The Audacity of Giving Yourself Permission

“You shouldn’t be teaching”

This weekend I got a curious piece of feedback. An older woman, who has been teaching and facilitating probably before I was born, said I shouldn’t be teaching. She wanted me to know that I don’t have the experience necessary to be teaching or leading events and that my “relationship clearly needs work”.

Now believe it or not I was actually happy about the relationship comment, even though it was a jab. Going into this weekend workshop on relationships, I told my wife Paula I wanted to drop any notion of looking good, and my goal was to be the couple that “needed the most help”. We were there to improve, so why hide our shortcomings?

The teaching part was more interesting. The pre-conceived notion that there is a line I haven’t crossed yet to be able to share what I’ve learned. I tried to understand where she was coming from.

When I asked more she told me she only teaches the work of her first and second teachers, who gave her permission to teach their work. I can see why she’d be upset I was teaching, not having gone through someone else, since that’s the world she grew up in.

Study underneath someone, learn their work through years of practice, then get permission to teach. It’s a time-tested formula that everyone accepts as good. From her perspective, my wife and I are like people posing as doctors, but not having graduated from medical school, and she’s right.

We have no official status as teachers or facilitators. In fact, we’re more like village shamans who’s first patients were our friends, then a few more people asked, so we helped them as best we could, learning along the way and mostly reminding people that everything will be ok.

It reminds me of the music industry and the collapse of big record labels. When musicians no longer needed to be signed to share their work with the masses, it left this awkward but beautiful moment when they started choosing themselves, and one by one musicians would wake up smell the freedom that wasn’t as easy before the dawn of the internet.

The same thing has happened with book publishing, radio, TV, and just about every art form there is. The middle men are disappearing and people are choosing themselves.

Instead of needing a permission slip, teachers, writers, entrepreneurs and artists are writing a declaration of independence and signing it with a big fat John Hancock, declaring that no one else gets to decide when they become an artist.

That’s up to them.

Is this a good thing?

Sometimes we swing so far away from the old model that we forget about how valuable it can be to study a craft for years before teaching it, or how powerful being an apprentice can be.

Today, there is more music being made than ever, and at the same time more bad music being made. We’re in the Brett Favre era… he holds both the record for most pass completions (6,300) and also most interceptions (336). We try and we fail more than any generation in history.

The same goes for people who want to teach the world something. Is it clunky? You bet. Are there life-coaches, spiritual teachers and advice-givers who have no idea what they are talking about? Yes. But they’re learning, and so am I.

I try and fail all the time.

I write ridiculous things on Facebook, I put on workshops with no planning, and pretend I’m Jesus to solve other people’s problems. I learn from your response. Sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it and sometimes it goes completely unnoticed.

But sometimes what I write, what I say or how I listen causes a little ripple, and that little ripple becomes a big ripple, and all of a sudden something beautiful happens. Brett Favre drops back and throws a Hail Mary, and it’s caught for a touchdown.

We never know how our work will impact people until we ship it.

Are mentors important? Absolutely, I have many. Is it useful to go through a certification program or school before you teach or coach? It can be, but I don’t think the world is missing more permission slips.

I think the world is missing courage.

I think the critics, the ones who shout at us from the sidelines of our life are the same cowards who got stopped in their tracks by someone else who told them “you aren’t ready”, and they listened. They dimmed their light and passed on their garbage by projecting it on you.

You can break the chain.

You can give yourself permission and you can be a beacon of light for others. You can find the teenager who gets made fun of for her art and say “I see the beauty in what you do, and I admire your courage”.

You can visit that blog someone just started and leave a comment that says “I’m here, and I’m listening, keep going”. You never know what kind of ripple effect one simple word of encouragement can have.

Anyone who has ever dared to give their deepest gift to the world has felt the fear of it not being good enough, just like you. Instead of waiting to receive what you want, you can give it away to others. It’s the best form of therapy I know, and it’s what I’m doing right now.

Before I wrote this article I was sick to my stomach over what this woman said to me. It really hurt, because there’s still a voice in my head that thinks I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready to publish a book, not ready to charge people money just to hear me speak, not ready to call myself a teacher of anything.

That voice isn’t mine, and it’s not yours either, but I’m grateful she said all that, because it had me write this article, and it had me reach out to you. I’m giving you what I need to hear, and in doing so, I’m free.

Paying it forward.

Maybe that’s the sign of a real teacher.

newbeardsquare30x30 This is part 2 of a 3-part collection entitled Stickin It to the Man


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