Saturday, April 08, 2006

Curious about Rules: Which Ones Do You Follow, Break or Question?

Integrity has no need of rules.” - Albert Camus
I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity.” - Bill Veeck
If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” - Katharine Hepburn

Several weeks ago, while searching for a book in my case for “special books waiting to be read,” I found The Rules of Business >> Timeless Truths from the Best Minds in Business: 55 Essential Ideas to Help Smart People (and Organizations) Perform at Their Best. This small-sized volume by Fast Company’s Editors and Writers is loaded with more than 400 big-sized “insights, imperatives, and hypotheses.”

As shared in the book’s Introduction, “Are there ‘rules’ that absolutely guarantee business and career success? Of course not. Life is not formulaic, and neither is business - which is what makes it so endlessly challenging and fascinating for us. There is no guarantee. We’re expecting, though, that this book will sure increase your chances.”

I haven’t been able to put the book down, and yet, I am taking lots of time to read each section - the book is divided into 22 themes - and digest the wisdom shared by so many great minds. The themes include many of the themes I have picked for this blog and my eclectic bi-weekly e-newsletter, Portfolio Potpourri. You’ll find “Change, Communication, Knowledge, Risk, The Link Between Success and Failure, and The Future” - to name a few.

Rule #1 - The first rule of business is the same as the first rule of life: Adapt or die.”

Sample quotation: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” - Dame Anita Roddick, founder, The Body Shop

Besides making you aware of this excellent material, I also decided that it would be a great time to investigate how others feel about “rules.”

As you might imagine, when I looked for quotations at, there were as many as there had been for “Truth” and some were quite critical of rules and the idea of rules. I picked the ones to share with you that either tickled me or made me think. So, here we go!

Questioning the idea of rules:
  • There are no absolute rules of conduct, either in peace or war. Everything depends on circumstances.” - Leon Trotsky
  • Famous people feel that they must perpetually be on the crest of the wave, not realizing that it is against all the rules of life. You can't be on top all the time, it isn't natural.” - Olivia De Havilland
  • Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them.” - Bill Cosby

What is better than or different from the rules:

  • "Although none of the rules for becoming more alive is valid, it is healthy to keep on formulating them.” - Susan Sontag
  • The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.” - George Bernard Shaw
  • Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Habits are safer than rules; you don't have to watch them. And you don't have to keep them either. They keep you.” - Frank Crane
  • Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules.” - Wayne Dyer

Yes, there are and should be rules:

  • However, you do need rules. Driving on the left (or the right or, in parts of Europe, on the left and the right as the mood takes you) is a rule which works, since following it means you're more likely to reach your intended rather than your final destination.” - Terry Prachett
  • One of my rules is never explain. A writer is a lot like a magician, if you explain how the trick works then a lot of the magic turns mundane.” - Laurell K. Hamilton
  • All action is for the sake of some end; and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and color from the end to which they are subservient.” - John Stuart Mill
  • The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Abstract rules, which establish in advance what we may expect of one another, make cooperation possible on a wide scale.” - Tom G. Palmer

As always, I will leave you with a couple of quotations that especially appeal to me and that you can chew on this coming week.

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” - W. Somerset Maugham
The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.” - Chuck Jones