Challenge: Break one rule today

by | Jun 18, 2013 | Become More Awesome

Takeaway: Successful and more productive people don’t always follow the rules. The rules and norms that exist today were written by someone else, in the past, so they’re often not designed with you in mind, or they’re outdated.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 55s.

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1. Throw old rules out

It’s hard to name a wildly famous person who followed the rules. The people who are successful do things differently, and to do things differently you often have to break the rules.

Tim Cook put it well when he said recently, “If you do follow things in a formulaic manner, you will at best wind up being the same as everybody else”.1 Marilyn Monroe, different from Tim Cook in a lot of ways, shared pretty much the same thought: “If I’d observed all the rules I’d never have got anywhere”.2

2. Break rules ethically

It is one thing to break rules, but it is a whole other to do so in a way that doesn’t hurt other people. Nobody likes an ass.

Bob Stone, writing for Governing magazine, said that there are three rules of thumb to follow when you’re trying to figure out whether or not it’s ethical to break a rule:3

1. Will you gain a personal benefit?
2. Is it taking the easy way out?
3. Is it serving the cause of justice?

Stone also points out that in addition to considering these three rules of thumb, it’s obviously important to think about all of the other consequences of breaking a certain rule, too.

So basically, as I mentioned, don’t be a ass.

3. Challenge: Break one rule today

So all of that of course begs the question – what is one rule can you break today?

This whole project is the result of rule breaking, and while I’m not a rebel by most measures, I’m 100x prouder of this project then I would be of any job I would have accepted, even though I was offered two great ones after I graduated. Obviously I’m not performing at the same caliber as a Tim Cook or a Marilyn Monroe, but I would not be as happy and as successful (by my own yardstick) if I hadn’t broken the rules I needed to in order to start this project.

The rules and norms that exist today were written by someone else, in the past. The fact that they were written by someone else may mean they don’t work in your situation, and the fact that they were written in the past may mean that they’re outdated and don’t work anymore. There’s a reason that successful people don’t follow the rules and instead write their own.

What rule will you break today?


  1. Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daWURZmYya4&feature=share&list=PLwEToxwSycW1uqGG-iYZOERU0WBTKIAMt 

  2. Source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/62998-if-i-d-observed-all-the-rules-i-d-never-have-got 

  3. Source: http://www.governing.com/columns/mgmt-insights/Go-Ahead-Break-a.html 

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 27 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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