Forgiveness And Permission
“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realised the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me”
– Emo Philips
There are two ways to create something new – to start with permission, or to start without permission then ask for forgiveness.
Traditionally, projects have stemmed from permission – our boss (or their boss) commissions something new, which then goes through layers of approval to get funded.
We talk about “stakeholders” who need to be managed, and who get to influence and shape the project – lest they revoke our permission.
The issue with this approach is that the further away you get from the idea creator, the less passion remains attached to the project.
The person making the go/no go decision sees all the risk, complexity and downside, but without the spark and drive that accompanied the idea at its inception.
Ideas get watered down, modified or scrapped.
It’s much easier to list the reasons why it won’t work, than to list the changes that would make it a success.
The forgiveness approach is to show people what you’ve built, instead of telling them beforehand.
This is the same reason why you shouldn’t tell people what you intend to name your unborn baby.
People will react negatively to the idea of the name “Deborah” or “Lachlan” because they knew someone with that name who they really hated, so they’ll try and change your mind.
If you introduce your newborn as “Lachlan”, people will be so caught up in this brand new person that they accept the name without question.
When confronted with something new, our default responses stem from fear.
We don’t like change – change is uncomfortable.
Our minds start racing, and we play out different scenarios that will probably never happen.
However, in times of change, our minds also jump to “What’s in it for me?”
We like this question, because uncertainty suddenly becomes lucrative.
When showing someone your new project, it’s worth pairing it with “Here’s what’s in it for you”.
This shuts up the fear response by redirecting their minds to some sort of reward, like an economic incentive, social currency or a good photo opportunity.
Whilst the forgiveness approach is much better for entrepreneurship, it doesn’t work for everything.
For instance, don’t do this for anything involving children, public safety or hazardous materials.
That will get shut down, and rightly so.
There’s a duty of care, and getting it wrong can be catastrophic.
The vast majority of projects are not in this category.
hese days, the modes of production are freely available.
· Professional grade cameras are now available for under $600
· Video editing software puts an entire studio on your laptop
· Amazon gives you a global shopfront
· Squarespace allows you to make a decent website for a few dollars a month
· Drop shipping companies make logistics and distribution seem effortless
· Communities of talented freelancers can create your brand identity
· Podcasting lets you talk to people anywhere in the world
· Coding allows anyone to create their own apps, sites and programs
What this means is that the barriers are no longer based on equipment and investment.
Now they’re just based in fear.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of judgement.
Fear of perceived failure.
Not fear of failure – these projects give you so many benefits that you’ll never regret starting them.
Rather it’s the fear of what other people will label your project.
James Altucher and Seth Godin both talk about choosing yourself.
If you want a prestigious job or to be an intrapreneur, you need to get picked by someone else – or worse, a committee.
Side projects are about picking yourself – declaring that you’re the right person to create something, because you declared it to be so.
I saw this with a client in 2014 – they wanted to pilot a new service in video-call based counselling.
A committee decided to “de-risk” the project and declared it needs a dedicated task force and a long term investment – requiring $380,000 upfront.
Therefore, the board was likely to deny their proposal.
I was incredulous, and asked them “What would a startup do?”
Following an awkward silence, they sheepishly responded “They’d probably just start doing the calls and see what happened”.
Keep in mind, these were no dummies – they were the most qualified people in the business.
Their customers were going to be in good hands.
The risks are incredibly low, but the fear of failure was paralysing to the point of self-sabotage.
The only reason we don’t pick ourselves is because we’re afraid of the failure label.
It’s easier to tell ourselves that we didn’t get picked, didn’t get permission, and therefore didn’t have to take the leap and start something new.