OK, I admit I have problems with authority.

I'm not facing down Lou Gossett Junior, refusing to do push-ups in the rain or anything. I just don't like to ask permission for things.

You know those geeks that have top-five lists? What about the really uber geeks who have top-five lists that no one else would have have a top-five list for?

Here are my top-five favorite geniuses:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci
  2. Benjamin Franklin
  3. Thomas Edison
  4. Albert Einstein
  5. Steve Jobs

Up until a couple of weeks ago number five was "Henry Ford." But after reading Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs bio (SPOILER ALERT: He dies), I booted Ford for a more modern, more irascible genius. Steve Jobs was kind of the Dr. House of the computer world. Someone tell Bryan Singer.

By the way, Einstein is vying for that number four spot with Walt Disney. Which is ironic, because I'm pretty sure Disney would have loved that playful little Jewish physicist like a brother.

Everyone on my top-five list has something in common (besides being dead). They were all known for doing things their own way, and never asking for permission to do it. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of them were considered assholes in their day.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Gee, Kev., way to backhandedly compare yourself to the greatest geniuses in history."

Agreed.

But my real point is that great leaders and great minds rarely ask permission to do the things that make them great. They just do it and accept the consequences, good or bad.

"Consequences" is kind of an ugly word for some folks, and I get that. Responsibility is hard because no one ever wants to be the one responsible for the bad stuff. If you get fired, you want to be able to point your finger at the boss and say, "That guy's a jerk. He never understood my potential." If a project fails or a deadline is missed, you want to be able to point at someone else and say, "It's that bozo's fault."

It's tough to put it all on the line and accept that when stuff goes bad it's going to go bad because of you.

But if you don't ever take that risk, you never get to the cool part.

You never create a masterpiece artwork that people talk about for centuries after the last stroke of your brush.

You never sign your name to a document that creates the most powerful nation in history.

You never invent something that becomes so indispensable that it becomes the symbol for genius.

You never create a theory that redefines scientific thought.

You never create a company that redefines multiple industries, over and over.

You don't get to do these things by asking permission. You do them when people tell you that they can't be done. You do them because you can't imagine a world that doesn't include what you have to offer. You do them because you are willing to take responsibility for something and see it change the world.

I hate asking permission. I'd rather just define my principles and take action, then accept the consequences and work with what I get. If it blows up in my face, then I earned that. But if it redefines the world around me, makes its way into history, creates something new and remarkable and pure in the world ... I earned that, too.

And I'm never going to apologize for that.



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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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