It goes with the territory of being an engineer, or at least having an “engineer brain”. We follow rules. And when there aren’t any rules, we like to make them up.
It brings order to a chaotic world and frees our brain up to work on important things. Like discovering microwaves and inventing the microwave. Or figuring out how to make the “popcorn” button on said microwave actually pop the corn and not char the corn…
Regardless, rules usually start with a greater purpose in mind, but they often don’t keep up with changing times or changing thinking. Yet we don’t really THINK about changing them, we just sort of keep on moving forward, with that rule set firmly in our mind.
This week, I’m going to talk about breaking rules. As a business consultant, I have found five rules that have become almost legend in our society here in the United States.
Breaking certain rules can cause the skies to open and rain down benefits – but it can also cause your worst nightmares.
How do we know which way it’s going to go?
Author and aeronautical engineer, Robert Heinlein, once said, “I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them.”
There comes a time when it becomes necessary to break a rule, simply to break control of others or a situation and to set yourself free to make your own rules.
Here are some perks of breaking five certain rules of society:
1. Rule: “Work from 9 to 5”
When you break this rule, you can get ahead quickly by garnering more time for yourself and working more efficiently. Many people today are realizing the perks that technology now affords by setting their own hours and taking time for themselves.
Personally, I think a lot of people have found this out while the national Work From Home suggestions were in place. I know I did. I would hit email at about 6:30 a.m., do that for a while, get up and take the dog for a walk, work for a while, take a break and clean something or garden for a few minutes, work for a while, all day long. I’d shut my computer off at 6:00 p.m. I did my 8 hours, it just wasn’t a continuous 8 hours.
Now that people and offices are opening back up, see what you can do to still build in that flexibility. Every company I’ve talked to has planned to make significant telework part of their new operations.
The pandemic has certainly helped bust this rule for you, so you just have to work on believing it deep down inside!
2. Rule: Always Meet Your Goals and Expectations.
You may change your mind along the way – it’s as simple as that. You can become newly enthused about a project or goal if you let the old ones go.
The trick is to truly let the old ones go. I used to dream of being a published author and making my living that way. I let that go, content to just write a weekly blog. No self-flagellation, no regret; it was just a thought I had that I realized wasn’t as glamorous as I thought.
3. Rule: What Other People Think is Important.
Letting go of the fear of people judging you can be very freeing. What kept you down and from reaching new heights in your life plan is replaced with a new zest for life and enthusiasm to take advantage of every opportunity.
Take my advice from a few weeks ago. Put your hands on your hips, look yourself dead in the eye in a mirror, and tell yourself how amazing, brave, badass, or awesome you are.
4. Rule: Mistakes Are a Bad Thing.
You can get tons of benefits from making mistakes. It’s never fun to admit you’re wrong, but when you learn lessons from those mistakes, the benefits are many and you’ll likely never make that mistake again.
As a matter of fact, the harder the failure is to own up to, the less likely you are to make that mistake again. If you fall, pick yourself up and pick up the lesson too. That saying about learning from the school of hard knocks is pretty accurate!
5. Rule: Your Parents Are Always Right.
When you realize that your parents lived in another day and time when rules meant something different than they do today, you can justify breaking the “parents are always right rule.” The major perk you can get from breaking this rule is to free yourself to make your own decisions and plot your own life-path.
Of course, if my kids or my parents are reading this, this didn’t/doesn’t apply!
Seriously, though, times change, society changes, and your experiences with life are different from that of your parents. Accept that and move on with YOUR life, on your terms and your way.
How you handle your parents is on you, but how they react is on them.
Although there are perks from breaking many of society’s antiquated rules, beware of breaking rules that were set in place to help us in life. Not working 9 until 5 every day doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard to realize your goals and dreams. It just means that the hours don’t have to be regimented.
In fact, you may work harder – spend long days and nights – in reaching the goals and dreams you have for yourself. But, setting your own hours can help you work on your own terms and not those set by others. You’ll do a much better job and finish projects much more efficiently.
So, to all the left-brain people out there who can’t imagine breaking rules, I submit this quote from Pablo Picasso.
"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."
I like this quote because it takes into account the rules to learn to be considered a professional in whatever your career field. Then it takes it to the next level by becoming an artist in that field.