Stop Following the Rules

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“If you obey all the rules, you  miss all the fun.”

Katherine Hepburn

With the exception of gravity, almost all of the rules are negotiable — someone just makes them up.

It’s no longer about what you can’t do.

It’s about what you can do.

And that, my friends, can be scary-awesome.

Often in organizations, there’s this entanglement between hierarchy, respect, fear and compliance with following the rules. Just getting the job done.

Great Work is a counter-cultural act. That’s what makes it difficult, challenging, vital.

Isn’t it time you had more fun and started breaking the rules?

Ask yourself “Which rules am I following?” There are some obvious things here. Social norms, such as wearing clothes in public. Rules for safety, like stopping for red lights. And, those unspoken things we just do, like turning around and facing the doors of an elevator that we’ve just entered.

Start by jotting down some of the rules others make up for you.

Try answering this… “At work, we’re not allowed to…” and write down ten things that are beyond the pale in the place where you work.

What I find is that the first part of this exercise takes me neatly, embarrassingly, into the second, more slippery list of rules…

What rules have you made up for yourself?

Many of them are completely unspoken, many of them are made up by that fierce little policeman we have in our own heads that shuts down options and tells us to behave.

So what are the rules that made your list? Would breaking one of them allow you to get to that scary-awesome zone of marching to your own drummer? 

Would it allow you to define yourself, not by what you can’t do, but by what you can?

Want to embrace creativity and do more Great Work? Check out the Great Work MBA today!

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About the Author

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work.

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