The Rules – An On-going List for Your Own Sanity

  1. Everything is optional.
    • Sure, the consequences of not doing something may be severe. Doesn’t mean it’s not optional
    • Resist definitively applying identity – to yourself, as well as to others. These declarations are self-limiting, persist longer than is useful or accurate, can be difficult to unwind, and is a barrier in-between two multi-faceted people.
    • Not everything needs to happen. Not everything needs to happen right now.
    • Reacting is a choice. Get comfortable creating space between stimulus and reaction.
    • Don’t read the comments.
    • Avoid the daily news.
    • Between two choices, choose the one most minimizing future resentment.
    • If you want to see how valuable something is – stop doing it.
    • Be open to breaking your streak. The opposite of consistency is addiction.
      1. Similarly, don’t commit to regularly scheduled meetings w/o an end date. Responsiveness when it matters trumps regular low value interactions.
    • Most things don’t happen. (“But I stress that the universe is mainly made of nothing, that something is the exception. Nothing is the rule. That darkness is a commonplace; it is light that is the rarity.” – Carl Sagan)
    • If the question has even come to mind then, yes, you should leave your job. Discomfort is not security. 
  2. Mise en place
    • Put things where you expect them to be.
    • Prepare the environment for your success – before you start.
    • Wash your bowl – the cleaning is a kindness to future you.
    • Commit. Prepare. Pre-prepare.
  3. Do one thing at a time.
    • Then, do the next obvious thing.
    • Schedule what’s next.
    • If you’re unsure, the easiest thing to do is what’s on next your calendar.
    • Follow your breath.
  4. Learn to deal constructively with yourself. You are, and will always be, your biggest problem.
    • The bulk of the resistance is in your head. Everything is much more malleable, the range of acceptable solutions to a given problem is far wider, than it may first appear.
    • Always start eating before you start drinking.
    • Nothing good ever happens after 10pm.
    • The hours of sleep before midnight are worth more than those after.
    • Sleep on it. “Only in a marriage proposal should you respond immediately. Everything else can wait 8 hours.” – Alan Weiss.
    • Right now, do one thing to make yourself 8% happier, calmer, and more comfortable. Do it.
    • Love yourself more (then more, and more…). Your capacity to love someone else is limited by your capacity to love yourself.
    • Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
  5. The cup is already broken – appreciate the all the unbroken things around you.
  6. Really commit to making the most valuable mess you can.
  7. Always order the fish tacos.
  8. Life is in fact too short, and too short for bullshit.
    • Everything obeys Sturgeon’s Law. Including the things that obey Sturgeon’s Law.
    • If you’re in your office – you’re not doing your most important work.
    • If it has a deadline – it’s not your most important work.
  9. Everything you need to get started is already here.
    • First, try. Then, take a step back. Then, actually try.
    • The path is made by walking.
  10. Success is not being interrupted.
    • Success is requiring less.
    • Make fewer, more significant, decisions.
  11. Do the thing only you can do.
    • Savor your obsessions.
    • Tell the stories no one else will tell but you
    • Focus on the things no one else but you is in a position to do.
    • There’s a complete and complex universe hidden behind every single thing. Be amazed, appreciative, and curious.
  12. Be more specific.
    • If you’re struggling with a problem, be more specific in defining it. Smaller more specific problems are easier to solve than big undefined ones, and the solutions are usually unexpected.
    • Context is what’s scarce (credit to Tyler Cowen)
    • Specifically ask for what you want. Accept ‘No’ for an answer.
    • Additionally, if you don’t like an offer respond with a proposal that fits your preference.
    • Make the implicit explicit & use your words. We’re all too wrapped up in our own minds to read yours. Remember: Language is an approximation – your complex thoughts and emotions are constantly being filtered through your understanding of your own language which are then mapped back into thoughts & emotions of your listener. Don’t assume you’ve got the most appropriate words or that you & your listener have the same meaning for the words you’ve chosen.
  13. If you have an opportunity to travel – take it. Do not cancel.
  14. Everything you experience is from the past.
    • Everything has earlier origins, and started significantly smaller and more tenuously, than you realize (credit Tyler Cowen).
    • Everything you’ve done was done by a past version of you. You’ve learned a lot since then, maybe grant yourself some grace.
  15. The map is not the territory – (credit Alfred Korzybski). The tools and artifacts we use to organize and understand the world are just that. They are not the world and they are not the tools for creating new worlds.
  16. Opportunities to fulfill your dreams always arrive before you’re ready.
  17. Relocate for more broad, more diverse, long-term opportunities. Do not move for an individual job or an individual person. Related, people don’t move when things are going well. Never ever move with IKEA furniture.
  18. The worst possible version of a thing will be wildly popular.
  19. Pick up the tab.
  20. You can get on someone’s schedule in two weeks. Or right this very minute. Try both at the same time.
  21. If you’re going to do something more than twice – on the third time, find a way to systemize it.
  22. Most problems are coordination problems.
  23. Long game wins.
    • Speed rarely matters more than persistence.
    • The 40th iteration will always be better than the initial iteration.
  24. Giving people an out, it makes them more likely to act.
  25. Take ownership. Many around you will be grateful someone did.