Stop Waiting for Permission

When did you stop experimenting?

I’ve seen a lot of young lawyers paralyzed by fear.  They start as enthusiastic, Earth shattering minds capable of effecting great change.

And then they stop doing that.

They freeze, incapacitated by fear that they might do something wrong, get attention in a bad way, or fail miserably.

In a sense, senior lawyers are to blame for this.  We are full of “don’t do this” and “worry about that” that young lawyers become overly concerned with putting a foot wrong.

In another sense, you’re to blame – nobody told you not to do things, you just assumed.  You started asking rather than doing.  You stopped experimenting.

You Don’t Need as Much Permission as you Think

If you want to create change, then you need to create it.

That’s the case within the legal profession as much as it is anywhere else.

You’ve done the study, you know the rules, you understand what is “normal” – and you’ve decided there’s a better way.

So what are you waiting for?

Chances are that you don’t think that it’s “up to you”.  Maybe you’re worried what your boss will think.

Well guess what – your boss is your boss because, at some point, they took a risk.  They bought into a firm, they went out for a coffee, they had a difficult conversation, they took out a loan.

They didn’t ask permission – they just did it.

You Might Fail

People might laugh at you.

You might get criticized.

Your venture might not work, or it might be too hard (or impossible).

But why does that matter?  If change is needed, you have noticed it and you have the ability to effect change – then not doing it is pretty gutless.

I’m not saying you should deliberately go out and get yourself fired by doing something stupid.

I’m saying you need to stop assuming that you shouldn’t do something.

Risk Aversion

The ability to take a risk has been trained out of you.

I’ll bet when you were a child you didn’t care.  You took risks.  You risked attention, injury, property damage.

And then well meaning ministrations of your parents and your teachers over the years taught you that taking risks was unacceptable.  You should stick with the predictable.

Only put up your hand when you are certain of the answer, not when you want to change the question.

Only get positive attention, because negative attention could hurt your feelings.

It’s All Nonsense

It’s so simple – look around you.

Look at the people who invented the things you use.

Benz made cars in Germany before they were legal and before there were petrol stations.

Gutenberg brought the printing press to a country that was mostly illiterate.

What are you going to do?  Are you just going to do what you’re told for the next 40 years?  Or are you going to do something special, something unexpected, something amazing?

Put it this way – are you trying not to lose?  Or are you trying to win?

Happy lawyering!

  • i think the permission comes from fear of error.

    At lunch with a barrister the other day he said you go through three stages:

    1. You know nothing;
    2. You know something but you still know nothing;
    3. You know things

    I know risk taking was trained out of me by my principal’s use of the words “law claim”

    I’ve also been told my my opinion means nothing.

    • Thanks Kayne for your comment. Lawyers are excellent at feeding their fears. Fear of not knowing. Fear of doing something wrong. Fear of being embarrassed. We end up in a position where we are so terrified of everything that we don’t try anything.

      Seth Godin in his latest book mentions that nobody every wrote something called “How to Run a Marathon without Getting Tired”. Why? Because you’ll get tired. Likewise, we will be afraid. We will make errors. We will get embarrassed. Creativity and growth come not from avoiding those things, but from embracing them as part of doing the work.

      Once fear is to be expected rather than avoided, we can start to effect change – in ourselves, in our colleagues, and everywhere else.

  • Thanks Chris for another great article. I noticed I’m getting more confident in myself as I read more of your articles.

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