their current job or scared to apply for certain jobs needs to realize a couple things:

1. You don’t need anyone’s permission to apply for a job. Even your dream job. Be bold. Put yourself out there. 

2. If you get accepted, that’s wonderful. If you get rejected, you’ll likely get feedback on where you need to improve. If you get ignored completely, that’s the same outcome as not applying at all.

No Permission Necessary: Pursue a Craft

When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time making music. One weekend during senior year, I emailed two medium-sized music blogs, asking if they would feature my songs on their sites. Both said yes. I shared the links on Facebook and Twitter.

When Monday rolled around, more than a few people at school asked how I got on those sites.

“I just emailed the curators directly.”

But, like, who said you could do that?

“Nobody. I just did it.”

My classmates couldn’t believe something like this was possible. This was the first moment when I realized Hey I don’t need anyone’s permission to make music and share it online.

One of my favorite examples of someone who took initiative without asking for permission from anyone is a guy named Steve Lacy:

At age 16, Steve started making music on his phone that eventually landed him on a team of musicians who received a Grammy nomination. He didn’t ask the music world if he was allowed to create songs without real studio equipment. He just did it.

I have tried to use a similar approach in my own creative interests over the last few years.

Early on in college I built a site that helped me land my first corporate job.

Shortly after that, I started this blog. I didn’t ask for permission. I just started writing. 

I often receive emails from people asking for advice on how to start blogging. I tell them to buy a domain name and start writing as soon as possible. You’ll figure it out along the way.

You don’t need anyone to tell you you’re ready, experienced, or qualified to start. You don’t need permission from me or anyone else. Just start.

No Permission Necessary: Build Wealth

At my last job, one of my older coworkers was shocked when I told him he could open his own IRA online for free. He couldn’t believe that he could do such a thing without the help of a financial firm.

I think most people are unaware that they can open their own financial accounts and handle their own investing. Most people simply pay high fees to mutual funds and money managers to do so. They don’t realize they can manage their finances without anyone’s permission.

What if?

Realizing that you have the ability to apply for jobs, pursue your craft, and take control of your finances all without permission from the world is life-changing.

The only things stopping you are your “what if’s.” Fortunately, I have some remedies for the most common ones.

“What if I apply to my dream job and get rejected?”

Remedy: You either fear rejection because you’re scared of bruising your ego or you’re scared of what other people will think of you. News flash: you’re not as important as you think and nobody cares about your failures. Rejection is simply an opportunity to learn.

“What if people think my creative interests are silly?”

Remedy: To hell with what people think. You and everyone you know will be dead in 100 years. This is your only shot at living a life true to yourself. If you don’t try, you’ll live in regret. Better to fail than to regret not trying.

“What if I don’t know anything about finance?”

Remedy: Teach yourself. Read blogs. Ask questions. Email people who know more than you. Research. Lack of knowledge is not an excuse.

“What if I’m not ready?”

Remedy: You’ll never be completely ready. Life will never show up at your doorstep with a warm smile and say “You are now ready.” Our brains are the most sophisticated excuse-making machines ever to exist. We can come up with countless reasons all day for why we’re not ready, not qualified, and not experienced enough. Don’t wait until you are ready. Just start.

Just Start

Too many of us are paralyzed by “what if’s” that we never try anything new. News flash: You are going to suck at whatever you try for the first time. It’s inevitable. Guess what? Nobody is tracking your failures. Even if you do fail at new things, you’ll gain valuable experience that will increase your odds of succeeding in the future.

Too often we think we need permission from the world to take the next steps forward in life. That’s simply not true.

Put yourself out there. Try, try, and try again. Ignore your “what if’s”. Just start.

My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and easy. I recommend trying it out.

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Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.

4 Replies to “The Life-Changing Realization that You Don’t Need Permission from the World”

  1. That was a nice post. I don’t think I have the guts to go and ask for a free burrito, though.

    There is one side/fulltime hustle that you can try for. There is this company called karat that specializes in narrowing down resumes for prospective employees. Looks like they need people to conduct interviews on their behalf. I don’t know if they hire self taught developers, but their interview process is nice.

    I could not commit to the number of hours they wanted, and I have no clue how much they pay. If you are interested, you can try though. I just suggested because you said you tried out for a data visualization job.

  2. Just the motivation I needed. I’ve been trying to help my sister land a better job and I, myself, have been talking about getting a new job, but I’ve always pushed it further down the road.

    I’ve locked in my 2017 bonus with my current company so, if anything, now is the time to put myself out there and look for something bigger/better/more challenging! Like you said, what can it hurt? Worst case scenario – I stay exactly where I’m at.

    1. “Worst case scenario – I stay exactly where I’m at.” Exactly! This is what most people don’t realize – if you fail, you’ll be in the same place you’re at, so you might as well at least try. Best of luck with your job situation!

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