We Don’t Need Permission to Pursue Independence


Tomorrow is the 4th of July. Happy Independence Day, America! And if you aren’t American, well, it’s our country’s birthday. We invite you to celebrate with us!!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. When, all of a sudden, it struck me: this is an Independence Day post! Not just for Americans, but for all of us who aspire to start something significant. Let me explain.

If you look at the long arc of history, you may notice a trend that’s been gaining more and more steam as it unfolds: the human spirit is not meant to be held back. Independence is not an event that happened on a particular day in your country, your religion, your family… We humans win some independence, but there’s more to win.

We strive for more, and meet further resistance. There is struggle; there are setbacks. But inexorably, we become more and more free over time.

Switch and Shift was founded as a business leadership blog, and our bent stays true to our founding intention. But it’s impossible to cordon off this one aspect of who we founders are – business leaders, present and future – from the rest of our lives.

And as many of our favorite subscribers remind us daily, the lessons of 21st Century leadership apply equally well to education, to government and nonprofits, to developing leaders among our youth… Leadership is an outlook; it is a practice; it is a way of living; more than just a way of doing business.

So here, on the United States of America’s Independence Day, I want to share an insight that I think all of us can benefit from, be we American or other; be we business leaders or leaders in some different aspect of our lives; or future leaders; or even those who are led and do not aspire to lead anyone but ourselves. It is this:

We don’t need permission to start something of significance. Indeed, whose right is it to give us permission?

I’m deeply immersed in the technology startup community here in my hometown of Naples, Florida. The county government sometimes seems antithetical to any business outside of housing development, banking, or the service industry: pursuits that support our large, affluent retirees in some direct way. I often hear, “Oh, woe is us: the Powers That Be are against us. We’ll never succeed.”

The Powers That Be? Try the Powers That Were!

It’s 2013. We don’t need anyone’s permission to start a business. Yes, we must operate within the confines of the law (thankfully). And we must register our businesses with our state.

But… have you checked lately how simple, how pain-free, how cheap that is these days? A few clicks of the mouse and, in most states, you’re official. No medieval guild to kowtow to, no emperor’s minion to bribe – you don’t even have to wait for the postal service to deliver your papers anymore!!!

If someone, some established self-proclaimed mucky-muck, tells you no, here’s what you do: ignore them! If they (whoever “they” are) frown on you, or won’t give you tax concessions, or won’t invest seed capital in you… do it without them!

Time was that society tried to hold us back, often by pulling the class card on would-be strivers. Ever watch Chariots of Fire, the true story of two British runners in the 1924 Olympics? The administration at Cambridge College tried to dissuade the gifted runner Harold Abrahams from working with a professional coach, because, they said, his class forbade it.

These college masters were leftovers from the Victorian era. With gritted teeth, Abrahams ignored their pressure and went on to win Olympic gold. Abrahams decided he did not need their permission. He persevered despite the Powers That Used To Be trying to hold him back.

Who is trying to hold you back?

Grit your teeth and ignore them. You don’t need permission. Encouragement, yes, we all need more of that in our lives, no matter how much we’re already getting. But if you aren’t getting support from the Powers That Be, please don’t forget: they only have as much influence over you as you give them.

Ignore anyone who says you can’t. Surround yourself only with those who say, “Of course you can! Why on earth couldn’t you?!?”

It has never been easier to start a business, or a really great charity, or even a rock band of your own, not just in America but in most countries on earth. You don’t even have to be an adult to do it – just read what Angela Maier’s kids are up to!

And if a kid can do it… what’s our excuse?

Powers, smowers. Just keep at your goal – never give up! …And work for the day when you will be the Power That Is.

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Go for it Ted! I would just like to remind you and your fellow Americans that inter-dependence works too. At least, the folks in Washington DC might want to remind themselves that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness requires not only a shared vision, but also the ability to work together – differences included.

  • Hoda Maalouf

    I salute you Ted!
    I was looking for such a post for a long time and here it’s! Full of motivation, inspiration and independence!
    I’ve just started a new G+ community “Inspiring the young & hungry” aiming to uplift the morale of the youth, motivate & inspire them. This community will provide a direct communication channel between those youngsters and several inspirational leaders (from LeadWithGiants, PeopleSkills, BeAleader, LeadChange communities).

    I will share this masterpiece with them and hope that it will put them on fire, as it did to me!


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