Permission granted

It's OK to say you're sorry, but it's not OK to let a donkey sleep in a bathtub. Also, 7 other things worth a click.

There’s a law in Ontario and several other Canadian provinces that governs apologies.

At first, it sounds like one of those "crazy statutes still on the books" things—like the idea that it's illegal in Arizona to let a donkey sleep in a bathtub, or that you can get a ticket and have to pay a fine if you wear a sleeveless shirt in a public park in Maryland.

But the Canadian laws are a bit different. They say that if you tell someone you're sorry for something, that fact of your your apology can't be used against you as a legal admission that you've done something wrong.

Google the Apology Acts, as they're known, and you'll find some self-deprecating Canadian humor (sorry, humour), about our northern neighbors' propensity to apologize at almost any opportunity.

Yet, I've got to be honest: it sounds like a pretty good idea.

The 1 thing that holds us back

Americans don't reflexively say “sorry” as often as Canadians do. But, there are at least three reasons I'd like to see something similar here.

First, for the legal reason that they have it in Canada. Under the common law that both countries share, an "admission against interest" counts an exception to the hearsay rule in court.

So, if I hit your car and then apologize to you for the accident, you can theoretically sue me and use the fact that I said I was sorry as proof that I was in the wrong.

That’s why you probably shouldn't apologize immediately after a traffic accident. Yet, isn't that exactly the sort of time when we'd like people to demonstrate greater empathy and compassion?

Second, I like it as a legal encouragement for more politeness in general. It costs nothing, and can defuse difficult situations.

At the risk of seeming crankier and older than I am, I'm a giant proponent of the lost art of saying "you're welcome," as opposed to more recent replacements like, "no problem" (or, "yep!").

Finally, and perhaps most important, it's because the number one thing that holds so many people back in America—besides, say, lack of health insurance and student debt —is a perception so many people have that they don’t have permission to become great.

And this law is all about giving people permission.

Ask forgiveness, not permission

It's ironic to the nth degree, because we like to think of Americans as pioneering, straight-shooting, and brave.

Often we are. Heck, it was one of our great, adventurous inventors who came up with the life maxim, "It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission."

But in recent decades, I think we've reached the point where we have just enough stuff, and enough success, that we're afraid of losing it.

It can be paralyzing.

I see this almost every single morning, after I wrote that article about quitting a job after one day. People reach out to me over LinkedIn or email almost every evening, basically asking me for permission to quit their jobs, too.

Stepping in

I don’t know those people’s stories, of course. So, I try to refrain from giving advice.

Usually, I think they know their own right answer, anyway.

Similarly, I don't know if there might be something holding you back — ambitions, for example, that you might feel embarrassed or hesitant to pursue.

If there is, then now, as we approach the final weeks of the decade, seems like a heck of a good time to take control.

If nobody else is doing it for you, maybe let me stand in as a proxy, giving you the permission you need to move forward and take risks. Or, if you’re doing fine but a friend or colleague needs a proxy, maybe take it on yourself to stand in for them.

Permission granted. Carpe diem. They’re powerful words.

Actually, we're on the cusp of the 2020s. So let's go one further: Carpe decennium.

7 other things worth a click

  1. Boeing is considering a complete suspension of 737 MAX production, as the plane remains grounded into 2020. (The Wall Street Journal)

  2. Hallmark channel banned a commercial with a same-sex kiss, then reversed itself. (Axios)

  3. The state of Utah threw out thousands of gallons of beer, after a change in the allowable amount of alcohol went into effect. (Associated Press)

  4. A runner who slapped the behind of a female reporter on live TV faces sexual assault charges. (Buzzfeed News)

  5. 13 new words in the dictionary, starting with mumblecore, woo-woo, and woke. (Inc.)

  6. The new Kentucky governor restored voting rights to 140,000 felons, days after the outgoing governor pardoned hundreds of people including murderers and child molesters. (The New York Times)

  7. The FCC wants a three-digit nationwide number for people in danger of taking their own lives to call, much like the 911 system. (NPR)

Photo credit: The .gif of Canadian hockey player Marie-Philip Poulin supposedly saying “sorry” over and over after winning a game against the U.S. originally made the rounds during the 2014 Olympics.

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