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Stop asking for permission – Part 2


If you live on people’s acceptance, you will die from their rejection. There is something I always tell my mentees and students long before they become unusually attached to getting permission from me to take some critical steps: You don’t need permission to be yourself and to be creative, from me or anybody. Norman Cousins said, ‘’The greatest tragedy of life is not that we die but what dies in us while we live.’’ So many dreams have died just because some people were always asking for permission instead of following their conviction. Many dreams have been stifled and many latent potential have been perpetually buried just because some people were so much addicted to the opinion and permission of others.

It is scientifically impossible for the bumblebee to fly; but the bumblebee, being unaware of these scientific facts, flies anyway! I have come to realize one of the core strength of geniuses; it is simply that they are unaware of their inadequacies. In the latter part of the 18th century, when the Methodist church was holding its denominational convention, one leader stood up and shared his vision both for the church and society at large. He told the ministers and evangelists how he believed that someday men would fly from place to place instead of merely travelling on horseback. It was a dream too big for many members of his audience to handle.

One minister, Bishop Wright, stood up and angrily protested “Heresy!” He shouted: “Flight is reserved for angels!” He went on to elaborate that if God had intended for man to fly, he would have given him wings. When Bishop Wright finished his brief protest, he gathered up his two sons, Orville and Wilbur and left the auditorium angrily. Several years later, precisely on December 17, 1903, those sons did what their father termed impossible: they recorded the first human flight. Though the young lads love their father so much, but they didn’t hang their fate on his permission!

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS: Wilbur and Orville Wright were the ordinary mechanics that invented the aeroplane, a feat that even professors of their time declared impossible. The Wright brothers, who invented the first airplane, did not come out of the University system. They were just roadside bicycle repairers, children of an American clergyman who decided to take a giant step at what “scientists” thought was impossible. Just like the Wright brothers, we must not be too much attached to the permission of experts. We must never be defined by the opinion of experts, we should rather challenge it. We must not allow the opinion of experts to determine what cannot be done. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Impossibility is found only in the dictionary of fools”.

COLONEL SANDERS, the man behind KFC. As Colonel Sanders was sitting on his porch in Corbin, Kentucky, one morning, the mailman came up the walk and handed him his first social security cheque. Sixty-five years old, broke and defeated, he looked at the cheque and said: “My government is going to give me a hundred and five dollars a month so I can eke out an existence. Surely there is something I can do for myself and other people.” The thought of his mother’s special recipe for fried chicken came to his mind. It was a particular formula which he considered somewhat special. He decided to try to sell franchises for marketing his fried chicken. Ten years later at age 75, he sold his rights in the company and was employed as a goodwill ambassador for the new organization.

It is not the financial success that Colonel Sanders achieved that makes his life story significant. The truth was simply that Sanders by-passed the permission of market giants and mesmerize the whole world with his special recipe. It is amazing how a man could change the world just with fried chicken!

RALPH LAUREN, the fashionista. The fascinating rags-to- riches story of fashion mogul, Ralph Lauren, reveals how far a man could go without permission. In 1966, when he was 26, he was inspired to design a wide, European-style necktie, but the idea was rejected by the company he worked for as not being commercially viable. As Ralph would later recall, he said, “I went to my boss, and I said, sir, I’d like to design these ties because I think they could be new.” His boss looked straight into his eyes with an eye of superiority and said, “The world isn’t ready for Lauren.” Eventually, he left to establish his own company, taking rags and turning them into ties. Though, his boss rejected his great idea, It was the same tie that launched him into limelight. He is the richest fashion designer in America today.

ALBERT EINSTEIN was severely warned about the futility of exploring the potential in an atom, even when great scientists like R.A Millikan believed that it was impossible. Einstein neglected their warnings and followed his conviction. Albert Einstein’s virtue of confidence was the greatest assets that saw him through the dark times when unbelief pervades the scientific world. He was dauntless even in the face of his superiors; he believed the atoms were waiting for him to set them free! Today, the rest is history, he unlocked the nuclear power in an atom with his legendary E =mc2 equation. In a humorous way that will later remind his rigid superiors of their follies, Einstein said, “I am thankful of all those who said no, it is because of them I did it myself”.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: In 1961, President Kennedy’s vision was just about a wildest goal imaginable. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, America was in a space race with the Soviet Union, and the Americans were actually lagging behind. President Kennedy stood before the United States congress and said he foresaw a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Most people thought it was impossible, even some of the people running NASA thought it could not be done. People believed that the technology required did not exist and they were not sure it could exist. But that did not stop Kennedy. Kennedy not only made a seemingly impossible goal, but he gave it a deadline.

When J.F.K shared his vision with the congressmen, they all laughed at him in a scornful manner. He shared his vision with the Congress but never attached himself to their permission. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon and altered his famous line, “that one step of a man one giant leap for mankind”. J.F.K showed the world that there is no impossible goal but only unwilling steps.

WALT DISNEY started the idea of Disney land with nothing but a wild imagination. In a time where people believed that the market for cartoons were non-existent, he took an audacious step in bringing so much humour and fun through cartoons in a way that is unprecedented in the entertainment industry. Walt Disney transformed the entertainment industry by pioneering the field of animation. Against his father’s permission, Walt would sneak out of the house at night to perform comical skits at local theatres. The world will never forget in a hurry the man that turned the entertainment industry into a fun factory!
BILL CLINTON, the come-back kid: Bill Clinton was told to just fill a gap of contesting against George Bush (Senior) because he was considered unbeatable. Clinton agreed to play along but along the line he changed his mind after remembering that he had once set a goal to become the U.S president while he was still in high school. The reputable politicians who initially gave him this opportunity refused to stand by him and support him financially. However, he didn’t give up, he gave all he had and believed in his chance of defeating the ‘undefeatable Bush’. Eventually, the unexpected happened, he won the election and went ahead to rule U.S for two consecutive terms of eight years. Great people don’t live on people’s permission; they succeed by holding firm to their own conviction.

WINSTON CHURCHILL, the British bulldog! Winston Churchill stood against Hitler’s terror even when the whole world thought it would be favourable to be Hitler’s stooge than Hitler’s enemy! Nobody in the whole world believed that Hitler was surmountable. However, Churchill did not wait for the world’s permission to end Hitler’s reign of terror. In one of his famous speeches titled the ‘Finest moment’, he said, “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”

EDMUND HILLARY once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary became the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest (29,035 feet/ 8,850 metres), the highest mountain in the world. The expedition to conquer Mount Everest was set off in March of 1953 with approximately 400 people. The trip up the mountain was extremely difficult and when they neared the summit, only four men were able to continue. Two men out of the four were just 300 feet close to the peak when they turned back! The terrains along the path of the mountain were rugged and the weather was cold and harsh. Edmund refused to seek permission from the daunting circumstances surrounding the mountain and, in 1953, he reached the peak of “Everest”, the supposed unconquerable mountain.

Geoffrey F. Abert said: “When you take charge of your life, there is no longer need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life.” It is appalling how we have been programmed by societal expectations and other people’s opinion. We can actually re-program ourselves to unleash our full potentials. Stop waiting for something to happen or for someone to give you permission to do things, the need for permission is a barrier we create or an excuse we make to prevent ourselves from living the life that we should have lived.

In this article:
Gbenga Adebambo
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