7 Rules to Break Rules

There are only 2 rules in life:

  • Rule #1. There are no rules.
  • Rule #2. When in doubt, refer Rule #1


Conventions are being broken. New rules are being made. New paths are being created. What we knew for sure 10 years before, is no more existent today.

It was some 10 years since I started my career in the social sector. Unlike in 2016, it was not a ‘cool’ option then. It is not that I didn’t have other choices. I purposefully closed and denied them.

  • I slept over my Engineering Entrance Exam day – so I don’t be compelled to become an Engineer
  • I failed my medical tests and refused an ‘alternate’ route into the Air Force.
  • I wouldn’t waste a single paisa more of my parents. I choose to work immediately after graduation. [Luckily, I got a fully paid scholarship to study a novel program in Development Management].

I am in a good place. It could’ve been better. I don’t know. But I’m happy.

I broke the rules. It was hard. But I did.

Rule 1: Embrace failure

Success has become pornographic. As kids (or even as adults) we were not taught to learn what to do when we fail. In fact, failing could be the best thing that could happen to you. It’s not that you figured out life, it just means, you found out this may not work. That for me is good.

When Churchill said, success is nothing but from moving from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm. He wasn’t kidding. When he lost the Prime Minister candidacy to Chamberlain – he took up writing. He even won the Noble Prize for Literature later.

If life’s an experiment, failure is inevitable.

Embrace it.

Rule 2: Do not follow passion

It’s one of the most widely spread conviction. If you love what you do, you don’t have to work again. Oh, right!

They’re lying.

Don’t make what you love as your job. That’s gonna ruin you. Yes, I am not recommending you get stuck with what you hate. If it’s okay, that’s good enough. You’ll never get it perfect.

World is not perfect. You are not perfect.

Master your craft. Perfect it. It’s an asymptotic curve. You never achieve perfect. But give nothing less than 100%.

You’ll be valued. You’re craft will valued. Make it worth the contribution. To make this world a better place. Passion is nothing. Contribution everything.

But a job is not your life. It’s a livelihood. Period. Have other avenues.

  • Write a novel. After your wife slept.
  • Create that canvas. On a Sunday noon.
  • Learn to cook. When no one is at home.
  • Take that yoga class. In the weekend.

What is success? But doing the same boring job again and again.

Rule 3: Act, don’t be real

All world’s a stage and we’re mere actors.

You can’t say out loud what you think. Honesty works. But radical honesty. May be not. You need to have a filter between your head and your mouth; your heart and your guts. You need to hold your instinct.

You need to conform – to certain social norms. Fit in. But not too much.

You can’t be your real self. You have to act.

But every other time, you can be yourself. No qualms.

Rule 4: Goals are Nothing, If You Don’t Follow

You’ve been asked to set goals. Clear. Precise. But you would have realised nobody taught about how to achieve it. You know why? Secretly they don’t want you to be success.

And they themselves don’t want to it.

Because it’s hard. It’s easy to lay down and watch TV. It’s easy to chat up and losing focus. But it’s hard to open that laptop and write the next chapter for your book. It’s hard to design the next best feature for your product.

People want easy wins. Not achieve goals.

Rule 5: Separate Personal and Professional Life

It’s not about balance, but separation.

People often confuse balance and let both lives mix. Draw a line – a boundary. Don’t let one bother the other. 

Practice detachment – both at work and from personal life. The ability to have a dispassionate view of things is not easy. But the effect it has remarkable. 

Rule 6: Money is Everything. Not Everything.

Then it is up to you how to make life out of it. I found both the uber rich and uber poor have same type of insecurities about money. One is worried about losing it, the other is worried about not having it.

Happiness/ security you can derive from money stagnates at a point.

So earn money, give your fullest effort. Don’t be guilty about. If someone says they don’t worry about money. They’re lying. (or simply dumb). But aim for contentment, but the score.

Some say buys experiences, not things. I agree. You make the choice. But most and the best things (or experiences) in life are free.

I have an yardstick. To earn enough money so I don’t worry about it. I feel I’m pretty close to that. You decide. Have an upper limit.

Rule 7: Productivity is not in doing things

but in taking breaks, renewing energy

It’s not about productivity, but impact

Not about efficiency, but effectiveness

Not about getting more things done, but getting the right things done.

We still work in an efficiency paradigm. We need to mature to an impact paradigm.

It’s almost a superhuman power to do what is right, to focus on what is important, especially in the age of distraction. Anyone can do every other thing. But it takes effort to do the right thing.

Break the rule about productivity, aim for impact.

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