It's Better to Beg for Forgiveness than to Ask for Permission

Posted on Jun 15, 2010 | 78 comments


I have always believed in the saying, “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”  It’s a way of life.  It’s not about abusing situations but about knowing when to push the boundaries.  It’s about knowing that the overwhelming number of people in life are naysayers and “no sayers” and sometimes you gotta just roll the dice and say WTF.

So I have a short story to exemplify my credo and my friend Tyler Crowley has been telling me to write this story for a while so here goes.

Having grown up in Northern California and living near a Japanese family when I was really young, I always had a fascination with Japan and wanted to live there.  And during the 1980’s in California there was also a period of explosive growth of sushi restaurants (introducing Americans to a little bit more of the Japanese culture) as well as a growth in the Japanese economy that had all American companies trying to understand Japanese processes and business structure (Kanban, Keiretsu, etc.).  Both Tyler & I are Nihon-philes.

In 1999 I was working in the London offices of Andersen Consulting.  I had been working on marketing & strategy initiatives for European telcos for the past several years helping them to think through and design Internet offerings.  I had just completed a project for Marconi Communications (then, the Lucent of the UK) and was looking for my next assignment.

I heard word that a new project was starting in Tokyo to work for the board of directors of a very large and well known Japanese electronics company to work on their Internet strategy looking at media, devices and networks.  It was right up my alley in terms of skill sets and interests.  But there was tons of client demand in Europe for Internet projects and very few people with real experience and so my senior partner in the London office was talking about 3 or 4 projects he was considering me for in Europe.  One in particular was in Switzerland and working for the telco there on a “death march” project for which several of my friends were already complaining.

I knew that my request to apply for the Japanese project would fall on deaf ears locally so I knew better than to ask.  If I asked and my partner predictably told me “no” then the only way to go would be to directly defy his instructions – never a great idea in business.  So I didn’t ask.  I looked in the worldwide directory to find the partner in charge of the project who happened to be based in San Francisco.  I emailed him a copy of my internal resume with my relevant experience and asked to have a phone call.  He responded positively.  He told me all about the project and the goals and told me it was likely moving ahead.  They had an internal kick off meeting scheduled for early April and the client would likely sign off on the project shortly thereafter).  He told me that he was leading the project globally and gave me the name of the lead Japanese partner.

He then said, “we would love to have somebody with your skills on the project.”  I knew that this wasn’t a direct “offer” to work on the project but I knew that if I didn’t take matters into my own hands I’d never get to Japan. So I flew out there speculatively without asking anybody.  I knew that worst case I’d have to eat the expenses for the flight & hotels and have to eat some “humble pie” for having been dumb enough to show up.  But show up I did.  I arrived at the Andersen Consulting offices on Monday morning and asked for the lead Japanese partner of the project.

He was flabbergasted.  “What are you doing here?”

“Um, I spoke with the SF partner on the project who told me that you’d love my skills on the project.”  It certainly helped me that a little bit was lost in translation.  They didn’t know what to do.  They sat me in an office and scrambled around.  Eventually they came out and said that the project wasn’t yet sold and that they hadn’t expected me.  But since I was there I might as well stay for the week and get some work done helping them.  Naturally I worked my arse off that week and by the end of the week we had produced the final output of our proposal.  By then I knew the local team well and they realized that I had done several relevant projects in Europe.  They also knew that I was from NorCal, which in 1999 was a huge bonus to foreign companies thinking about Internet strategies.

They asked me if I would stay 6 months and do the project with them.  I did.  I faced a little bit of the wrath from my partner back home but by then the SF and Japanese partner were telling him for me how critical I was to the project.  He begrudgingly agreed.  At the end of the 6 months the lead partner from the Japanese office asked me to transfer permanently to Tokyo.  I was at the end of my career with Andersen Consulting so I turned him down, returned to London and started my first company.

Had I asked my partner in the first place to go to Tokyo the answer would have been “no.”  Had I asked the Japanese team the answer would have been “well be in touch.”  You know how that usually ends.  So I took matters into my own hands.  I knew that I had the skills to do the job and I wanted to make it happen.  Once you’ve asked for permission and you’re told that you can’t do something you HAVE TO live with the results.  So in life I’ve always operated on the principle that “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”  It has suited me well in life.

Does that mean that I condone this kind of behavior with portfolio companies in which I invest?  Absolutely!  How else could I sign up the the JFDI credo?  See I still look for people who act with good moral intent and want to do the right thing.  But if you’re waiting around looking for permission from me?  Naw, that would be hypocritical.

  • http://twitter.com/steepdecline Tyler Crowley

    ….and for just one moment, as they realize that Mark is a true samurai, the commenters are left speechless in silent appreciation.

  • http://twitter.com/steepdecline Tyler Crowley

    ….and for just one moment, as they realize that Mark is a true samurai, the commenters are left speechless in silent appreciation.

  • http://www.blackbeltguide.com Marc Winitz

    Definitely a true samurai and a great story. Everytime I have done this it has always worked out for me in that it has given me more options, not less (because asking and getting a “no” is less). Things don't always work out positively but if your gut is telling you not to ask but to do (as your story demonstrates) AND you can intelligent size up the risk, you should probably do it. Serious balls Mark, but I am hardly surprised.

  • http://www.blackbeltguide.com Marc Winitz

    Definitely a true samurai and a great story. Everytime I have done this it has always worked out for me in that it has given me more options, not less (because asking and getting a “no” is less). Things don't always work out positively but if your gut is telling you not to ask but to do (as your story demonstrates) AND you can intelligent size up the risk, you should probably do it. Serious balls Mark, but I am hardly surprised.

  • Greg Mand

    Mark…great post! I'm a strong believer in this philosophy for life. I learned this lesson while in college and have tried to apply it in many circumstances since that time including when I broke into the sports industry years ago (and it yielded me the job–one of only 6 slots out of 500+ applicants). Thanks for the happy reminder.

  • Greg Mand

    Mark…great post! I'm a strong believer in this philosophy for life. I learned this lesson while in college and have tried to apply it in many circumstances since that time including when I broke into the sports industry years ago (and it yielded me the job–one of only 6 slots out of 500+ applicants). Thanks for the happy reminder.

  • http://www.jasonwolfe.co.uk/ Jason Wolfe

    Oh yes, one of my personal beliefs as well. I worked for quite a while inside a big corporate (UK financial services) running web and innovation teams. The ONLY way to get stuff done in that kind of environment is to subscribe to this philosophy.

    Be aware though that at some stage it has the potential to come back and bite you, so you need to be ready for that. The good news is, if you can demonstrate that it worked out well for the company (i.e. that you delivered), then you can usually get backing from senior guys who are more interested in results than methodology. You'll make enemies along the way (if you're not careful), but I tend to think that that's OK too.

    And to be honest, if you genuinely subscribe to this philosophy, then the clock is ticking on your natural lifetime within a corporate environment anyway..

  • http://www.jasonwolfe.co.uk/ Jason Wolfe

    Oh yes, one of my personal beliefs as well. I worked for quite a while inside a big corporate (UK financial services) running web and innovation teams. The ONLY way to get stuff done in that kind of environment is to subscribe to this philosophy.

    Be aware though that at some stage it has the potential to come back and bite you, so you need to be ready for that. The good news is, if you can demonstrate that it worked out well for the company (i.e. that you delivered), then you can usually get backing from senior guys who are more interested in results than methodology. You'll make enemies along the way (if you're not careful), but I tend to think that that's OK too.

    And to be honest, if you genuinely subscribe to this philosophy, then the clock is ticking on your natural lifetime within a corporate environment anyway..

  • http://www.domainnoob.com John Humphrey (DomainNoob)

    Mark, actually this philosophy is a pet peeve of mine so I feel somewhat compelled to contribute a counter argument…
    Inherent in the idea of begging forgiveness is the assumption of relationship. Certainly you wouldn't need to beg the forgiveness of an adversary. In the context you provide, your behavior seems practical, even admirable, and your UK partner probably wasn't any the worse for it. But more often than not I'm seeing people use this same philosophy to take advantage of people they know will have to forgive them! This philosophy can lead to some truly loathsome behavior especially when the power dynamic between the people involved is skewed. So I have to disagree. In my opinion it's almost always better to ask permission- if I know my intentions are going to conflict with the person affected- than to do it anyway and apologize later. It's not about boundaries.
    Looking forward to the show with Om!

  • http://www.domainnoob.com John Humphrey (DomainNoob)

    Mark, actually this philosophy is a pet peeve of mine so I feel somewhat compelled to contribute a counter argument…
    Inherent in the idea of begging forgiveness is the assumption of relationship. Certainly you wouldn't need to beg the forgiveness of an adversary. In the context you provide, your behavior seems practical, even admirable, and your UK partner probably wasn't any the worse for it. But more often than not I'm seeing people use this same philosophy to take advantage of people they know will have to forgive them! This philosophy can lead to some truly loathsome behavior especially when the power dynamic between the people involved is skewed. So I have to disagree. In my opinion it's almost always better to ask permission- if I know my intentions are going to conflict with the person affected- than to do it anyway and apologize later. It's not about boundaries.
    Looking forward to the show with Om!

  • http://twitter.com/PhilipHotchkiss Philip Hotchkiss

    I think making moves like this makes sense if there is real integrity and value behind them. If you believe that this is best for the client/customer, for the firm you're employed by and you're being true to your passion and talents – then it will usually work out well.

    But, if it is purely self-serving and manipulative to the point where trust is lost (not the case in Mark's story clearly) then #avoid.

    Oh, and I'd like to hear Mark's thoughts – business is one thing, but how about marriage – same rules apply? ;)

  • http://twitter.com/PhilipHotchkiss Philip Hotchkiss

    I think making moves like this makes sense if there is real integrity and value behind them. If you believe that this is best for the client/customer, for the firm you're employed by and you're being true to your passion and talents – then it will usually work out well.

    But, if it is purely self-serving and manipulative to the point where trust is lost (not the case in Mark's story clearly) then #avoid.

    Oh, and I'd like to hear Mark's thoughts – business is one thing, but how about marriage – same rules apply? ;)

  • Srikanth Achanta

    Its a double edges sword, can go either way. Decide according to the situation is what i follow. I think this theory of yours conflicts with the approach you suggested earlier, “discuss with your boss honestly”. :)

  • Srikanth Achanta

    Its a double edges sword, can go either way. Decide according to the situation is what i follow. I think this theory of yours conflicts with the approach you suggested earlier, “discuss with your boss honestly”. :)

  • http://twitter.com/parati_candice Candice Lapin

    I agree entirely – entrepreneurs have to believe in what they are doing and press forward without consensus especially pre-money. I had everyone telling me no and I just started building without a budget, without funding and the funding has come as I needed it!

    even if I make mistakes (which does happen) they are mine to make and learn from and I just adjust rapidly.

    Often if you act first without permission you are more likely to make things happen and succeed! it is often just about belief in yourself and following through with action.

    but I would add that if do you fail or make a mistake you will fail quickly, learn quickly and move forward with deeper understanding even more quickly (hopefully!).

  • http://twitter.com/parati_candice Candice Lapin

    I agree entirely – entrepreneurs have to believe in what they are doing and press forward without consensus especially pre-money. I had everyone telling me no and I just started building without a budget, without funding and the funding has come as I needed it!

    even if I make mistakes (which does happen) they are mine to make and learn from and I just adjust rapidly. I would add that if you act first without permission and possible even fail you will fail quickly, learn quickly and move forward with deeper understanding even more quickly (hopefully!). I always do

  • http://willkriski.com Will Kriski

    Sounds like Costanza on Seinfeld when he just showed up and worked on the Penske file!

  • http://willkriski.com Will Kriski

    Sounds like Costanza on Seinfeld when he just showed up and worked on the Penske file!

  • http://twitter.com/knakao Kevin Nakao

    This is a great story and the level of risk you took spending your own money demonstrated your sincerity. However, I do find the “samurai” references in some of the responses kind of corny but I know they are well-intended and a better choice than “Rambo”.

    Some of the folks I know preaching the JFDI credo love it until you do something that should have required their approval. Just saying..

  • http://twitter.com/knakao Kevin Nakao

    This is a great story and the level of risk you took spending your own money demonstrated your sincerity. However, I do find the “samurai” references in some of the responses kind of corny but I know they are well-intended and a better choice than “Rambo”.

    Some of the folks I know preaching the JFDI credo love it until you do something that should have required their approval. Just saying..

  • http://hapnin.com/users/2 theschnaz

    I love that as a motto “It’s Better to Beg for Forgiveness than to Ask for Permission”

  • http://hapnin.com/users/2 theschnaz

    I love that as a motto “It’s Better to Beg for Forgiveness than to Ask for Permission”

  • Daniel Nathan

    right on

  • Daniel Nathan

    right on

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Marc. Maybe it was easier because at that point I didn't really care. But I have a similar story when I first joined Andersen that almost got me fired in my first year. That was less fun. I'll write it some day.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Marc. Maybe it was easier because at that point I didn't really care. But I have a similar story when I first joined Andersen that almost got me fired in my first year. That was less fun. I'll write it some day.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Greg. Hope you're doing well.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Greg. Hope you're doing well.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, the results have to justify the means or you get in serious trouble. And I also have had to eat humble pie a couple of times when it didn't work out. But … nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, the results have to justify the means or you get in serious trouble. And I also have had to eat humble pie a couple of times when it didn't work out. But … nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    You point out a good point – the context of the “forgiveness” matters. It shouldn't be used to abuse your power. It was mostly meant in the context of superiors or even colleagues who would tell you not to do something that you think is in the best interest of the company and/or yourself without hurting anybody else. Perfect example is my blog. I'm sure if I asked my partners they wouldn't have thought it was a good idea to blog openly. By the time they realized that I did the blog already had received a few good write ups and they had content to read to realize that I don't speak on behalf of the brand (and, in fact, can help build it).

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    You point out a good point – the context of the “forgiveness” matters. It shouldn't be used to abuse your power. It was mostly meant in the context of superiors or even colleagues who would tell you not to do something that you think is in the best interest of the company and/or yourself without hurting anybody else. Perfect example is my blog. I'm sure if I asked my partners they wouldn't have thought it was a good idea to blog openly. By the time they realized that I did the blog already had received a few good write ups and they had content to read to realize that I don't speak on behalf of the brand (and, in fact, can help build it).

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    ha ha ha. first, you obviously need to always behave ethically and not against the interests of others in a malicious way.

    when my wife saw the headline last night she said, “what about with your wife?” But she was laughing. Sure, occasionally I cross the line (in a good way) there, too. An obvious example is sometimes I've made family travel plans without consulting Tania if I knew it was in our best interest and knew she would be happy with me in the long run for having forced us to go. But 95 times out of 100 I ask first! ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    ha ha ha. first, you obviously need to always behave ethically and not against the interests of others in a malicious way.

    when my wife saw the headline last night she said, “what about with your wife?” But she was laughing. Sure, occasionally I cross the line (in a good way) there, too. An obvious example is sometimes I've made family travel plans without consulting Tania if I knew it was in our best interest and knew she would be happy with me in the long run for having forced us to go. But 95 times out of 100 I ask first! ;-)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I don't think it conflicts. There are times to ask and times to risk. If you ask every time and you know the answer will be “no” then you box yourself out of several options in life.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I don't think it conflicts. There are times to ask and times to risk. If you ask every time and you know the answer will be “no” then you box yourself out of several options in life.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Candice. Agreed. Yes, sometimes you fail. That's the “beg for forgiveness” part. I have had to eat humble pie occasionally when I've erred. But better to do that from time-to-time then to never take risks IMHO.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, Candice. Agreed. Yes, sometimes you fail. That's the “beg for forgiveness” part. I have had to eat humble pie occasionally when I've erred. But better to do that from time-to-time then to never take risks IMHO.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, the approval or not is always a fine line. Even if I disagree with the action of an individual I usually appreciate the initiative more than the error.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yes, the approval or not is always a fine line. Even if I disagree with the action of an individual I usually appreciate the initiative more than the error.

  • stickler

    nihon-philes

  • stickler

    nihon-philes

  • Brian

    Totally agree with Mark's stance. Our start-up would still be an idea if we waited for permission. Asking forgiveness when people found out what we're doing is much easier since we're able to show them what we did, all with integrity and the benefit of all involved. Looking forward to TWIVC …

  • Brian

    Totally agree with Mark's stance. Our start-up would still be an idea if we waited for permission. Asking forgiveness when people found out what we're doing is much easier since we're able to show them what we did, all with integrity and the benefit of all involved. Looking forward to TWIVC …

  • alexanderjarvis

    Outside Bristol Zoo is the car park, with spaces for 150 cars and 8 coaches.
    It's been manned 6 days a week, for 23 years, by the same charming and very polite car park attendant.
    The charges are £1.00 per car and £5.00 per coach.
    On Monday 1 June, he didn't turn up for work.
    Bristol Zoo phoned Bristol City Council to ask for a replacement parking attendant.
    The Council said, “That car park is your responsibility.”
    The Zoo complained, “But the attendant was employed by the City Council… wasn't he?”
    The Council replied after a pause “What attendant?”
    Gone missing from his home is a man who has taken the car park fees each day, for the last 23 years.
    Total fees: £400 per day.
    Over 23 years, it adds up to £3 million in total, tax free. The guy was stuck for a job. So, he made one up. Provided a service. And got rich in the process. Fair enough, it was illegal, but one still has to be caught!

    One of my partners in my last startup told me a story about the invention of four wheel drive. I need to paraphrase here as I can’t remember the details, only the point, and I haven’t been able to get a google! In Audi a chap had an idea for 4wd. He started developing it and when discovered, was given a stern warning to cease and desist. He continued on and was fired. He got his hands on an old Audi and with a friend worked on it in his garage. Somehow a senior big-wig got wind of this and rehired him. He continued on and was fired again, after which he was hired by the CEO (I think, but you get the picture). 4wd ended up making them a packet. Like 3m there is an emblem or something commemorating his innovation and dogged persistence.
    In the 70s, Chuck House a HP engineer got in trouble with a HP cofounder, David Packard, by persisting with a crazy concept; the computer graphics monitor. Unsurprisingly he pulled it off after considerable exertion and HP made a mint. HP created a ‘Medal of Defiance’ to remind everyone that it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.
    I have read of various companies who have embedded this paradigm into their culture from the outset. One media company allows (forgot the name!) their designers to do almost anything they want. The MD came in to find an airplane wing affixed to the ceiling. Some chaps had inserted it over a long weekend. The workspace encourages creativity. They get free reign but are aware they will be fired if they go too far. Google is an other example of workspace creativity, though I never saw anything too crazy the times I have been in their offices in Dublin; just the odd poster etc. 3M in terms of cultivating creativity and innovation, supported by management is another example, creating post-its etc. Innovation is ingrained in the culture; there is no dedicated innovation department at 3M, but rather is it the job of all employees to be innovative! Put that in your job description!
    Having said that it is not always an appropriate ‘state of mind’. Representative democracy is premised on the consent of the governed, not the idea that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. However Obama went about introducing the health care bill, a lot of people feel they did not ‘give permission’ for it and are affronted. I have yet to meet an American who is in favour of universal healthcare, but I in no way want to get into political ideology here. Faceebook’s privacy settings are a case in point. Opt-out has really done them no favours.
    If i have a point, it is that the mantra works at inception to make new things happen. In established entities for incremental changes it can be precarious. One just has to use good judgement (and balls). As you said, showing up in Japan really could have worked against you.

  • alexanderjarvis

    Outside Bristol Zoo is the car park, with spaces for 150 cars and 8 coaches.
    It's been manned 6 days a week, for 23 years, by the same charming and very polite car park attendant.
    The charges are £1.00 per car and £5.00 per coach.
    On Monday 1 June, he didn't turn up for work.
    Bristol Zoo phoned Bristol City Council to ask for a replacement parking attendant.
    The Council said, “That car park is your responsibility.”
    The Zoo complained, “But the attendant was employed by the City Council… wasn't he?”
    The Council replied after a pause “What attendant?”
    Gone missing from his home is a man who has taken the car park fees each day, for the last 23 years.
    Total fees: £400 per day.
    Over 23 years, it adds up to £3 million in total, tax free. The guy was stuck for a job. So, he made one up. Provided a service. And got rich in the process. Fair enough, it was illegal, but one still has to be caught!

    One of my partners in my last startup told me a story about the invention of four wheel drive. I need to paraphrase here as I can’t remember the details, only the point, and I haven’t been able to get a google! In Audi a chap had an idea for 4wd. He started developing it and when discovered, was given a stern warning to cease and desist. He continued on and was fired. He got his hands on an old Audi and with a friend worked on it in his garage. Somehow a senior big-wig got wind of this and rehired him. He continued on and was fired again, after which he was hired by the CEO (I think, but you get the picture). 4wd ended up making them a packet. Like 3m there is an emblem or something commemorating his innovation and dogged persistence.
    In the 70s, Chuck House a HP engineer got in trouble with a HP cofounder, David Packard, by persisting with a crazy concept; the computer graphics monitor. Unsurprisingly he pulled it off after considerable exertion and HP made a mint. HP created a ‘Medal of Defiance’ to remind everyone that it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.
    I have read of various companies who have embedded this paradigm into their culture from the outset. One media company allows (forgot the name!) their designers to do almost anything they want. The MD came in to find an airplane wing affixed to the ceiling. Some chaps had inserted it over a long weekend. The workspace encourages creativity. They get free reign but are aware they will be fired if they go too far. Google is an other example of workspace creativity, though I never saw anything too crazy the times I have been in their offices in Dublin; just the odd poster etc. 3M in terms of cultivating creativity and innovation, supported by management is another example, creating post-its etc. Innovation is ingrained in the culture; there is no dedicated innovation department at 3M, but rather is it the job of all employees to be innovative! Put that in your job description!
    Having said that it is not always an appropriate ‘state of mind’. Representative democracy is premised on the consent of the governed, not the idea that it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. However Obama went about introducing the health care bill, a lot of people feel they did not ‘give permission’ for it and are affronted. I have yet to meet an American who is in favour of universal healthcare, but I in no way want to get into political ideology here. Faceebook’s privacy settings are a case in point. Opt-out has really done them no favours.
    If i have a point, it is that the mantra works at inception to make new things happen. In established entities for incremental changes it can be precarious. One just has to use good judgement (and balls). As you said, showing up in Japan really could have worked against you.

  • http://twitter.com/gabemcmillan gabemcmillan

    Enjoyed the post Mark. I had a similar situation when I was also working for a global consulting firm and was living in Boston at the time. There was an opportunity that came up to work on a high visibility project with a major motion picture company in LA. I knew that I would have to fly across the country every Monday morning and every Thursday evening for about 4 months. I reached out to the partner who agreed to the situation based on my experience, etc. Now that I look back I don't really know how I survived it, but I am so glad that I had that experience and certainly grew from it!

  • http://twitter.com/gabemcmillan gabemcmillan

    Enjoyed the post Mark. I had a similar situation when I was also working for a global consulting firm and was living in Boston at the time. There was an opportunity that came up to work on a high visibility project with a major motion picture company in LA. I knew that I would have to fly across the country every Monday morning and every Thursday evening for about 4 months. I reached out to the partner who agreed to the situation based on my experience, etc. Now that I look back I don't really know how I survived it, but I am so glad that I had that experience and certainly grew from it!

  • http://oddfellowstudios.com Shava Nerad

    I live by this, both sides, but can I reserve the right to think people take it too far? I've been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to the BP spill. If technology is tested for 250m (25 atmospheres of pressure), then why ask for it to be tested or the safety procedures updated for 1500m (150 atmospheres of pressure)? There can be a lot of forgiveness to beg. People need to choose their bets wisely.

    To grant forgiveness rather than permission, you have to trust the good sense and motivations of the other side, and find their effectiveness consistent. A failure in that mode can be catastrophic, particularly if the motivations seem less than pure.

    I remember my brother, in AF ROTC at the time, used to laugh at Star Trek. No one could have as long of a career as even the young Captain Kirk without screwing up badly enough that politics wouldn't have taken him down. But we hang on the stories of the privileged, the gifted and the lucky.

    Most of us are great at risk management, so we go out on these limbs — it's hard to get people to *see* as we do, in advance, and time doesn't wait. But we need to make sure we anticipate nearly every consequence. Hard job!

    This is to say, I would risk asking for forgiveness (but probably not beg!). But I would be *very* clear in advance with myself that my motivations were for the greater good of the organization (and that, on a long term as well as short term), and my odds justifiable.

  • http://oddfellowstudios.com Shava Nerad

    I live by this, both sides, but can I reserve the right to think people take it too far? I've been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to the BP spill. If technology is tested for 250m (25 atmospheres of pressure), then why ask for it to be tested or the safety procedures updated for 1500m (150 atmospheres of pressure)? There can be a lot of forgiveness to beg. People need to choose their bets wisely.

    To grant forgiveness rather than permission, you have to trust the good sense and motivations of the other side, and find their effectiveness consistent. A failure in that mode can be catastrophic, particularly if the motivations seem less than pure.

    I remember my brother, in AF ROTC at the time, used to laugh at Star Trek. No one could have as long of a career as even the young Captain Kirk without screwing up badly enough that politics wouldn't have taken him down. But we hang on the stories of the privileged, the gifted and the lucky.

    Most of us are great at risk management, so we go out on these limbs — it's hard to get people to *see* as we do, in advance, and time doesn't wait. But we need to make sure we anticipate nearly every consequence. Hard job!

    This is to say, I would risk asking for forgiveness (but probably not beg!). But I would be *very* clear in advance with myself that my motivations were for the greater good of the organization (and that, on a long term as well as short term), and my odds justifiable.