Don’t follow the rules

Do Not Follow The Rules

Many years ago, I built a website that sold a package of code samples. If you aren’t sure what a code sample is, the audience for the product was people looking to speed up the building of their iPhone apps. 

Rules for selling things online?

At the time, all the code samples in the package were free if you knew where to look for them. The value I added was that I tested the code, made sure it worked and put all the samples together in one package. Ideally, people would buy the samples and get their apps built faster.

If you’ve ever sold anything on the internet, then you might spot the potential legal grey area here. That said, I was very meticulous to check the copyright for all the code, and was sure that the licenses made it legal for me to sell.

But even though it was technically legal, if you asked the developers who wrote the code, they would not have been pleased about what I was doing.

In the end, the product failed, mostly because I was afraid of it succeeding and getting too much attention could have brought legal problems for me. At the time, I felt like I was not following the rules, which was enough to make me stop. At the same time, there was competition, and they didn’t seem to care about the same rules I did. In the end, the competition’s website was successful, while mine faded away.

There is a lesson here, and it is; when you take the moral high ground, you give other people an advantage over you.

The reason being, if your competition does not follow the rules, they will do what you won’t. In many cases, though, that small advantage is enough to win in the long run. 

But don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating that you break the law and land yourself in jail. I’m also not saying that rules don’t ever matter either. Instead, what I am saying is sometimes it helps if you do not follow the rules.

Why Do We follow the rules?

From an early age, we are taught that we should do the right thing and be good people. For the most part, this works and makes sense, as it helps us avoid conflict and jail time. On top of this, society works better when everyone follows the rules. If everyone always broke the rules, there wouldn’t be anything we could rely on, and society would collapse. We don’t want that, as stability works well for all of us and helps us live happier safer lives.

But there are times when following the rules works against you.

At times this can mean you miss out on opportunities or lose because you aren’t willing to break the rules where someone else is.

The thing about rules is that a lot of them aren’t real. Indeed it is best that we did not murder or steal, as these rules are important and make sense. But often, we follow rules that we believe in that don’t really exist; instead, they are only in our heads.

There is no formal rule that says you should go to college and get a job. But for most of us, that feels like a rule that we have no choices but to follow. We think, if we do not follow the rules, we will end up homeless and without success. But if you realized that wasn’t a rule and flip it around, you could drop out of school and start a business. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should drop out, but it has worked well for some people.

Put another way, when you refuse to break the rules, you give anyone else who is willing to an advantage over you.

Anyone who doesn’t worry about the rules you believe in will always have that advantage over you, and that could help them get ahead.

Consider this hypothetical situation; you and a friend have a coffee and come up with a perfect business idea. You and your friend are both university students, but your friend decides that the idea is too good to wait for. On the other hand, you think there is a rule that says ‘you must finish school before you can start a business.’ Who do you think will win? Your friend, because for a lot of things, the rules are more of guidelines than laws. For that reason, you should not follow the rules if you don’t think they are valid or real.

The thing is that sometimes we do what we do because we think it is the right thing to do.

But there is rarely a law or rule that says it is the right thing to do, though we tend to think it is a rule that we must follow. In reality, most of the time, it doesn’t make any difference. For the most part, rules don’t exist; instead, they are formalities or things that we believe for no real reason.

Why Should We Not Follow the rules?

The hard part of any situation is knowing when it is ok to break the rules. This is never an issue for the sorts of people who don’t care about rules, but you don’t want to be like that. Instead, it is better to be selective about the rules you break.

If the rule isn’t real, then there is no reason to follow it, but you have to figure that out yourself.

On the other hand, if the rule is more of a formality, then it might be alright not to follow the rules sometimes.

The goal is to see the opportunities where it would be alright to ignore the rules. In my example, at the beginning of this article, if I wasn’t worried about what developers thought of me, I may have been able to make some decent money. In my case, I wasn’t breaking any laws; there was nothing illegal about what I was doing; instead, it was a rule inside my head.

The best rule you can follow is not to hurt people.

It would also be best if you didn’t strive to break the law, as you will end up in jail. But instead, know there are times when rules are only rules inside your head, and it is alright to break them at times.

A better way to think about this is to see rules as fuzzy. In general, the rules are less strict than you believe, and in fact, many of them aren’t real at all. At the same time, if you think you must always do the right thing, you might need to re-evaluate the rules that you are following.

If that doesn’t work, you need to be ok with losing cause you can’t always win without occasionally getting your hands dirty.

Let me put this another way; don’t let other people cheat you out of opportunities. Not every rule is real, and sometimes you must fight fire with fire. But at the same time, it is important to remember, do not wrong people for no reason, as it is always better to be kind.

Remember, if you do not follow the rules, you will find more opportunities than you initially thought possible.

Live a Meaningful Life; Here is How

I've put together a 42 item guide on how to live a meaningful life by appreciating what we are already doing. Get your copy by entering your email address below.

Robert Carr

Over the years, I've learnt to see things in a different light. This website is my place to share those insights and give my unique perspective on living a meaningful life.

Recent Posts