The Biggest Lie We Believe About Influence

There is a lie many of us unwittingly believe. It creeps into our minds and lives in such a sneaky way we don’t even notice it. I tell it to myself every day; you probably do, too.

Biggest Lie - Asking for Permission
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk (Creative Commons)

It’s a subtle, seemingly harmless phrase that rings throughout my head all day long and attacks me when I doubt myself. It’s my excuse for not starting sooner.

It may tease and taunt you, too, causing you to think less of yourself.

And it sounds something like this…

“If only I had a platform…”

Then, I’d be able to broadcast my message.

Then, I’d say what needs to be said.

Then, I’d finally be able to make a real difference.

“All I need are resources,” the voice says. “Just a little more time or talent or attention. If people were watching me, I’d shine. I’d be a star.”

Yeah, right.

I’m calling “B.S.” on that. That voice is a liar; it’s your Enemy speaking, the lulling siren that tempts you to stall until a better, more convenient time to create comes. But here’s the truth:

Nobody who changed the world did it by waiting for an audience. [Tweet]

Not MLK. Not Gandhi or even Mother Teresa. And certainly not Jesus.

Yet, many of us are doing just that. We’re holding back, putting our art on pause, biding our time with mediocrity and waiting for someone to invites us onstage before we share our best work. What a cowardly way to live.

If this is you, if you’ve chosen to believe this lie, then let me tell you something: That day that you’re waiting for will never come. The day in which you will be discovered, the day when you finally get rewarded for your genius — it won’t happen. Not if you just keep waiting.

You will never have the attention you crave until you start living your future now.

Here’s how real difference makers live…

They don’t ask permission. They don’t wait to be picked. They just start with what they have. And you’re going to have to do the same if your art is going to matter.

Were you ever the last one picked for sports in school? I was… always.

A chubby kid who read too much and didn’t exercise enough, I was the one left standing against the wall when the dodge ball teams were chosen. The last one picked and the first one out. I hated that stupid sport.

Back then, I wasn’t in charge. I was living on someone else’s terms, having to conform to another system’s rules. I didn’t have a choice — I was a kid. But now things are different… if I choose to see them that way.

Not getting picked sucks. I know, it’s happened to me for most of my life. With girls, with friends, even with jobs. It’s a terribly disempowering feeling and truly a lonely way to live.

But here’s the good news: you don’t have to live like that any more. You’ve heard this before in various forms, but I’ll say it again for emphasis:

Those who change the world aren’t waiting for permission. They’d rather apologize for too much tenacity than regret having too much timidity.

You can do this with your writing or speaking or music, with whatever it is you do. Be bold, be daring — just don’t be a jerk. Because the world doesn’t need more dodge ball teams. What it needs is for you to get your act together and do something important. To share the work you’ve been called to create.

You, the artist

I use the words art and create a lot when I write. And if you aren’t a writer or a creative professional, you might get the wrong idea. You might think these words aren’t for you. And you’d be wrong.

The truth is you probably don’t think of yourself as creative as you truly are. How could you, in good conscience, don put yourself in the same company as Picasso and Neruda, even Beethoven? The audacity, the ego.

That’s what we think of when think of the term artist. Painters and poets and composers. But maybe we’ve been thinking about this all wrong.

Maybe, and I’m sincerely starting to believe this, art is anything you do that requires care and craft. So whatever you do, whether it’s painting or plumbing, you are an artist. Or at least, you can be, if you treat your occupation as art — a true vocation, a calling.

Because that’s what it is: your chance to let your voice be heard, to say something that changes the status quo, that pushes progress and moves humanity forward. To make something beautiful we can’t live without. Or not.

You could, of course, keep waiting to live the life you dreamed of, to share the words burning on your lips until a better time arrives. Until you’re ready. Until someone comes along and gives you permission to be yourself. That’s an option, too.

Are you doing that? Or are you believing the lie, waiting for permission? Share your story in the comments