My junior year of college, I had an incredible opportunity. There was a professor at UT that took a small group of students to Europe every year. She led a very educational two and a half weeks through different countries in Europe. If you went, did all of the assignments, and wrote a report at the end, that trip could actually fulfill your 3 hours of Western Civilization credits that were required for graduation.
Now, y’all need to know that I’m terrible at history of any kind, so I jumped on this as fast as I could. Two weeks in Europe and I got class credits for it? Yes please! I signed up immediately with my friend Katie.
A week before we left for our trip, we got our complete itinerary for the group. I saw that we were going to be flying to Chicago and then to Germany from there. I looked closely, and the way the flights fell, we actually had a nine-hour layover in Chicago! At this point in my life, I had only flown a handful of times, and I had never been anywhere other than the states in the southeast region of the country. I could not believe I was going to get to see Chicago as a bonus to this whole trip!
I immediately called my friend Katie to share the exciting news with her. “Guess what?! We have a nine-hour layover in Chicago! That is going to be so fun! We can go into the city, eat at cool restaurants, go shopping . . . ”
Katie interrupted my enthusiastic rambling and said something that caught me completely off guard.
“We can’t do that,” she said.
“Why not?” I responded confused and deflated. She must have known something about our itinerary plans and rules that I didn’t.
“Because I’m just sure that we can’t do that. We have to stay with the group. We can’t leave and go run around a big city by ourselves in the middle of the class trip.”
I still wasn’t getting it. “But we’re 21 years old and paying for this trip. This isn’t youth group. Why can’t we? Is there some rule that we can’t or are you just assuming that we can’t?”
“We can’t,” she replied and that was that. I let her have the last word. But I knew in my heart of heart’s that my behind would be gallivanting all over Chicago, even if it meant I was doing it by my own untraveled and inexperienced self.
When we actually got to the airport, everyone did exactly what I expected. Everyone in the group started talking excitedly about everything they were going to do in the city. Katie finally asked permission from the group leaders and then, and only then, she went along with it.
For some reason, that moment taught me something about people. There are two types of people: those that assume that you can, and those that assume that you can’t.
In any situation where the rules aren’t clear and the path isn’t marked, you have two choices.
You can assume that you can’t. You’ll get in trouble. It’s breaking some rule somewhere. It’s not allowed.
Or you can assume that you can. You don’t know if you don’t try, and what’s the worst that can happen? Someone corrects you and tells you no?
I’ve always been a person that assumes that I can. I’m an optimist to a fault and I see rules as suggestions to be followed most of the time.
Katie has always been more of a rule follower. My husband Matt is like this. People with this type of personality assume that they can’t—not because they don’t believe in themselves or want to have a good time, but they are cautious, detail oriented and respect policies and procedures. Those are good things.
But regardless if you’re a rule follower or if you throw caution to the wind (like me), you can get and do infinitely more if you just start assuming that you can.
If you assume that you can, one of three outcomes will happen.
1. You were right, you could, and you did it! Rather than letting fear hold you back, you went for it and it paid off! Don’t ask, don’t get. You get infinitely more things in life when you start by assuming that you can get them.
2. You weren’t supposed to but you did anyway. No one had done that before. That question hadn’t been asked. That situation hadn’t come up. Then you paved the way and did it! You didn’t get in trouble, because no one cared that you bent an unclear rule and you got away with it. Victory!
3. You weren’t supposed to and you got in trouble. So what? Someone corrects you and tells you no? This happens the least of the three outcomes. And all of the things you get to do make these few hand slaps totally worth it!
All of the things I’ve ever achieved in my life happened because I had the nerve to ask for it and go for it.
Don’t ask for permission. Just assume that you can. Then later, if you must, you can ask for forgiveness.
But in the meantime, make waves, ruffle feathers, put yourself out there, build your business and assume that you can. I promise you, you’ll get more and go further in life when you start assuming that you can.