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The slow, messy, effective path to freedom.


When I’m feeding my baby Penelope, sometimes she likes to grab the spoon and feed herself.  Anyone who’s ever witnessed a baby feed herself knows that more food ends up on her face, in her hair, and on the floor than in her mouth.

It’s way more tidy and efficient when I just spoon food into her mouth and collect the bits that get on her face with my spoon in between bites. After the meal all she needs is a quick wipe with a wet cloth, and she’s all clean again.

After she feeds herself, though, I pretty much have to hose her down. It’s not efficient at all. In fact, it’s a production.

So a lot of days I dodge her chubby little, dimpled hands with my spoon and get the food straight from the bowl into her mouth. I just don’t want to deal with the mess.

The thing is, though, if I never give her the spoon to feed herself, how’s she going to eventually figure out how to get the 90% of sweet potatoes that currently end up on her cheeks, chin, forehead, ears, and head into her mouth instead, where they belong?

She’s not.

And I’ll have to feed her forever.

So even though it takes longer and it’s way messier, I’m going to start giving her the spoon more often (not every time because mama doesn’t have time for 3+ baths a day).

I’m also handing the proverbial spoon off to the emerging leaders in our network marketing business more. I’m giving them the chance to do things I’ve always just done myself because I already know how and I don’t feel like taking the time to train someone else.

Are my presentations tighter, more polished, and more efficient? Yes. (Well, actually, sometimes theirs are better!)

But if I never hand someone else the microphone, they’ll never learn to present. And I’ll have to do it forever. They’ll never feel empowered, and I’ll never feel free.

If I keep holding Penelope back from feeding herself and our team back from stepping into leadership, I’m communicating two things:

1. There’s something wrong with the messy slowness of learning to do something for the first time.

2. I don’t trust you.

Given that neither of those things is true in the least, I better get my grip off that spoon and that microphone, quick.

I want P to know that I love her and that she’s okay no matter how much sweet potato she has on her face and how little made it into her mouth.

I want our team to know that you don’t have to be perfect to become successful. You simply have to be willing to take action and improve little by little over time.

Letting go of control so that other people can learn is way messier and way slower than doing those things yourself. But it’s way more effective than being the one who has to do everything in the long run.

Letting someone else take the reins communicates that you trust them and you believe in them. {Tweet it.} Letting Someone Else Take The Reins - Tweet

Hand something over to someone else. Relax if doesn’t get done perfectly. And enjoy the freedom that comes when they eventually nail it and you’re free to do something else.



Do you find it hard to let other people do things because you think you’ll do it better? What’s one area of your life where you could hand the control over to someone else to give you more freedom? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


P.S. Did you miss my chat yesterday The Truth About Your Belly Fat & Bank Account – A Conversation with Kate Northrup & Sarah Jenks? You can still get a copy of the recording by clicking here!


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  • Kim

    My kids are grown now, but I was very much in control for everything. I remember the days when they would ask to help fold the laundry, and I did finally let them, cringing at the way it was done. I had a certain way that I loaded the dishwasher.. I finally let that go and allowed others to load as they wished. Slowly over time, I let go… but I will admit not fully, until they were older teenagers, and I was divorced. I clearly remember a time that snapped me out of it… when my oldest daughter, in college at the time, was going to surprise her sister at her volleyball game. I got on the computer right away looking for train tickets. When I told my daughter what was available, she said “I don’t need that, I am driving”…WOW! What a concept… yes.. she could make the 2 hour drive! I still have a hard time letting go, but come September I will have my biggest challenge, when I move away to another State. I will finally let go of the reigns, and realize they really are adults now, and can do it for themselves.

  • I am actually struggling with this. I belong to a group and one of the people in it wants to take on everything herself. Even after a couple of us have offered to help, she still takes on everything. I’ve heard her complain about it too. She is very good at what she does, but I do feel like she doesn’t trust us. I do recognize her perfect way of doing things is part of her character, so that takes the edge off a little for me. I could turn it around on myself and say that I want to take on everything and that’s why I don’t approve. Yes, I just gave myself a mini counseling session via Kate Northrup…Thank you! lol

  • Jen O

    All sweet potatoes aside, I appreciate the opportunity to begin to grow! Thank you.

  • Just what I needed to read today, thank you Kate!

  • Amoy

    Kate I used to struggle to accept others short comings , then I realise it was because I saw it in my self…. H’mm! Interesting…! If things don’t get done the way I want it, instead of being critical, I choose to be grateful, and I do my best to look for the good because we all have a different prospective , and I’m finding it much easier to be gently in my weakness, nothing is going to be perfect, so in the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi, to accept the things I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference .

  • Both my kids (under 10) are in Montessori school and the whole philosophy is built around a ‘failure based learning’ model. That struggle, that failure, is honoured as integral to the learning process. The idea is that our kids are going to have jobs solving problems we don’t even know about yet – so the need for innovation, and the willingness to try (the willingness to fail), is considered far more valuable than compliance or following instructions to the letter.

    This Montessori experience comes AFTER I built my network marketing business – I think it would have made the willingness to let people fail their way forward a lot easier on my knuckles (i.e. saved them from being chewed on quite as much…) and easier on my blood pressure if I’d had the Montessori / kids experience first :o)

    Great post Kate, thanks.

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