(Originally posted at Kathy Klotz-Guest’s Linkedin Blog on May 06, 2014 – www.linkedin.com/in/kathyklotzguest)
Last week, I wrote about the Confidence Gap for women and how important it is to step up to uncertainty and re-frame the way we look at risk. In that post, I talked about a key concept from improvisation – the cornerstone principle of “yes, and” – that we can use to exercise our risk-taking muscles and build confidence.
Closely related to confidence and risk is the issue of permission. Too many people are waiting for validation and permission to do the most important thing in the world: be themselves and do the things they are passionate about. Stop waiting for the external OK to be you and build what you need to build in the world.
If you want to be great, stop asking for permission.
Truth In Comedy and Life
There’s truth in comedy. In improvisation, we endow our on-stage partners with character traits: gender, relationships, names, idiosynchrasies, etc., in order to build great scenes.
It’s also important to endow yourself on stage and off. In improvisation, I often hear from women, “Why am I always endowed as a mom, or a teacher, or a girl, or a whatever?” That usually means an uninteresting and weaker character. There is some truth here – men tend to endow women with certain qualities. Hell, I’ve said this very thing in frustration a number of times. Years ago, a great male friend and fellow improviser finally said this to me: “What the hell are you waiting for? Why don’t you jump in there and force the guys to keep up? Don’t put up with that!” He was right. I’ve started a business and an improv group for Pete’s sake. Yet, here I was expecting someone else to endow me, to recognize me…to give me permission to shape my on-stage character. Why? What the hell! It made no sense. I should know better, right?!
Listen, we can’t control what others do. We can control our choices. Where is it written that we can’t self-endow? We don’t have to wait for permission. Permission comes from within.
The next time I was endowed as a mom, I endowed myself as a werewolf. And a mom. See, they are not incompatible. You want to endow me as a mom? Fine. I will be the biggest, most badass mom – on my terms so I am “yes, and-ing” others ANDmyself.
That’s the key. You must “yes, and” yourself, too. Give yourself permission to be, do, explore, discover, and create.
Successful People Don’t Wait for Permission; They Choose Themselves
Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot calls it “selecting yourself.” You get to discover yourself and act on your talents. You don’t need to wait for someone to fund you or give you that column in a magazine, or promote you, or tell you how how great your ideas are. Get your ideas out into the world. When you see a need, step up and use your talents.
Here are some ways to give yourself permission:
1. See it and do it. If it’s something that compels you, find a way to do it. Partner with others if you need to. Start first. You don’t have to know all the answers ahead of time. Life isn’t a straight line; it’s a series of comically (at times) twisted turns.Visualize the start and end. You don’t have to know all the pieces in between just yet. Just start. Somewhere.
2. Speak up. If you feel you have something to say and contribute to a conversation, don’t talk yourself out of it. Your point of view is as valid as someone else’s. How many times have you wanted to say something and didn’t? You censored yourself. Unless it’s a tacky comment or an expletive in an inappropriate setting, what’s the worst that could happen if you speak your mind? You would be surprised at the support you might get.
3. Dare to ask the basic questions. You won’t look silly; you’ll learn.
4. “Yes, and” and ask, “What if?” Engage in possibility thinking. Asking “what if” can be a very powerful tool to jump start possibilities and new ideas. “Yes, and-ing” others and yourself can create a positive dynamic. Remember, “yes, and” doesn’t mean wewill do it; it’s simply opening up a space that says to people, “I hear you.” And when you do this, most people will reciprocate that positive energy.
5. Stop apologizing when you don’t need to. “I’m sorry, but….this may be wrong but….” Nope. Stop. You have a right to your opinion. Own it. We use an apology to soften our stance or lower our status to be equal to others. While men do this, too, women do this far more often in my personal experience. It signals a lack of confidence and that we are waiting for approval. You don’t need no stinkin’ badges and you don’t need no stinkin’ approval. Unless you are a jerk or hurt someone’s feelings, you don’t have to apologize for an idea, a presentation, a failure, etc.
6. Take your seat at the table. Stop waiting for the invite and invite yourself. Donna Brazile, well known democratic strategist and CNN contributor, tells a great story of how she wasn’t invited to a meeting early in her career. So she found out what time the meeting was happening and showed up. All the seats had been “taken” by briefcases – where men had claimed their spots. While they standing and discussing, she marched in, physically moved aside a briefcase and took her spot! She spoke up at the meeting and acted as if she belonged there. The results? She was invited to future meetings. She stopped asking to be invited.
You have something to say and something to offer the world. When you own who you are unabashedly and act according to your values, you step into something pretty great – your own power.
Got that blog or book you want to write? That company you want to start? That non-profit that means so much to you? Or maybe it’s just being a badass mom in an improv scene.
Whatever it is, do it. Stop waiting for permission. Choose yourself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kathy Klotz-Guest, A marketer and storyteller, helps clients tell compelling stories that get results. The founder of marketing strategy and communications firm, Keeping it Human, she also performs improvisational comedy and kicks jargon’s butt.