Stop Asking for Permission

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Harley Roxanne of

I visited New York City with my mom and younger sister recently. We were walking near Battery Park when we saw a man wearing a clown wig and playing a ukulele- making up songs as people walked by.

It was this man, Freddy Harrington.

To onlookers he was a street musician, a comedian entertaining passers by. But he spoke of things much deeper.

In this video interview, you learn that he is not merely a street musician trying to make a couple bucks to survive, but a high school science teacher with a much deeper message. His message?

Life is meant to be lived.

“If you’re not having fun living, you might as well be dead.”
-Freddy Harrington

I hear so many people timidly mention they would like to do one thing or another in their lives- to travel, to try something new, to have a better job.

So many people spend their lives waiting and preparing to live. They complain about a job they hate, how everything seems to go wrong, or how it’s just “not the right time.”

It’s like the whole world is conspiring against them. But is it?

When you make out the world to be a place that snuffs out your dreams, where nothing goes your way, then that’s what it will be. But, when you take control and open yourself to possibilities, and have faith in allowing good things to happen, there’s a much better chance that your dreams won’t be just dreams anymore, they’ll be reality.

Once when I was telling a friend of my plans to travel to China, he scoffed and said “Yeah, I wish I had the money to travel,” But guess what? He was earning almost double what I was at the time and could have more than afforded a small trip, let alone a trip half way across the world to China. Plus, he would talk about how important it was for people to travel, even though he didn’t himself. See the faulty logic here?

It’s like these people were waiting for someone to swoop in and declare- Yes, you have permission to do this. Yes, you are allowed to live a life you want.

Well, sorry to break the news to you, that’s now how the world works.

You don’t need permission to live.

The reality is that no one is going to come in and give you permission. The only person who can do that is you.

You have responsibility over many things that happen in your life. (That job you don’t like- Who applied for it?) There are a great number of doors and opportunities out there if only you would choose to take them. Most of the time, it’s you that’s getting in your own way.

You’ve been taught to hide your true self and submit to living an ordinary life- taught that living a practical life takes precedence even if that’s not what you really want. You’re conditioned to believe that your dreams should just be dreams. That’s what they’re called dreams, right? Wrong.

It’s time to wake up and start living.

There are two options in life:

On one hand,

1. You can spend your life complaining about a job you hate, about how the world seems to be against you, about how things could be better if only you had more time or more money or something else that you think you need- spending your time preparing to live and waiting for someone to give you permission to do what you really want to.


2. You can begin taking responsibility for your life and actually start living.

So what if you want to walk around the city wearing a clown wig playing the ukulele? So what if you want to quit your job and do something *gasp* not ordinary?

That’s up to you to decide.

Because it’s your life, so you might as well have fun living it. The only one you need permission from is you.

What is one thing in your life that you have been ‘waiting for permission for,’ and what can you do about it, TODAY? Share your story in the comments below.

About the Author: Harley Roxanne is the creative strategist, videographer, and photographer behind, helping entrepreneurs engage people and build their brand through photo and video. Shes’s definitely worth checking out.

photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Conni November 24, 2011 at 6:52 am

Great post, Harley!

Gladly, I have already given myself permission to do three things:

1. doing several things at once to make a living. (After having realised that there is not THE ONE THING for the rest of my life)

2. using my creativity

2. being proud to be a dive instructor despite having a M.A.. I love it and will always work under water alongside the things from point 1 & 2.

It took a while to get there. I wish we lived in societies where this was the norm, where we didn’t actually have to give ourselves permission to do the things we’re amazing at or the things we love.


harleyroxanne November 24, 2011 at 9:03 am

@Conni Thanks for sharing! So glad to hear you’ve already given yourself permission for those things in your life. Totally worth it, I see ;-)

Lolafalk November 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Beautiful post! And very timely for me…

Over a year ago I’d already “semi” given myself permission to quit a stifling (but financially lucrative) day job to pursue my own business. But I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to support myself wholly on my (much smaller) business income alone…so I took up a part time position in a relevant field to my business, which I enjoyed…but it still took time away from allowing me to fully 100% commit to making my own business thrive.

Long story short…I just quit that part time position yesterday. Scary, yes. But I also know that pesky little job was what kept me merely on the cusp of success (and incapable of the possibility of full-blown success). I’m creating the space to make this business the insane success I know in my heart it can be. And it feels soooooo good!


harleyroxanne November 24, 2011 at 9:30 pm

@Lolafalk this is awesome and congrats!!!! Thanks for sharing :-)

Paul from Selfgrowthproject November 25, 2011 at 11:20 am

Hi Harley, very good point. We all have the power to choose how we create our life. It is amazing how many people go about their life constantly complaining about how it has turned out to be. Life is about playing the game of cause verses effect where we either take responsibility (take control) or just live with the effects (being dis-empowered & unhappy). We have all heard that saying if you do not like what you do for a day job then do something different. The trouble is a lot of people are just too scared to take the step out of their comfort zone and brave new opportunities for success. Thank you for sharing is great post.


harleyroxanne November 26, 2011 at 6:43 am

@Paul from Selfgrowthproject Thanks, Paul, for stopping by. :-)

spiritsentient November 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Freddy Harrington is EPIC. Thanks for sharing this Harley. Your message is right in line with Jonathan’s — Live your dreams, do what you love. Bravo miss.

For me: I await permission for nothing, I claim my success and everyone feels it — and if they don’t…. they will ;)

Also, there’s a super-secret typo in this article… did anyone catch it? ;) I’ll look for more from you Harley. Rock on!


harleyroxanne November 26, 2011 at 6:45 am

@spiritsentient Have you met Freddy too? What an interesting person! And good for you for already claiming your successes :-)

PaigeBurkes November 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Given all that I’ve accomplished so far in my life (without waiting for permission), it pains me to hear so many people tell me why they can’t live their dreams. I’ve turned it into one of my missions to convey to people how any dream is possible by breaking it down into little steps. Even when you show people the path, they frequently won’t take the first step because, as you’ve so eloquently stated – they won’t give themselves permission.

The more we all live our own unique lives on our own terms, the more we change what “society” is and what the norms are. I hope I’m setting a great example for my kids so that they never even consider doing anything other than what they love.


harleyroxanne November 26, 2011 at 6:47 am

@PaigeBurkes Glad to hear you’re setting the example for your kids too. I think you’re exactly right and am glad you’re trying to help people see what great things they can do. Keep rockin’ it!

actualinfinity December 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

This is so true. I experienced this for 35 years of my life until I finally gave myself permission and started really living the life I want! I quit my corporate job, moved to Chicago and now truly get paid to be me. It’s incredible!

I refer to this “permission” syndrome as “having a case of the should’s”. We grow up believing we “should” live this way, “should” do these things, “should” be this way, etc. My catch phrase is, “There’s no good should.”

You’re right on here… now is the time to start living. Today. This second. Thanks for posting and reminding us of this important lesson.


harleyroxanne December 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

@actualinfinity I love the way you put it, “There’s no good should.” :-) Perfect.

Patrick February 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm

“I refer to this “permission” syndrome as “having a case of the should’s”. We grow up believing we “should” live this way, “should” do these things, “should” be this way, etc. My catch phrase is, “There’s no good should.””

That is just great! Sounds like when I think people are living in a “coulda, shoulda, woulda” world.

BurningBushHK December 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Hey Jonathan, could you pls tell me which “Related Posts” plugin you use above for WP?


amitsonawane December 4, 2011 at 3:55 am

Great post! Reminds me of my favorite quotes by George Sheenan, “There are those of us who are always about to live. We are waiting until things change, until there is more time, until we are less tired, until we get a promotion, until we settle down / until, until, until. It always seems as if there is some major event that must occur in our lives before we begin living.”


harleyroxanne December 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm

@amitsonawane Haven’t heard that one. Love it though! Thanks for sharing :-)

theflyingcashew December 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I need permission to:

* have fun.

* hang out with friends

* to travel.

The last one I’ve actually started doing something about it. I was getting frustrated that I had never once been on a vacation even though I work and have no real commitments aside from that. One day I told my mom that enough was enough and I started saving up for a trip to Panama, my home country. We were to go together since neither of us have been there in 10 years.

Sadly, my mom backed out but I was determine to go. And it was definitely worth it! It even inspired my mom and the rest of my family to make their own trip that same year.

So I’m an advocate of ditching permission. Otherwise, you’ll start getting bitter.


PaigeBurkes December 6, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Way to go and GREAT for you!! It takes guts to be a leader in your family. As you’ve seen, the payoff is definitely worth it!

pocketparamedic December 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Definitely something I’ve been waiting for permission to do is “start getting awesomer.”

It sounds so general, but so much about myself needs to change for my upcoming trip abroad–and its vagueness is probably what kept me from doing it. I was always engaging at least one small part of the goal, so no part of me kicked in and said “Not cool–get off your butt!”

I need to encourage my own independence and stop waiting for mentors or teachers to give me advice on what to do–this is something HUGE I’m struggling with.


Sherelle July 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

WOOSH! So. Needed. I was raised to ask for permission. I never forged signatures. I went to college like I was told. In high school, I craved rubrics and examples so I could deliver exactly what was wanted. Even now, I try to find the best way to do something and do it that way. The way I grew up, mistakes were just mistakes. Not learning experiences.

But I was inherently rebellious, vibrant, sassy. I snuck out in the middle of the night. I threw keggers and hotel parties with my friends. I opened my mouth to yell in a house that taught me how to sweep things under the rug. My mother didn’t speak to me for a week when I dyed my hair bright red, when she found my birth control, and when she saw my tattoo for the first time, three separate occasions.

And here I am, rebelling again, having received a MS in Marriage and Family Therapy, I decided that wasn’t the way I wanted to work with people. This year, I’m opening a relationship coaching practice to give people the relationship skills no one taught at home or at school. Guess I better just embrace my inner rebel. =)


Kim Thirion ? Un-CopiedLife October 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Really enjoyed this, Harley!

I think you really nailed it… so many are waiting to be told “it’s okay, go ahead”. They don’t want to be different, or stand out, on their own. Because if it bombs or they make a huge spectacle of themselves, then they can point the finger at the person who told them to do it “But they said…” You know?


Kevin February 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Great post and spot on though I think the key is this statement:

“2. You can begin taking responsibility for your life and actually start living.”

This is so key and for SO many areas of life.

You are directly responsible for your life. YOU not someone else. You,you,you. All the complex other things that seem so relevant and seem to be holding you back are just excuses.

Once that is realized you can really start living!


Dwayne February 8, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Thanks Harley for this inspirational post. It’s a good reminder that I can truly build the life that I want.


Cathryn September 8, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Thank you so much for these words of encouragement because I really do need some, because even though I am of a young age and quite competent and intelligent my biological father did the ultimate betrayal against me , years ago all because he is a selfish and cold hearted and emotionally and verbally abusive towards me, and not to mention very very over-controlling too, you could say that he sold me into slavery ( forced guardianship ) and he’ll never ever understand the deep hurt and the harm he has actually done to me. but I refuse to allow anyone to tell me that I need to ask their permission to live , so you are 100% right. and I say to them , ” no more” no more ordering me around . etc. because we all have but one life to live and it’s now and once this life is gone it will never come again. so I am gonna live my life on my terms from now on not theirs. so again thank you for this article.


ang August 25, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Everything you own belong to goverment including your life.we the people own not about us


spiritsentient November 28, 2011 at 8:58 am

@harleyroxanne _ I’ve not met him, but after your article I feel like I have :D

I do claim my success, and told a tv reporter that very thing about 15 minutes ago ;)


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