Without Their Permission

Let’s kick this party off with a Tweet from the co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian.

RT @alexisohanian: @kirahug @actionablebooks Woot! Go make the world suck less

Indeed. Go make the world suck less. Consider Alexis your enthusiastic guide into the land of world domination.

Why should we listen to this guy?

  1. Sixteen months after Alexis graduated from the University of Virginia, he sold Reddit to Condé Nast and became a millionaire.
  2. Alexis founded a social enterprise (Breadpig), launched a travel search engine (Hipmunk), and has invested in more than sixty startups and advised hundreds more.
  3. As an avid proponent in the fight for our open Internet, Alexis fought against two evil legislative bills – the Top Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). He continues to champion the fight for our online freedom. Alexis, we salute you.

The open Internet has leveled the playing field. If you have a connection and a laptop, you can build your ideas exponentially and share your work with the world.

In Without Their Permission, Ohanian not only shares his personal story, but also highlights his top lessons learned and a myriad of inspiring stories that will motivate you to create something awesome.

If Alexis is living the dream, maybe we all can. Sure, we won’t all become millionaires by the time we’re 25, but we all do have the opportunity to innovate and disrupt the status quo. 

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Make the world suck less

"The open Internet is not a magic wand, but as a technology it has the potential to do tremendous things – to allow awesome people to reach their full potential."
- Without Their Permission, page 243

Equality is a beautiful thing.

We all carry ideas we are passionate about, voices that need to be heard and projects that need to spread. And since we have access to the Internet, we have no excuse not to take action.

This can be incredibly empowering to some and absolutely frightening to others.

In an online world that doesn’t require permission, why are some of us still waiting for it?

The innovators, AKA the Alexis Ohanians of the world, are not waiting. They are busy building, connecting and spreading ideas. Every day, more and more people are joining this change movement. If you want to avoid becoming obsolete, it is time you value your own online freedom, along with your unique vision, and do something. Seriously, do anything. Just make a move.

Where in the web should you start?

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Learn how to write code

"Even if you end up never starting something of your own, the skills you learn in development are highly sought after these days."
- Without Their Permission, page 102

What languages do you speak?  Most likely English. Un poco de español. Vous peut-être même parler français. But what about one of the most important languages of the 21st century?

We’re talking about the one-and-only language that elevates you from the idea person to the power position we call The Maker.

The Language = Programming. (Duh.)

If you want to become The Maker, you might want to follow these 3 steps:

1.) No more excuses, like… Programmers are kids, not 35+. I’m too old. And I’m not geeky enough to be a hacker. Do I need a snippet of JavaScript tattooed to my back first? Oh, and I never attended a computer science class in high school. Stop with the excuses already.

2.) Develop your arsenal of tools. If you truly want to operate without their permission, then you need to empower yourself. If you’re ready for a challenge, take advantage of the growing number of free tools and resources available to you:

Yes, it will take time and a ton of patience to become proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc. but if you don’t start, you will continue to feel frustrated, stalled and even unmotivated. You might even toss a few life-changing ideas in the trash.

3.) Stop asking for permission. Permission is so 20th century.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Find people who give a damn

"If you’ve had the pleasure of working with an elite team you know what a difference it makes. And if you haven’t, you know what it’s like when it’s not working. And it’s bad."
- Without Their Permission, page 117

Whether you’re a solopreneur or you lead a growing team, if you want to make the world suck less, you need a kickass support team. Sure, they need to be competent and driven and quasi-entertaining (that’s a plus). But more importantly, they need to take pride in their work.

If your team doesn’t give a hoot about your mascot – you do have a mascot, right? – and your mission, you may need to reevaluate your hiring process. As Alexis says, “hire wisely and fire quickly.”

Here’s a list of questions Alexis likes to ask potential hires:

  • What have you built?
  • You’ve got a week left to live – we can safely assume I’ve given you the week off. What do you do?
  • What’s the last awesome thing you learned?
  • If you could do literally anything you wanted for a living, what would it be?
  • What’s your spirit animal? (Calling all zebras!)

Not only will the questions above give you a chuckle, you will also be able to find the people who truly give a damn.


The digital revolution is forcing all of us to step up our game, BIG time. It forces us to develop skills that fall outside of our comfort zones. It forces us to stop apologizing for high standards and expectations. And it forces us to push ourselves, stop making excuses, and start making the world suck less.

After all, the open Internet is a gift and an opportunity.

What will you make?

Consultant or Coach? Take our Fit Assessment to find out if partnering with Actionable is right for you.
Kira Hug

ABOUT Kira Hug

Kira resides in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and toddlers.
Read More
blog comments powered by Disqus

Back to summaries