You Don’t Have to Ask Permission

Written By John Sonmez

For a long time, one of the major things that held me back in life was thinking I needed to ask permission to do something or be someone.

I lived with a mentality that allowed others to limit and define my potential.

I allowed other people to tell me who I was, what I was worth, and what I could or could not do.

As I coach dozens of young software developers today—and some not so young—I constantly see this same mindset within them.

Many programmers tell me they are unsure of themselves and don’t feel they are worthy enough to get that senior developer job, create their own blog, or even start their own company.

They are waiting for permission

Depositphotos_64493895_l-2015They are waiting for someone to tell them they are worthy of their undertaking.

They are waiting for someone to give them permission to speak their mind or move up the ladder.

But, here’s the thing: fortune favors the bold.

If you want to be successful in your career, you can’t wait for someone else to give you permission to be what you want to be or do what you want to do; you just have to do it.

Sure, there is a risk involved. There is risk involved in any serious undertaking, but there is much more risk in wasting your potential and never seeing it come to fruition.

I know, as a less experienced developer, that it might not seem like you have a lot to offer.

It might seem to you that you have no right and no business associating yourself with others who have been in the field for decades, have done so many great things, and have so much experience.

You might feel that you can’t write a blog, because you can’t possibly have something valuable to say.

You might even feel that you don’t have the right to say it—you haven’t earned it—but that is completely untrue.

No one has to give you permission

There are no rights or privileges to earn.

Words speak for themselves.

Wisdom and folly come from both the experienced and the uninitiated alike.

Hopefully as you grow in experience, you grow in wisdom as well, but that’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes experience has a way of blinding us.

Sometimes arrogance makes us unable to see the very basics that are oh-so important.

Sometimes it takes a beginner to look at the world through fresh eyes and to share that vision with peers and superiors to truly make an impact and move us forward.

Don’t forget that some of the most successful software developers of all time didn’t ask for permission

Facebook in San Francisco gay prideI’m pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg didn’t really know what the hell he was doing when he first starting creating Facebook.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t ask for permission, either.

I don’t think anyone told him it was a good idea or gave him the ego-boost to help him feel qualified to go ahead with his plans.

I think he just decided to go for it.

You’ll find a similar story with Apple.

I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak didn’t ask for permission, either.

In fact, if I recall correctly, both Steves were in a bit over their heads when they committed to fulfilling personal computer orders for a machine they hadn’t even build yet.

Neither of them was qualified to revolutionize the personal computer industry.

Yet they did… and all without permission.

I could probably name a dozen other pioneers in our industry and many other industries who took bold steps and didn’t ask permission first.

I’m sure you can as well.

When my life changed

In my own life, things didn’t really start to change until I realized the simple truth that I did not need permission.

When I first start creating Pluralsight courses, the other authors—many of whom were quite famous—probably thought, “Who the heck is this John Sonmez guy and what does he think he’s doing?”

But, I didn’t ask their permission. I just went right ahead creating courses until I became the most published author on the platform with 55 courses.

When I first started this blog, many of my coworkers were amused that I would try and teach something to the world. They wondered who I was writing to, who would ever read my blog, but now over 100,000 people do each month.

When I started recording YouTube videos, I didn’t have any authority to do so. Some people even thought it was a joke, or I was deluded, but I didn’t care.

And when I wrote my book, Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual, more than one person vocalized that I didn’t have the right or authority to write a book about career, fitness, finance, and other topics, but do you think I let that stop me?


My point is, in all of those undertakings, I could have waited for someone to give me permission.

I could have waited from someone to give me the nod and to say, “Hey, John, you sure seem to know a lot about software development and life. You should write about it or record videos.”

But chances are I would have been waiting a long time, because no one is going to step up and knight you.

You have to christen yourself.

You can literally be anything you want to be

You can literally do anything you want to do.

And I don’t say these statements lightly.

Everything I have set out to do in life, I have accomplished, no matter how bold my aspiration was.

I would have never believed this was possible had I not just taken the chance.

Had I waited for someone else to give me permission, I would have never discovered it at all.

One of the main reasons I started this blog—and to be honest, one of the main reasons I keep it going—is to combat the “I’m better than you” attitude that so many experienced developers seem to project in our field.

This disparaging attitude tends to make many developers feel like they aren’t worthy. Like their opinions and experiences aren’t valuable. Like they have nothing to contribute.

In fact, I named this blog Making the Complex Simple because I wanted to take all the things that these “holier-than-thou” developers were making complex and show everyone just how simple they really were.

The potential within us all

PotentialIt’s amazing the potential that each of us has—regardless of our experience or lack thereof.

You don’t need permission to step out and experiment.

You don’t need permission to create your own blog and share your thoughts.

You can become a famous blogger if you choose. There is no reason it can’t be you.

You can become an author. Yes, you could write a book.

You could become a well-known expert in your programming language or technology.

You could become a famous speaker.

You could work for Google or Microsoft or even be the CEO of your own software company.

I know it seems far-fetched, but all of these things are possible..

…If only you can learn not to ask for permission.

A special thank you to Zephyr, who sponsored this post. Zephyr is a huge thought-leader in the agile development and software testing space and has been a long-time partner of Simple Programmer. If you are looking for an awesome test management solution, I highly recommend them.