#17 Permission Granted



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Paul McAleer: Hi. You’re listening to Designing Yourself. This is Paul McAleer.

Whitney Hess: And this is Whitney Hess.

So, we have often begged you, our listeners, to share your topics with us because Paul and I have a lot of good ideas. Right, Paul?

Paul: Of course we do.

Whitney: But, we don’t have all the world’s ideas. And so we’re always asking our listeners to recommend things that we should talk about. And quite a long time ago one of our most loyal listeners, Morgan Haines, who goes by A Little Creative, had recommended that we talk about this topic that is of great meaning to her. But it ended up not fitting into our first season. But I think now is the time.

And that topic is permission. And it’s interesting because when we talked about being ready in our last episode, one of the things that we mentioned was that sometimes we need external validation to feel like we’re ready to move forward with something in our lives. And whether that’s good or whether that’s bad, no judgment, I think that what that thing is of needing that validation from someone else is permission.

Paul: I agree. Yeah, I agree.

Whitney: So, permission has been, like, a big issue in my life. And so, Morgan and I actually finally met up in person. She lives in North County, San Diego. And we had lunch the other day. And she mentioned, hey, that permission thing. And I realized because of our Ready episode that it was actually the perfect time to talk about it. So, that’s what I brought to the table for today.

Paul: Excellent. So, I guess the place to start with it is what permission means to each of us. I’ll go first because I bet you have a well-baked answer and I don’t.

Whitney: I don’t.

Paul: OK. So, it goes hand in hand with readiness to me in that I can see it as both an internal and an external thing where you are either asking someone pretty explicitly for permission to do something and waiting for a yes or no to continue, or you’re really kind of checking in with yourself and ensuring that this is something that you’re comfortable with and feel safe with or feel like it is a good decision or something that you would choose. That’s how I put it.

Whitney: That’s interesting.

Paul: OK. Why is it interesting?

Whitney: Because I really have never thought of permission as something that you give yourself. I mean, of course I’ve heard the term “I gave myself permission to have that ice cream or that cookie or whatever that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.” But typically that’s not what first comes to mind.

And when Morgan brought up the topic of permission and I was thinking about it, to me that seemed immediately to mean other people’s permission for me of what I’m allowed to do. And there’s something about allowance that I think is wrapped up in permission. I think about my parents giving me permission to do things or, if I’m being perfectly honest, not giving me permission to do things.

I think about a mentor giving me permission to go in a certain direction with my career or not giving me permission to go in a certain direction, whether or not that was explicit. Like, it’s rare that I think a mentor will say “I expressly forbid you from doing this.” But you can sense that you don’t have their permission or their approval to do it.

I think about the permission that we grant one another when we’re in relationships. And, sure, take the night off and go do this, or just the rules of the relationship in general may have more permission or less permission to make your own decisions.

So, I guess the reason I said, hmm, interesting, is because I’ve never really thought about permission as being anything other than someone else granting you the right to do what you want to do.

Paul: And, to be fair, that is where I go first with it as well. And I think the facets you’ve brought up, particularly around kind of the parental angles, has pretty much been my experience with it as well. I think the permission on an internal basis is maybe a little more with readiness, although it could be about parts of us that act kind of in that parental mode, right? And we’re saying that it’s OK to do this or you’re allowed to do this.

I think the – I bet we could probably do a whole episode about food, but I see a lot of it – well, probably many, but just because. I mean, there’s a lot. I mean, it’s a big topic. But, I think a lot of it does have to do with that level of permission, and that’s something that you brought up. And I’m with you on that, like there’s the whole, like, I allowed myself to have this or what have you.

That all said, I’m also thinking in the context of our last show about readiness. And I listened to the rough edit of it, and I noticed that it was – we almost – we didn’t take opposite stances or anything, but my viewpoint on a lot of it was internally focused and yours was a lot externally focused. And I found that really interesting because that’s the first time I really noticed that in one of our conversations.

And so, I would be happy, I think, in this episode to talk more about the external side because I think it will be a slightly more challenging place for me to go.

Whitney: Well, I think it says a lot about us and probably gives a lot of insight into what we’ve been through in our lives. It is relatively new for me to make my own decisions. And I know that sounds insane, and it’s a loaded statement. But I feel as if I have, over the course of my life, up until the last couple of years, made a lot of decisions based on what I thought I was allowed to do, what I thought I was supposed to do, what I thought was appropriate to do, what I thought others expected me to do.

And so, yes, of course, I was making my own decisions. I’m an adult, and I have free will. But it never felt like it was really my voice inside my head that was guiding me. And there was a lot that I didn’t do because I didn’t feel like I had the permission to do it.

And, one of those things was leaving New York. And it took until I was 30. That turning 30 suddenly granted me the permission to make my own decision on it. I never wanted to make my parents unhappy. I never wanted to disappoint them. There were so many things that came up in my young adulthood, and I count all of my 20s in that, where they didn’t explicitly say you’d better do this or else because we were well beyond that in our parent-daughter relationship.

But I knew that if I chose certain things, it wasn’t going to be what they wanted. And so, there was a part of me that felt like I couldn’t, like I didn’t really have the permission to leave New York because that’s where they are. That’s where they think I should be. And yet turning 30 was suddenly like I had the permission.

And so, in that case I’m with you on the internal piece, that I had to give myself that permission. But I often see it as being from an outside place, where I think you’ve been on this personal journey of self-development much longer than I have. It’s only been the past couple of years for me.

And so, perhaps that’s why when we were talking about readiness in the last episode, you – and with permission today – that you go to a place of it being about what’s going on in the inside. Maybe that’s where you happen to be more focused for longer than I’ve been.

Paul: I agree, and I think that also goes along. I think you’re right. That does go along with my personality to a degree and also where are in our own development journeys. I definitely see the internal angle, and it’s funny because when you were saying a lot of those things I was thinking and listening and feeling very similarly.

I have also had experiences with parents around location and where to live and where not to live and feeling like it’s almost like it’s not allowed to leave a certain area. And for me that was primarily Chicagoland but also the suburb that I grew up in.

And, that was a struggle for me as well. But eventually I did kind of get permission on that, you know, in a sense. Like, I felt that I didn’t want to be in that spot anymore, and I knew that for a long time. And I kind of got a go-ahead. And it was – those things kind of clicked.

And, yeah, it’s going to come back to parents a lot, I guess, with this because the other part that you mentioned that you said was new for you, and I feel is actually relatively new for me as well, is the idea of making your own decisions. And I’m really interested in how that changed for you and kind of where permission came into play.

Whitney: Well, it was, in large part, due to this belief that thirtysomethings don’t need permission. It occurred to me after I turned 30 that a lot of the decisions I was making I was making for other people’s benefits or based on other people’s expectations, etc., all the things I said earlier, that I was seeking approval. And, I simultaneously held this belief that thirtysomethings don’t need to seek approval.

Paul: It’s kind of true, right?

Whitney: And so, it hit me. Oh, I’m one of them now. I can do something different. I can go out of the box. It hadn’t occurred to me going, you know, waiting until I was turning 30. Like, in the months, weeks, days leading up to it, it didn’t occur to me, oh, I’m going to turn 30 and suddenly new stuff is going to happen and I’m not going to do what other people expect of me. I’m going to do what I want to do. That wasn’t what was happening.

But suddenly I was 30. It probably was the first few times that I was meeting new people and they asked, “How old are you?” And I said out loud, “Oh, I’m 30.” And I realized that I was 30, and I wasn’t making some pretty big decisions in my life that I really needed to make because I was worried what my parents were going to think.

Paul: Like what?

Whitney: Like not wanting to live in New York City anymore, like wanting to make some pretty big changes in my business, like making, straight up, the decision that I was not going to grow my business by means of hiring more people.

I felt like that’s what I was supposed to do. My parents are entrepreneurs. They started a business together. They grew it to 30-some people at its height. All the people that have given me advice over the years have been people who have said, you know, eventually you’re going to have to hire people. That was just the assumption.

And, I fought against it and I got close to it so many times. But it never felt right. And that was another thing, that once I was 30 I said, you know what? I’m just going to have to say, straight up, I am not interested in running an agency. I am not interested in having a bunch of employees. I’m not going to do it. And I’m not going to apologize for it.

And, that’s it. That’s it. The decision is made. I have the permission to redefine what it means to continuously grow my business. And it’s not going to be by adding more people. It’s going to have to be something else. And you know the rest of that story of how I get led down the coaching path.

Paul: Sure.

Whitney: But, hey, I was telling you in our last episode that I was really hesitating around calling myself a coach. And I was really hesitating around rewriting my services until I got that certification. And in a way I think that that was because I was waiting for permission from New Ventures West to position myself as a coach, to call myself a coach, to publish on my website that I am a coach and that this is what I do.

And now I have this certificate. It’s actually quite pretty, and in one of those soft – like, hard on one side but soft on the other – portfolio cases, like really fancy one, probably cost four bucks from Staples. It’s there. It’s now on a shelf next to my desk, and it’s looking at me.

And right now I kind of need that permission. I need to look at it, and I need to say, yep, according to New Ventures West, perhaps not according to anybody else, but according to them they think I’m a coach. I have the permission to move forward with this.

And, I did an event yesterday at SAP that was all around emotional intelligence and mindfulness, a lot of which I learned from the New Ventures West program. And it was the first time that I’ve ever shared that stuff publicly, that I’ve actually given a presentation on it, especially in a corporate context like that.

And I know for a fact that I would not have been able to do it before I was certified because I probably didn’t think that I had the permission to go there. And now I do, and suddenly it makes doing it all the easier.

Paul: So, was the permission all around completing your training?

Whitney: I don’t know.

Paul: OK.

Whitney: I think it might have been the label. I probably – I don’t know that I necessarily gained training in the last three, four months of the program. I gained experience because I was coaching people, and I certainly refined my understanding of the methodology and whatnot. But I don’t think that I necessarily wasn’t ready those few months prior.

But I didn’t feel like I really had the permission, because they are a certificate-granting organization, to go ahead and call myself that.

Paul: So, it sounds like it was a combination, then, of being ready and – or, not being ready, crap – and also not yet having permission. And then, as we talked about last week with the AquaNotes where you had the message of, “Wait,” to me when you brought that up, first of all I was totally intrigued by that idea.

And then, that to me now in this context sounds like at that point you were ready. You were totally ready to go. But you were waiting. And now it sounds like you might have been waiting for that permission. And then when you got it, as you said last week, too, the note, you changed it to “Ready, set, go.”

Whitney: Yep, and it was just, like, unleashed.

Paul: And it’s done.

Whitney: Yeah. Well, I want to know, what is going on for you, if anything, right now that you’re not sure you have the permission to do?

Paul: Nothing. No.

Whitney: I love that.

Paul: I love that, too. No, there are, I think, I mean, this is – it dovetails back to our last conversation around my example of writing a book, which I have relatively speaking made very little progress on, I guess. Maybe not. I’ll take that back. I’ve made some progress because last week I shared with you that I felt that I could say now, like, a book is within my realm of possibility now. And I’ve done more consideration of it and more thinking of it.

And it’s funny because for me that permission was really – that was an internal one, right? That was kind of a ready and a permission thing happening as well because I had had people telling me that – or asking me, rather – about a book and when I was going to write one, and where was it, kind of.

And I was not ready for that. But in this context people were essentially giving me permission to write a book. This is where I’ll pull in some of the “whoo” stuff. It’s like the universe was saying, “Hey, you’re going to write a book. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but people are ready for it. They’re ready for it, and you have permission to go ahead and do it.”

And, I didn’t feel that inside, and I didn’t interpret it that way. So, I think that that example is probably the closest thing right now. I also think there are tons of other things that in the past I have ruled out as not having permission to do that I feel I can do now. But I also feel that’s a little more internal. I think, you know, one of the things that I’m just wondering with this is, am I conflating readiness and permission?

With a lot of what we’ve said so far, there’s this external force or something or somebody giving approval or saying yes or kind of implicitly saying yes and go ahead. And, I’m wondering how we incorporate that and how we feel that and then how we move forward based on that. Like, is that really the thing that we need to move forward on whatever we’re thinking about doing? Do we really need that?

Whitney: It’s so interesting because I’m seeing your trajectory on this book as being the opposite of my trajectory with the coaching in that you were given permission a long time ago to write a book by all the people who asked, “Hey, when are you going to write a book?” And, you weren’t ready.

And so, when you finally got ready, for whatever those reasons were, whether or not you can quantify them, you already had the permission because people seemed to have an expectation that you one day would. And so, now that you are both ready and have the permission, now it, book, has gone from absolutely no way to realm of possibility. And it’s up to you now to take it the rest of the way towards reality if you so choose because you’re ready and you have permission.

With me with the coaching, I think I was ready. And I think I was conflating that the last time we chatted because part of me was really eager to get going. I was trying to change my services on my website about two months ago, maybe. And I was trying to reconfigure my whole business model. And I was trying to do a lot of things.

So, in a way, that I was putting effort into it, even though I was making no good progress whatsoever, in a way indicates my readiness for change because I was seeking it. But what I was lacking was permission, the external validation, the consent of the people who, in my view right now, deemed me coach.

And, once I got that – I was already ready. But once I got that permission, it unlocked it for me. And I think it’s the opposite for you. And, Roz Duffy, who we had on the show, who is a very good friend of mine, just before I went to get certified, said to me, “You’re already a coach, as far as I’m concerned.” She’s like, “Good luck. I hope it goes well. But, you're already a coach.”

And, it struck me that she could be more sure of that than I am because I didn’t have that permission, really, in my view, to be that, not just to call myself that but to really be that. And I noticed, in the event yesterday that I did, just how differently I showed up as a coach because now I feel like it’s official. It’s granted.

And I feel sad about it. It’s not like something I think is good. I wish that I could give myself the permission to do all the things I want to do. I wish I could give myself the permission to not do the things that I don’t want to do. That would be brilliant. But I just don’t.

Paul: Like what? Like what? Like what? Because I think you’ve got something really good there.

Whitney: Ooh. Well, shall I admit it? OK, here’s a good one. I’m not going to get too juicy, but I’ll start up a little higher. I was having dinner with a friend of mine, Cynthia Lawson. She is a professor at The New School, Parsons. And she’s recently become – well, in the last year-plus – administration there.

And, she is very passionate about slow. She believes in slow technology, slow food, slow living. And what that means for her is that not everything has to be sped up to instantaneous in our life. And that’s how many of us feel. But she’s a real slow advocate.

And so, we were talking about something over dinner. She happened to be in town. And I think I apologized for taking so long to get back to her on some email that she had sent me. And, she was like, OK, enough already. It’s email. You don’t have to reply right away.

And I said something to the effect of feeling badly about how long it takes me to reply to people’s emails. And she said, where is the expectation that you have to reply to everything instantaneously? That’s something that you’re defining. And if other people are upset about it, OK. That has to do with them and their definition of what’s appropriate for email. But if you take a week, it’s not the end of the world.

And she was essentially, the way that I took it, giving me permission to not reply to emails right away. And then she took it one step further to say, and by the way, just because someone chooses to send you an email does not mean you have to respond to it. And I was like, whoa. I mean, of course I know this intellectually. And I’m sure I have said the exact same thing to somebody else.

But do I, Whitney Hess, feel like I have permission to not reply to emails? No siree, I do not. I have no permission to not respond to emails. And when she said that it was like suddenly I was maybe kind of being given the permission to not reply to every email.

But here’s the rub. I adore Cynthia, and I consider her a good friend. But I’m not sure she has the authority to give me permission to not reply to all of my emails.

Paul: Ooh. How so?

Whitney: Because it’s like the universe expects me to, or like those people early in my career who got inside my head who told me if you want to be successful you have to do these things, or the business books, the management books, everything that I’ve read that’s like what it takes to be a thought leader or what it takes to have an impact or whatever else, somewhere along the way I internalize, from somewhere, that I have to. I have to. And, maybe Cynthia can’t tell me that I don’t have to.

Paul: Maybe you hear it and you don’t yet believe it.

Whitney: Mm-hmm, absolutely.

Paul: Or, is that it? So, here’s the thing. So, it’s a wonderful coincidence that you brought this up because the – I believe it was the most recent, if not the most recent it was the one before that – episode of Back to Work, the Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin podcast –

Whitney: Which you love.

Paul: Which I have listened to since Episode 1, and I love it. The comic talk gets a little much for me, as it does for anybody who doesn’t like comics. But I can deal. They were talking almost about this exact same topic. And I wrote a short piece about it as well because it’s been on my mind about how I don’t use my inbox as a to-do list.

And I have my reasons for that, basically because I think it sucks as a to-do list. And the other element, which is kind of what Dan and Merlin were talking about, was that email is stateless, in a way, right? It is a flow of messages that we’re getting. It can happen at any time. We can expect it. We can not expect it. It just kind of happens.

And, it is up to us to set our own standards on how we reply or not reply to those emails. That is a big concept only because I think the way that you were led to believe that you need to take care of it right away is not uncommon. That is extremely common. Everybody, I think, feels that way, at least sometimes, that email must be taken care of right away.

It can interrupt your work whenever the hell it pleases, and we can reply to it right away. And we’ve got to do that. We’ve got to get that inbox zero, right? Because then that becomes a competition. It’s like, oh, I’ve got to show people that I’m ready for this and I’m going to go ahead and do this, right?

But the truth of the matter is everybody has permission to not do that. We don’t have to do that. Now, the consequences of that are a whole other matter, right? Like, there are some people who won’t give a crap – oh, I’ll say it, don’t give a shit – just so we can get our “Explicit” label.

Whitney: Yeah. Well, I want that “Explicit” label.

Paul: So, there are some people who don’t care when you reply. There are some people who will care greatly when you reply. Some people expect a reply. Some people don’t. You can gauge that, but you can also gauge when you are ready to reply, and it does not always have to be immediate.

One of the points that they had made on that episode also was that email is nobody’s job unless it is actually your job, which is possible, right? But it’s not like – like, it’s not my job to respond to emails all day. I respond to emails during a good portion of the day. I send out proposals and answer questions and do all that stuff. But, it’s not my job.

So, I guess my point with that is that it is a tool for communication, and I’m being very stripped-down here and saying this is what it is. And I agree with Cynthia on it, at least in principle. I have an example on the in-practice side that kind of blows a hole right through it.

So, I used to work at Orbitz, and we brought in Merlin Mann to give a talk. And this is before Back to Work and before anything. He was going around giving his inbox zero talk. And I was blown away because I had heard of it. I was like, oh, this is going to be excellent. And he gave a wonderful talk about that.

And one of the things he said is, you know, just go ahead and close your email program for, like, an hour a day or half an hour or whatever. Like, that was one piece of advice he gave as a, you know, try this out and see if it works. And, you know, I did it and it was fabulous.

And, I had other people stop by, and I had mentioned, yeah, I did that. And they were like, I could never do that. I could never, ever, ever do that because there’s so many people waiting to hear from me, and they need to know from me now. And that was no matter what level they were at in the organization.

At the time I was a manager, so it was difficult for me to do that. But then people would just come over to me and talk to me, which is a whole other thing about interruption. But my point in that is that even in that example I felt that, well, this is kind of a wild idea. I guess I have permission to do that because now I’ve heard of this from somebody else. Cool. I’ll try it.

Whitney: Right. Merlin gave you permission.

Paul: He did give me permission to do it. It didn’t quite work out in that instance, but he gave me permission to do it.

Whitney: You weren’t ready.

Paul: And I think it’s just – it’s taken me a – that’s right. It’s taken me a long time to come around to this idea, in that email is a way that we interrupt. And what we do with it is totally on us. And we all do have permission to not respond to email right away. But there is an expectation that a lot of people have that you will. And that’s kind of the tricky part, is how to help get people out of that idea. Sometimes you can, and sometimes you cannot.

Whitney: What I think we have discovered is that you need both permission and readiness to make a change. So, when you have the permission first but you aren’t ready, you need to get ready in order to act on it. And when you’re ready but you don’t have permission, sometimes you have to wait until you get permission, the kind of permission that you’re defining, but permission nonetheless, until you’re able to act on it.

And I suppose more often than not I find myself in the ready first, but don’t yet feel like I have permission, at least what I’m aware of, whereas maybe others, you or whomever, may feel that they are granted permission first, but they’re not yet ready.

And, I’m just thinking about, with regards to this email thing, why some people feel like even when they hear somebody say close your inbox, shut down your email, close that tab, whatever, don’t look at it, why they’re not yet ready to do so. And that is because their principles are not in alignment with other people’s. And those people have very high expectations of what they’re doing.

And, one example of that is a client of mine that is struggling with closing her email during the day because it’s an organizational culture where requests come fast and furious through email. And so, if she were to close it in order to try to get some, what we’ll call real work done, other people will be challenged. They will find that there’s a bottleneck. They will have trouble getting their work done if she isn’t immediately responding to them.

I’ll give you another example. I cannot tell you how many times somebody who I do not know and have never met has emailed me, I haven’t responded within 24 hours, and then they’ve Tweeted at me to say, hey, I emailed you. It has happened instantaneously where I get an email and the Tweet at the exact same time, so that they make sure that they reach me.

I’ve gotten emails, Tweet, you know, DM, and text from people I know well who were trying to get my attention right away. And I’m like, you know what? I happen to get all of those notifications all the time. And if I’m not getting back to you it’s not then permission to contact me on another channel.

But, you simply have to wait until I’m available. But it’s that reaction response from others that for me has reinforced this belief that I don’t really have the permission to not reply right away. I am ready. Oh, I am so ready to close my inbox and not look at it all day while I get done whatever I have decided is important for me to do that day, and then look at it perhaps in the afternoon and reply to what I have to reply to and don’t reply to what I don’t feel like replying to or what I don’t think is necessary to reply to right away. I am ready for that.

And, sometimes I’m good at giving myself that. But I do have this sense that I don’t really have the permission to do so if, to your point, I don’t want to deal with the consequences of it.

Paul: And, part of that is because socially we have mostly structured email, which is a good example to stick with, as this thing that requires that type of immediate response. And if you’re not responding, well then what’s going on? Let me go ahead and Tweet at you or send you a fax or send over a carrier pigeon or whatever.

And, I just – did you get my message, because I sent it? I mean, it’s been a day and you haven’t replied. What’s going on? We all have permission to not respond right away. You have permission to put your phone in airplane mode or turn it off or turn off notifications or not use email, which would be incredibly weird to think about in 2014.

You have permission to do all of that stuff. But – and maybe you’re ready for it. But, there is that broader social context where then it becomes curious and maybe weird, and then people start having to do workarounds with you. And then, how does that feel, and what are the consequences of that?

I mean, work is a very – work and email is a pretty easy place to go with this, I think, because it’s a good example, and especially email, which is a weird, hard topic, right?

Whitney: Yeah.

Paul: I mean, I’m saying it’s not an inbox, and it’s not something you have to reply to, and it’s not this. But I know lots of people who have thousands of things in their inbox, and for me I could never understand that. That would drive me nuts.

But, here’s the thing I want to switch to a little bit, because we’re talking about technology right now. And to bring it back to the idea of change and readiness, do you need to get permission from other people to change yourself?

Whitney: Well, I am so glad that you asked, because my mind was going the exact same place.

Paul: Let me email you about this.

Whitney: Yes, please.

Paul: OK, done.

Whitney: I probably won’t reply. I have found, and I’m realizing this only now through this conversation which, in large part, is why we have these conversations, because they help us realize a lot of really important things about ourselves.

I am coming to the realization right now that because I have lived for so long with this belief that I require other people’s permission to do the things that I want to do, I have actually been, for as long as I can remember – I mean, I can go back to middle school with examples. I have been the opposite for the rest of the world.

I have been a permission granter to pretty much everyone I’ve come into contact with. And I think in a lot of ways that might be what has made me a valuable friend and confidant and colleague to a lot of people over the years. The example that popped in my mind immediately is that I can’t tell you how many times I have granted permission to people who felt ready to call themselves a user experience designer.

Paul: Totally.

Whitney: Now, am I a certificate-granting organization? No. Am I the UX master? No. I have no real authority to grant anyone permission to call themselves this. But, I have noticed that there are a lot of people who are very ready. They’ve been doing this kind of work. They have the similar, same mentality that we have, similar philosophies.

And, they want to make that change in their life. They want to change the course of their career. And they feel that the best way that they can do that to indicate where they’re trying to go is to start calling themselves a user experience blank when they’ve been calling themselves a whatever.

And, I have come across so many people, whether they’re earlier in their careers than mine, later in their careers, switching careers, whatever, that feel like they need somebody to say go ahead. And I have blessed, as I call it, so many people and been like, great. It sounds like you do UX. You’re a user experience designer. You know, go forth and prosper, or whatever the thing is. I don’t know those references.

Paul: Live long and prosper.

Whitney: Live long and prosper.

Paul: Come on, get it straight.

Whitney: Live long and prosper. Yeah, I don’t even know. Is that Star Trek or Star Wars?

Paul: Oh, Whitney. Oh, no.

Whitney: I know it’s sacrilege, but that’s not my area of expertise.

Paul: Oh, my. OK.

Whitney: And I did it to somebody the other day, and one of my presentations very long ago had a slide early on that said you are a user experience designer. And they gave this presentation to developers and visual designers and marketers and all these folks. And people were aghast. There were people in our field that have worked long and hard to be user experience designers, and how dare I say...?

And I’m like, people need the permission to make the necessary changes in their life, and there have been so many times when I didn’t feel like I had it. Now I feel like, hey, if I can get it – but here’s the thing. Just like I’m not sure Cynthia is the person to grant me permission to stop replying to my emails, I may not be the person to give those folks permission to start calling themselves user experience designer.

It’s up to them, ultimately, to decide if they have the permission. But if I could facilitate that in some way, if they could say, ah, I’ve been ready but now I have the permission, if not from anyone but Whitney Hess, I’m cool. I’m happy to play that role. And I don’t think I’m harming anybody by doing so. I feel like people need that, and the only reason I feel that way, obviously, is because I felt like I needed that.

Paul: Yeah. I agree with you, and I have had that experience as well. If people talk with me about something they’re considering doing or struggling with, grappling with, I’ll work through it with them and I’ll encourage them. And I will say yes you can and should do this, or why don’t you do this? Why don’t you just do it?

And, it’s funny because in those moments I’m not thinking from a really selfish perspective, and I’m not thinking of it just to be, you know, super-duper helpful. I’m thinking of it because I genuinely want to see other people do well and succeed and do what they want to do.

Whitney: Exactly.

Paul: And that can be a little – you know, I’m not thinking like, you know, go quit your job and, you know, go, you know, make cookies, which is what I’ll do someday.

Whitney: Yes, you will. And I will eat them.

Paul: But, it’s – and I’m not – you know, it’s not necessarily at that level for everybody, but it could be a little thing or it could be a big thing. But I know I do that a lot, and I do that because I feel that I want other people to be great. And I want other people to succeed, too. And, if they don’t take that away from it, fine. They totally don’t.

That’s kind of where my intention is with it, though. And that, I feel that’s a good place to come from with it. And if they interpret that as, you know, hey, Paul gave me permission, first of all I’d be humbled. But, second I’d think, OK, you know, hey, I’m glad. I mean, I’m glad that you saw that as part of something that you could absorb in combined with your own readiness, kind of assess that level and say, I’m going to go do it. Cool. That’s wonderful. That is great.

Whitney: I really think it’s beautiful the way you’re putting it, and I would hope that us having these conversations, or we having these conversations – I was, in fact, an English major – and sharing them publicly, hopefully, is granting permission to those who feel they need it to make the changes they want to make in their lives, have conversations that are this candid and personal with other people that maybe they never felt like they were allowed to have.

Whatever it might be, I hope that every act that I take in my life makes others feel like they have the permission to take the acts that they’re ready to take. And, I have a much better understanding now, after having this conversation with you, of why that is, because I’ve struggled to feel that sense of permission myself.

And, I will say this, that sometimes when we do things that we’re ready to do but we don’t yet feel like we have permission to do them but we do them anyway, there can be something really reaffirming about that because we weren’t waiting. We weren’t getting external validation. We weren’t seeing approval. We did what was in our heart. And you can’t go wrong when you do what’s in your heart.

Paul: That’s right. Well, I can think of no better place to end our conversation.

Whitney: Are you giving us permission to end?

Paul: I think so, and I think I’m ready, too. How about you?

Whitney: I think I’m ready, too.

Paul: OK.

Whitney: All right.

Paul: Thank you, Whitney.

Whitney: Thank you, Paul. Until next time –

Paul: All right. We will talk again soon.

Whitney: Bye.

Designing Yourself is hosted by Whitney Hess and Paul McAleer and is edited by Aaron Dowd. Our theme music is “All Heroes” by Ardecan Music Productions with some rights reserved via creative commons. You can follow Whitney on Twitter at @whitneyhess. And you can follow Paul at @paulmcaleer.

Paul: If you like what you heard on this episode, stop by our website at DesigningYourself.net. You can subscribe to the show via your favorite podcasting app or via iTunes. We love to hear your feedback. So if you have an idea for a topic, a guest, or just want to say hello, you can call our listener hotline. Call 1-404-500-SELF. You can always reach us on Twitter at @designingyou, and our super-secret email address is designingyourself@gmail.com. Thank you for listening. We’ll talk again soon.