Stop Asking For Permission. Do It Anyway.

Joan Westenberg
3 min readSep 9, 2023

In my earlier years, I was under the illusion that my dreams were at the mercy of gatekeepers — those omnipotent figures in writing, publishing, music, and art. They seemed able to greenlight my ambitions or send them into oblivion. And for a while, I was okay with that.

But I’ve grown out of that phase — and thank f**k for that.

The Problem with Gatekeepers: An Unjust System

The traditional setup of many industries, particularly the music business, was designed around a chain of gatekeepers: record labels, management companies, booking agents — you name it. You needed a “yes” from them to, in conventional parlance, “Make It.”

What’s fundamentally wrong with this approach? It concentrates power in the hands of a few, perpetuating a system skewed towards privilege and incumbency. In other words, it’s an oligarchy, not a meritocracy.

The Power Shift: Technology as the Great Equalizer

Today, the landscape has shifted dramatically. Thanks to technology, you don’t need anyone’s permission to be extraordinary. You can start a business, crowdfund your latest invention, publish your zine, or release an album without encountering a sea of gatekeepers telling you ‘no.’

This newfound freedom is liberating. It’s a revolution against the status quo, and it’s wonderful.

The Inner Voice: Your Real Adversary

We often hold ourselves back not because we feel inadequate but because we fear rejection. We say, “Well, I tried and failed, so that’s a good reason to stop.” This self-sabotaging voice becomes louder when external authorities tell us ‘no.’

Here’s the thing: Relying on someone else’s permission isn’t an attempt; it’s a cop-out. You’re essentially relinquishing control, saying your destiny is not yours. But it is.

The Culture of ‘No’: Why Rejection Comes Easy

Rejection is a natural part of life. As someone who has faced numerous rejections — from corporate giants like Apple and Microsoft to leading publishers and record labels — I can tell you it’s never easy. Each ‘no’ felt like a ton of bricks crashing down on me, pushing me further into self-doubt and despair.

But if we examine the psychology of ‘no,’ it’s often the easier option. It’s the path of least resistance for people already swamped with responsibilities. Saying ‘yes’ requires commitment, and many shy away from that.

The New Paradigm: Creating Your Opportunities

I don’t wait for gatekeepers to give me a golden ticket. I make my opportunities. I create my platforms instead of begging publishers to give me a slot. I don’t wait for an invitation to speak; I book a room and invite people myself.

These methods are feasible today because we have the online tools to reach out and connect with people. While I appreciate the help that gatekeepers can sometimes offer, they are no longer the arbiters of my fate.If I want to do something today, I do it. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, to leap before I look. In doing so, I’ve broken free from the clutches of gatekeepers and the self-imposed limits of my inner voice.

I’m thankful for my freedom, and I encourage everyone to embrace it. Don’t wait for permission to live your dreams — seize them.

I’m Joan. Transgender. Solopreneur. Tech writer. Founded studio self, a marketing agency, community, & product lab.