We live in a society that tends to worship and celebrate individuality and creativity in the few, the stars or the celebrities or the experts, yet we embrace conformity in expressing it in our own lives. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because too often, we give other people the power of permission over our lives, even above our own gut, our intuition, our heart.
It’s not obvious, as in having to ‘ask permission’ from someone else, or we might break out of this habit more easily. The power of it is in its subtlety.
When we encounter a desire or yearning within us, we’re quick to think of it in light of what our friends, our spouse, our parents, our boss, might think of it. And so much of the time, that’s all it takes to kill the idea. We don’t think anyone will give us permission to start.
With that much receptivity to the objections that others might raise, it’s rather surprising that we don’t (or won’t) counter that, by giving ourselves permission to respect our own desires and needs and decisions. By giving ourselves permission to start.
I’ve been paying more attention to how my kids play lately, because I’m beginning to see how much juice there is in the act of doing. Not planning or dreaming or talking about tomorrow, but just doing.
Kids have an idea, and they start where they are, with what they have. They don’t wait until they have all the right pieces, and there are no drafts, only improvements. Tomorrow doesn’t exist, and all there is is now. They don’t wait for permission, they just go and they just do.
But at some point in our lives, we develop a permission deficit. We need someone else to tell us that it’s ok. To tell us to go.
And I’m as guilty of that as the next guy. But now I’ve had a fire lit under me, thanks to a little tiny book with a really big message.
In Poke the Box, Seth Godin proclaims that the world needs those who instigate, create, and make a ruckus. That those who initiate and provoke and learn from change are the ones who succeed, and that failure is inevitable, even necessary, and we just need to get over our fear of it and go.
It’s only 84 pages long, but it’s packed with provocative questions and motivating directives. On my first read, I blazed through it, saying to myself, “Yes. Exactly. That’s obvious.” But then I reread it, right after an evening of playing with the kids, and it struck me that those attributes – initiative, creativity, instigation – are present in children already, and that we lose touch with them as we age.
I look at my children and see how full of life and energy and creativity and youth they are, and I want the same for me, for all of us. One thing I can see for sure is that play is essential to youth.
And a big part of play is giving ourselves permission to start.
[Disclosure: As a member of the Domino Project street team, I got an advance copy of Poke the Box.]