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Pray You Always Get To Follow The Rules

June 1, 2016

It was a Facebook post extolling the virtues of “breaking your limits,” “abandoning your limitations,” “refusing to follow other people’s rules.” It had been shared dozens of times and had hundreds of likes. Many of the comments were,

So true!

I couldn’t agree more.

Don’t limit yourself.

I just shook my head and laughed. Rules are not there to restrict your actions. Rules are there to help you do more, faster and easier. Consider traffic laws. They are designed to keep us from speeding to get where we are going faster. They require us to stop at cross streets even when no other cars are around. They insist we stop at a red light rather than proceed through the intersection as we choose.

I read a story one time about a guy whose daily commute required him to pass through a particular intersection. He never caught the light on this one. Every morning he dreaded getting to that cross street. He just knew he would be stuck there for 45 seconds to 2 minutes waiting on the light. More than once he reigned curses on that particular traffic signal. And then one day, it worked. His curses, that is. Someone had hit a power pole somewhere and the traffic signal was out. Instead of a 2 minute wait, he spent 10 minutes in a long line of cars as everyone had to “treat it as a 4 way stop.” In an instant, he realized that rather than prolonging his commute, that traffic signal was actually helping him get where he wanted to go quicker. 

On Saturday I will go to the airport and pick up two of my teenage daughters. They have been in Washington for the week visiting their grandmother. I have every confidence that their trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City will be uneventful. I don’t worry about the safety of the plane. I’m pretty sure the guys who did the safety check of the plane followed the rules. I hope they did. 

I’ve been married to a wonderful woman for nearly 30 years. It was the best decision I ever made, although I’m not sure I can say the same for her. I work very hard to be a good husband and father. It is reassuring to me that marriage comes with expectations and “rules.” I’m grateful that I can rely on my lovely wife as we continue building a life together and raising our children. The vows we made don’t restrict me, they actually grant me the freedom to grow in a relationship based on mutual trust and love.

That’s all well and good for marriage, or airline safety and maybe the traffic signals do provide some help, but when it comes to personal expression, rules don’t apply, right? I mean, anyone is free to express themselves and society likes the free thinkers. 

Not so much. 

I have a good friend who is a professional writer. In addition to writing his own books, he also teaches writing. He has made a career out of understanding the craft of writing and publishing. He also teaches classes on publishing. I attended a seminar he lead. He was one of Stephanie Meyer’s writing instructors. (She wrote the Twilight series.) He also advised the publisher of the Harry Potter books on their potential in the marketplace. Dave then did something remarkable. In our seminar he explained the “rules” that J.K Rowling, Stephanie Meyer’s and other followed that destined their books for greatness. He explained the formula. He explained the market segmentation. He explained the role that gender played in both the protagonists and the authors. (There’s a reason J.K Rowling used her initials and not her given name of Joanne.)

What my friends pointed out is that you do not have to follow the rules if you want to write. However, you do need to follow the rules if you want to write and sell your work. Understanding and following the rules will not restrict your writing. Instead those rules will empower you to write and ultimately publish to a much wider audience. 

I have another friend who runs a major TV studio. He is the guy who approved the pilot for Mad Men. He’s grown his studio from essentially nothing to a billion dollar a year company with dozens of hit series in development. My friend understands there are rules to a successful TV series. You don’t have to follow those rules if you want to make a TV series. You need to follow those rules if you want to make a TV series that is a hit. 

I am a member of a fairly conservative church. There are many rules that govern how the members behave. Some people think the rules are restrictive. That they are designed to limit my freedoms. And yet, those rules are what give me the freedom to do much of what I want to do. There is a restriction on tobacco. By following that rule, I’m free from the ills associated with smoking. There’s a rule against alcohol. That rule has kept me out of numerous potentially dangerous situations. 

In business there are rules. There are accepted ways of doing things. Do I have to follow those rules? No. However, if I choose to not follow the rules my company has, I will have to go find another job. If I refuse to follow the rules of doing business with others, I may find myself not able to get work. I may find that people don’t trust me, or don’t want to work with me. 

Rules are how civilized people manage to coexist. They are a blessing to us. Be glad that you have them, and if someone suggests that you don’t need them, realize that they don’t really understand the purpose of rules. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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