Want to achieve your career goals? Don’t be afraid to step on toes.

Image: Nirzar Pangarkar, Unsplash

Asking for permission is asking for denial.

This quote, told to Adam Braun at 19 years old, sums up an uplifting School of Greatness podcast that you will do doubt connect with in more than one way. It’s filled with dozens of inspiring tidbits that can easily be teased into motivational quotes.

Someone needs to Photoshop these onto some warm, feel-good images of sparkling humans – specifically that style where the sun’s rays cast an overexposed glow across their faces and everything seems right with the world. Like this.


Adam Braun is an IRL remarkable human, though I imagine this style of photography follows him around like an altruistic aura.

He founded Pencils of Promise: an organisation that builds schools, supports teachers, provides student scholarships and brings life-changing education to children living in poverty around the world.

Now, Adam has turned his focus to his homeland and in March 2017, launched MissionU: Higher education’s answer to a broken model.

Mission U is truly student-centred

Tuition is free and once you reach a yearly salary of $50,000, you pay back MissionU 15% of your earnings for the next three years. The fine print’s on their site, but basically, they want to fix higher education, position students for a successful career and save people from crushing university debt.

You won’t find those outdated, uninspiring, bulleted PowerPoint slides here. Instead, you’ll find industry leaders teaching hard and soft skills through live virtual classrooms, interactive group work on real-world projects, social gatherings and … a commitment.

MissionU invests in its students. It partners with the likes of Spotify and Facebook and these businesses feed into the curriculum. This means, students learn exactly what top companies look for when recruiting. It’s a program designed for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.

If that doesn’t speak to you, this may

The podcast delves into Adam’s experience in business – as a leader and an employee. There’s a particular takeaway that may cause you to approach your work differently.

During Adam’s career, he’s categorised three types of people based on how they approach their first day on the job.

  • Interns: “What can I do? How can I help?”
  • Employees: “Here’s what I know how to do and here’s where I can add value. What should I focus on?”
  • Executives: “I looked at the challenges of your business. I identified where the holes are. Here are the three things I’m already starting and here are three things I propose we execute going forward.”

Low in the ranks? Doesn’t matter. An executive mindset will move you rapidly through the ranks. If that’s what you want.

But what if your organisation doesn’t tolerate an executive mindset? This attitude may cause you to leave a bad company culture for a more progressive workplace (or it’ll inspire you to start your own shit).

If you’re a problem-solver with an inherent drive to improve, challenge and question, then you’re someone who asks for forgiveness, rather than permission.

This impulse to think differently caused me to quit a well-paid, permanent position in a field I loved.

Do you feel that by pursuing great work, you’re ‘provoking’ your supervisor? That you aren’t allowed to think outside a series of defined parameters? Are you reprimanded for doing extra work (in your own time) because ‘that’s not your job’ – even when that extra work benefits you, the project and the team? Well, that’s strange.

There are people in some organisations who will try to quash your ideas so that you slide back into their comfort zone. You become a mirror of their tightly controlled agenda. Contradictory opinions are not welcome. But if you let this stop you from doing work you believe in, then you’ll eventually lose yourself to to a mediocre career.

Greatness emerges when you consistently choose to do what’s right, even when it’s uncomfortable. ~ Todd Henry

These types of leaders often say ‘no’ to new ideas (to impose their sense of authority). To say ‘yes’ is to believe in their staff and to hand over an element of control. But saying ‘yes’ is exactly how leaders should react. They need to guide and grow their staff and move from instruction to inspiration.

This is the kind of leader I strive to be.

As a team member, I’m pushed to do my best work when there’s a scintilla of unspoken competition between colleagues. That kind of hustle where collaboration is central, though with individual slices of projects, you each bring awesome work back to the group so that you don’t fall below the standards you’ve all set. And these standards keep rising.

If you’re tired of being kept in a box and asking for permission, here’s where you’ll find a boost of courage – read Todd Henry’s book, Die Empty: “Embrace the importance of now, and refuse to allow the lull of comfort, fear, familiarity, and ego to prevent you from taking action on your ambitions.”

For all my self-starting friends who have been called insubordinate, misguided or bold, I leave you with this absorbing podcast episode, and with this.

What ever happened to creativity? What ever happened to the passion? What ever happened to speaking one’s mind? Speak your mind and do not be afraid of stepping on toes. Speak your mind, but don’t take this as a chance to lose respect either. Always keep respect. If someone then still claims to be offended, it is not because of you, nor is it your fault. They simply don’t like the taste of the bittersweet truth. ~ Caitlyn Paige

Stay curious.