Isn’t it about time you stopped allowing others to control your life with their rules and make this the year to begin to follow your own instincts?
Another New Year. A fresh new threshold of golden opportunities to achieve ultimate career and personal success. But despite the heady promise, for far too many otherwise intelligent, hardw0rking men and women the new year will end pretty much the same as previous years: another 365 days of missed opportunities and broken dreams all because they allow their lives to be designed by others who create rules that control how they should think, act and live.
Most of these rules are intended to limit rather than expand our opportunity to be successful. They stifle creativity and cripple our chances to be all that we can be. But it does not have to be that way. Vowing to make this the year when you start cheating on the rules can make careers blossom and forever change lives for the better. If we have the courage, stamina and a deep ethical commitment to do the right thing we can challenge the rules and take control of our lives. And the first step to elusive success is to stand up to the rules that are designed to prevent our success.
The Rules that Imprison Our Opportunities
The rules we face are so prolific and ingrained in life that it is easy to forget they are premeditated dictums intended to foster constancy, consistency and compliance. I am not talking about the rules that advance a smooth functioning society; the Ten Commandments and the millions of permutations that have followed offer those. What I am talking about are the inane, repressive rules that invade our lives and inhibit our ability to live our dreams for our future.
Most of us probably don’t even recognize these rules; we simply accept them. But stop and think about it, what is the number one rule we are conditioned to follow? You got it: Play by the rules. We are told to follow the rules because the rules will keep us out of trouble. And just what trouble is that? All too often it’s the trouble that will be caused not for us, but for those who want to control our lives.
The mindless rules seem to be everywhere …
- “You can’t do that …”
- “You can’t say that …”
- “Don’t rock the boat …”
- “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done …”
- “We’ve always done it that way …”
The Bountiful Rules of Business
Rules are especially prolific in the business world. Business is rife with procedures for getting hired, promoted, winning raises and advancing a career. Ostensibly these conventions are formulated to help us succeed and keep us out of trouble, but the bitter truth is that most of the rules we are confronted with in business were instituted not to help us succeed, but rather to control us, to limit us and to keep us from assuming command of our own destiny.
When someone has the audacity to question these rules they are typically rebuffed and threatened with exclusion and isolation. They are tagged as being disagreeable nonconformists. Unfortunately, this is the point at which most succumb to the pressure of another rule – go along to get along – and submerge their dreams in conforming acceptance. They become victims of the desire by many to preserve the status quo. And so the rules – unchallenged and submissively accepted – proliferate, and the lemmings blindly follow each other into the sea of mediocrity and despair.
Where to Draw the Line
It is important to make a distinction between acceptable rules and those that should be challenged, just as there are two types of rule-cheating. There is the bad cheating, which is “cheating to lose,” and there is “good cheating,”
“Bad cheating” is immoral, unethical, dishonest and often illegal. And you know what I am talking about. We have seen too much of this type of cheating in recent years. You cheat to lose, for example, when you cook the books, lie to your employees, commit fraud or deception, and engage in other, unethical behaviors.
But there is good cheating, that could be deemed “cheating to win.” The philosophy of cheating to win is highly moral, deeply ethical and is the most honest way to live your life and interact with others. This kind of cheating challenges rules that are inane, ineffectual and counterproductive. Such rules as this exist only because they have become entrenched by the supporting twin-pillars of “custom” and “tradition.”
Breaking the rules of conformity means thinking about what should or could be, and not being satisfied with the way things are. It is being willing to question the status quo. Conformists assume the best is behind us. The greatest inhibitor to finding new and better ways to do things is the belief that all that can be done has been done. Charles H. Duell, for example, director of the U.S. Patent Office, proclaimed in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
The Crowd of Conformists
Conformists – the rule acceptors – characteristically find it difficult to recognize the value of a new idea. For them, sometimes the only fear they have is the fear of change. They accept rules as if they were the answers and rarely invest the effort or take the risk needed to ponder an alternative. Their life is governed by a meticulously assembled script of answers to questions they never bothered to ask themselves.
The number one rule followed by these conformists is “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Their belief is, “Why question if the answer is already known?” The problem is that they are so busy following the rules they are unwilling to even check to see if it is broken; let alone find a better way to make it work. The problem is that the comfort of conformity spreads like a cancer, thwarting the will of would-be rule-breakers. These conformists are society’s wet blankets, the first in line to proclaim that a new idea “won’t work” or that it is just too risky to explore. Committed conformists are totally oblivious to the potential for better. And even worse, they expect all others to conform. But you don’t have to follow those rules. In fact, they should be the first rules you challenge. This may mean accepting the slings and arrows sent your way as a congenital nonconformist, but the potential rewards far outweigh the lonliness of being just another part of the herd.
The Rule Breakers are Different
The first sign of a potential rule-breaker is relentless curiosity. If you don’t ask “why?” you will never get to “why not?” A proclivity to challenge the established rules starts with constantly asking questions and challenging the way things are done. It means taking exception to established procedures and mores.
Rule-breakers tend to exhibit these attributes:
- A willingness to seek out and adopt new perspectives whenever possible.
- An openness to doing new things or to do old things differently.
- The compelling drive to act on new ideas to test their true value.
- A recognition that tradition is something to build on, not rest on.
- The eagerness to listen to others and profit from their input; regardless of who receives the credit.
Rule-breaking behavior requires an openness and willingness to look at the world in new ways. Rule-breakers know that new ideas need nurturing and support. But they also know that just thinking about a new idea is not enough. They intuitively understand that the true value of a new idea rests in its implementation and they have the courage and commitment to push the new idea forward. They recognize that most often bringing new ideas to life requires breaking old rules.
And the Moral of the Story …
The truth is that the only way you can carve out a future that you control is by shattering rather than following the entrenched establishment’s “conspiracy of rules.” The way to do this is by learning to adopt an honest, challenging rule-breaking élan that will open your mind to wide vistas of opportunity that others will never know exist. What most fail to understand or lack the courage to act on is that the honest way to live life is to break all the false, dishonest rules, artificial expectations and archaic limitations imposed on us by others.
A willingness to challenge what is, for what could be debunks the rule-myths of business by exposing the hypocrisy of outdated, old ways and translates the doublespeak of dishonest rules. It is the only way to become empowered to discover your own clear path to success.
Is this the year you are going to begin to take control of your future? If not now, when?