Self | Writing

You Don’t Need Anyone’s Permission To Start

Why announcing your goal can hurt your odds of achieving it.

Sean Kernan
5 min readSep 22


Pexels via Tima Miroshnichenko

Grace Hopper was one of the first women admirals in the Navy and was a known genius. After completing her PhD at Yale in 1934, she had a soaring career in the military and became a legend of computer programming.

Admiral Hopper wouldn’t have intimidated you at first glance. She stood only 5'3, with wispy white hair and a gravelly soft voice. Yet she was a stern manager and unafraid to shake things up. She said, “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

She also popularized one of the most misused quotes in history, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.” Her message was less for cheating on a spouse and more to encourage workers to strive for autonomy.

Her problem was that government and military sectors can play by the rules — to a fault. She didn’t want employees sitting around waiting for someone’s approval before testing their ability, innovating, and trying to learn. Her approach is one I eventually embraced, but not without some initial heartburn.

My own journey forward

15 years ago, I frequented the Little Club, a tiny dive bar in Coronado, California. It was dimly lit with weathered leather stools lining the long bar and had two pool tables in the back.

Many colorful and boisterous patrons frequented this watering hole. I eventually met a retired author and journalist, David, who was a short, silver haired man with dark rimmed glasses, whose wife was often there with him, sipping on margaritas. They always sat at the same corner spot and we became friendly over time. I was a big reader back then and flirted with the idea of being an author.

I finally mentioned my aspiration to David. And from then forward, every time I saw him, he immediately asked, “Have you written lately?”

My answer was always, “No.” Or I came up with some lame excuse about how I was thinking of a story or had some great idea. David eventually got frustrated and…



Sean Kernan

Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.