You know who we need to name more things after? Grace Hopper.
It's not just because she was a computing pioneer. It's because she coined a phrase that's the mantra of some of the most amazing entrepreneurs in history.
The quote? "It's better to get forgiveness than permission."
Quick background on Hopper:
Born in 1906. She earned a PhD from Yale, and worked on the military's Mark I proto-computer project at Harvard during World War II. Then, she developed the first compiler. She also went on to become one of the first women promoted to rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Her nickname? "Amazing Grace."
(When President Obama mentioned her in the State of the Union recently, it sparked a spike in Google searches for her name.)
It's an amazing story, especially considering that when she did--at a time when women weren't exactly embraced as academics, or as mathematicians, or as military officers. Heck, 99.9 percent of Americans had never seen a computer.
But it might well be her get-stuff-done attitude, and the impact she had on achievers of her own generation and later, that are really her most important legacy.
Caveat: It's hard to find the context of when Hopper started saying this thing about forgiveness versus permission. However, if you search, you'll find reference after reference to Hopper having been the first to have said it -- or at least popularized it.
It's not about doing things that are illegal or immoral--or just plain jerky. It is, however, about not waiting for anyone else's approval to do the things you need to do in order to succeed.
Heck yes, it's a popular mantra now, among high-performing entrepreneurs (and those around them).
Mark Suster, writing at Both Sides of the Table:
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.
Or the people behind AngelList (citation to VentureHacks):
AngelList "corporate policy" is that team members should ask forgiveness, not permission. We would rather have someone do something wrong than ask permission to do it. Or better, we would rather have someone do something right and not need permission to do it. This is the most common outcome.
We would rather have people ship to production whenever they want, than go through an internal review process. We can fix it on production. We prefer the customer's review process. And it isn't too hard to reveal a new feature to a small portion of our users and iterate on it as we expand it to more users.
So next time you're on the fence--wondering whether to take a small risk that could propel you forward in whatever endeavor you care about--just do it. Worry about the niceties later.
And when you celebrate your victory, raise a glass--or offer a salute--to Admiral "Amazing Grace" Hopper.