Friday, 30 August 2013

Which Rules Run Your Life?

I've given up on self-help books a long time ago, because the more I read them, the more I find that authors contradict each other, and that confuses me, that I end up reading more self-help books to deconfuse me. And then the more I read, the more I find out that most authors are advising the same things anyway, the difference is in the wording and semantics. 

The last time I took out a self-help book was because it was illustrated, it was so lighthearted.


Being Happy by Andrew Matthews was such a fun read when I was in my late teens to early 20s. I think everyone at that stage could use some coaching on how to be happy.


 And with captions such as 'Why Do Parents Act So Crazy?', who in his or her teens wouldn't relate to that?

Typical of any travels, I browsed WH Smith's book deals on my way to Sicily a month ago and the title of this book caught me.

The Rules to Break: A Personal Code for Living Your Life Your Way

I'm a stickler for certain rules. That's the Kate Middleton Capricorn in me. But at the same time, when I find that rules are exceptionally stupid (and I'm not even going to look for a more polite word), I tend to break them. That's the Kate Moss Capricorn in me.

I quickly scanned and the first rule to break instantly appealed to me because I have already broken it, or at least the idea of it. I had to treat my curiosity to a new read. 

Richard Templar is the pen name of the author of several other Rules book, which are next in my to-read list. His premise is that our belief system is made up of 'rules' that are ingrained in us through our families or we pick up along the way as we go through life. His challenge is for us to question why we believe what we believe in. He laid down 93 rules in this book, some of which I don't agree with, but most I assent to. These 93, he says, are what he found most common among people from all walks of life. At the end of each rule which he encourages us to break " least some of the time", he gives principles in lieu of what we grew up with, which he hopes would have some relevance in our lives. 

I'd like to share with you my handpicked 10 out of 93. I'll quote the Rules book's stance-disputing insights and add my thoughts on the rules that spoke to me.

The statements with strikethrough are the rules to break. The italicised line is Mr Templar's take on the rule. The third line is my interpretation.

Rule 1. Success is a good job earning lots of money
Success is what you say it is
Success is not one-size-fits-all. Success to someone may be having a big family, or being happy to be child-free, or doing an ordinary job that allows enough time to pursue passions outside work or buy holidays twice a year. It's not about the conventional gauge of achievements such as money and possessions. Another person's idea of success may not match yours. "You, on the other hand, need to think about what it means, or you can't work towards it", says The Rules to Break (TRTB).

Rule 10. Have something to say for yourself
If you find it hard to talk, try listening
As an introvert, small talk to me is a big job. I've learnt to counter this social awkwardness by letting the other person take centre stage. I find that the more I listen, the more interested people become in what I have to say. Either that or they think I'm boring. Fair enough. It's not about me all the time.

Rule 22. Friends are for life
Friends come and go
TRTB talks about Dunbar's Number theorised by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who proposed that humans can only comfortably manage a (big) circle of 150 friends after a study which began with the Christmas-card-sending habit of the English. That's a wedding entourage size that includes family members. The gist is we keep in touch with people who matter to us most. Some friendships naturally bloom (with some effort involved of course) and some just naturally fizzle out despite the efforts.You lose some. You win some. That's life.

Rule 24. Be a friend to everybody
You don't have to like everyone
I never understood the need to justify one's self for not liking someone. Sometimes it's just the way it is. TRTB says you give people your best shot but "...don't feel obliged to like them." Be civil at all times and treat everyone as you would like to be treated, which is a prelude to the next rule.

Rule 31. Respect the elderly
Respect everyone
TRTB is not advocating that we disrespect the older generation. "The fact is that we should respect everyone, unless they give us a reason not to." So whether it's your parents or siblings, children and friends, the waiter and the sales assistant, another person's peace and quiet, or someone's opinion, it's not too much trouble to give due respect. It takes up much more effort to be appallingly rude. And please, tantrums are only reserved for children.

Rule 28. Stay true to your dreams
Priorities change over the years
Growing up and getting older involve a series of shifts.Sometimes things don't go according to plans. As they say, life happens when you're focused on something else. My personal and professional choices and priorities have definitely changed over the years as my circumstances changed, but my ultimate dream has not. It may not happen, but I have not stopped working on it.

Rule 50. You don't need words to show you appreciate someone
Tell people how important they are
Actions speak louder than words. We've all heard of that, and it's true in many ways. But it feels a million dollar to hear or read words of appreciation from someone. TRTB says, "The more specific you are, the more sincere you sound." So the next time you thank someone, don't just thank them. Say why you're thanking them.

Rule 56. Always get off on the right foot from the start
Bide your time to make a good impression
 Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement, once said, "If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk." Lame blabber to show you have opinion about things but don't back them up with facts is ushering yourself into questionable credibility. Timing is very important. Stand at the back and slowly work your way up to the front. The limelight is yours when it's yours.


Rule 68. Give good advice
Don't give advice
No to unsolicited advice. Even solicited ones. The trouble with giving advice as TRTB says, is that "Only they can know what will work, because only they know how they feel." On the other hand, your suggestions and ideas for possible options should help friends or family to see the bigger picture. Ok, you might think that's playing safe, but people must be responsible for the decisions they make, based on their own assessment. Ever wonder why that friend of yours never ever seem to follow the advice you give?

Rule 71. You've a right to be treated fairly
Stop expecting life to be fair
Because it isn't, and no one established that it is in the first place. Consider yourself lucky over someone else who's probably worse off. "So be grateful for everything you have that not everyone else has, and then you may feel you've got a better deal than you realised."

At the end of the introduction, Richard Templar encourages his readers to share what rules they have successfully broken via his Facebook page which you can find here.

After the 93rd rule, I didn't feel that I've been preached to again. It felt more like a refresher course about life's little essentials.


  1. Great stuff. I think it's very sensible to stop expecting life to be fair. It isn't. Bad things happen to good people and it's important to know how to deal with it when it does rather than moaning about your bad deal.

    It's also very true that your priorities and dreams change over the years. When I was little I really, really wanted to be a ballerina. As I got older, I realised that I needed talent for this to happen and no matter how hard I trained, I simply didn't have the talent! Now I just really love going to the ballet.

    1. Thanks BT! That's the very sad part about life being unfair: bad things happening to good people.

      Been thru cycles with my career choices also, but seem to always end up doing on the side what I've always set my heart on :)

      Thanks for your comment! I'll include you in the book raffle.

  2. I love this Ms Madge. I believe in these as well, especially respecting others, and succession is different for us all. Indeed, life is not fair, so we cannot compare ourselves to others nor should we have a sense of entitlement. Life is a luxury and a gift that have been given to us. Happy weekend. xx/Madison

    1. Thanks Madison! Indeed, life is a privilege and we must live our lives to the full! Dropping your name in my raffle box :)
      Have a lovely week! x

  3. I always got detention in school so the word rules scares me a bit! So I am glad the rules were crossed out made me relax a bit. i think each stage of life teaches you a certain lesson. my most recent one was the advice thing. no one listens anyway and yet they just remember you telling them something so everyone loses! I might increase the chances for another lucky reader and see if my local bookstore has this! x

    1. Naomi? Detention? I'd have never guessed that!!

    2. What a naughty girl you were. But you're not alone! My parents have been summoned twice by the nuns in school. One of the rules I broke was having my hair cut really short. That wasn't allowed at all. I agree with the advice. I think giving suggestions is enough.

      Thanks for looking for another book, but don't worry it coz online prices are better, but thank you so much :D xx

    3. Hahaha...Colleen, it was actually fun to be in detention (think Breakfast Club) so I'm sure Naomi had a blast xxx

  4. Its funny because a lot of the rules you mentioned and subsequently crossed out,I have tried to live by, but then when I read the alternative, they do seem more refreshing and typically make more sense. We often put pressure on ourselves to conform to these rules, but at the end of the day, who makes them. They're really aren't any consequences for breaking them, so we just need to chillax.

    Pass that book my way!

    Have a good one babes! Xx

    1. I hate conforming but most of the time it's the thing to do to keep the peace. Aargh. Yes, chillax is the game.

      Yes, you're the biggest contender for the book! Hahaha.

      Have a lovely week xxx

  5. Love this:

    I'm a stickler for certain rules. That's the Kate Middleton Capricorn in me. But at the same time, when I find that rules are exceptionally stupid (and I'm not even going to look for a more polite word), I tend to break them. That's the Kate Moss Capricorn in me.

    Well said and well-done referencing the 2 Kates :) I do agree with a lot of Mr. Templar's reinterpretation of the rules, as well as your own take on them. I do think that we take these rules initially as general guidance on life, but once we've accumulated our own experience, we develop a certain wisdom which allows us to make judgments on what rules work well for ourselves and what don't.

    1. Lovely to have you in this discussion Rhona! Really pleased you visited :D
      Thanks for the compliment. Your point is so spot on about having the wisdom to decide as we go along. Well said also. Experience is indeed the instrument that tweaks how we view things.
      Thanks again and have a lovely day x


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