Don’t Ask Permission (Your New Mantra)

Work + Money

frances c jones2
Frances C. Jones, Founder, Cole Media Management

By Frances C. Jones

Every New Year’s Eve, instead of picking a resolution, I pick a motto: a mental bumper sticker that will exemplify how I will move through the world for the coming twelve months. This year, that slogan is: “Don’t Ask Permission.”

I mention this because it’s possible that many of you -- grappling daily with the results of the “economic correction” -- are thinking this might be a good time to keep your head down and avoid the shrapnel. You’d been thinking of starting your own business, positioning yourself for a promotion, founding a nonprofit, but these days you find your next thought is, “Oh, but I could never do that. Now’s not a good time. Besides, that’s just not me.”

Who says so?

And please don’t think I write the above lightly. I had a nine-to-five job for years and never imagined I could leave: in fact, I was quite strident about how I needed structure, how happy I was being my boss’ go-to girl, how important I felt it was to have the freedom outside my day job to pursue multiple interests.

But life hands you many challenges and opportunities (or, as we call them in yoga, AFGO’s: another freakin’ growth opportunity.) In my case, media training caught my interest at the same time my frustration with my current career was at its peak. Although I could tell you my decision to leave was well thought out, I’d be fibbing.

I was pissed.

I quit.

I was terrified.

I was liberated.

Over the course of the (very sharp) learning curve that followed, I discovered I did love structure, but I could create my own. I did love being the go-to girl, but I didn’t need to confine myself to being that for only one person. I did need to pursue multiple interests, but now the only person I had to answer to about when, where, and why was me.

I also discovered any number of people who said, “But what makes you qualified?”

Here’s what I learned: you can’t wait for someone else to tell you you’re qualified. After you leave school, no one is handing out diplomas saying, “Marketing Manager.” “Executive Coach,” “Entrepreneur,” “Writer,” “CEO.” Additionally, as we’ve learned in the past year, there’s very little in this world that’s “safe.” It is, however, very easy to end up being sorry—and sorry usually comes from regret: regret that you didn’t trust yourself, that you didn’t back your own talent, that you didn’t push yourself to the limit of your potential.


“Anything’s possible” -- embrace that mindset. Anything is possible once you decide you’re willing to work for it. What other people think about your choice is none of their business.

If this sounds selfish to you, I’d ask you to consider the following: it is extremely difficult for someone who is profoundly unhappy or unfulfilled themselves to make others – even people whom they love – happy.  While there is an obvious balance to be struck, in some ways you owe it to those whom you love to become who you are.

My friend David has a tattoo on his arm that says, in Latin, “Put that down and get to work.” I’ve gone a less dramatic route, with a bracelet that has inscribed on it, “Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”

You choose your work—and your worth. You decide who you are—then become who you are. Your success is there for the taking.

Don’t ask permission.

Frances Cole Jones is the founder of Cole Media Management and the author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation,and of the forthcoming, "The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today's Business World" – due out in September.

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  • We all need something to believe in, something that helps us to carry on day to day and find the strength to do the things that we can and must do with our lives. Finding that can often help us to find our inner strengths along the way. What you've shown here is an example of exactly what I mean when I speak of the little things we nee to keep us going. Thank you.

    Posted by leatherjewelry01, 9 August 2009.

  • Wonderful, inspiring essay. Yes We Can!

    Posted by Yogamomma, 5 August 2009.

  • This book is the perfect gift for young women graduating from college -- even in great economic times!

    Posted by DonnaD, 17 July 2009.

  • You've got me thinking...I think my "mental bumper sticker" will be, "I dare you to say no!"

    Frances, I LOVE your book "How to Wow..." - can't wait for "33 Things...!"


    Posted by Mary Ann Wasil Nilan, 13 July 2009.