Rules Are Meant To Be Broken, Or Are They?

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Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you’re familiar with the saying “rules are meant to be broken”. So, are you a rule breaker or a rule follower? I’m somewhere in the middle. I think rules can be beneficial at times, but when there are too many rules it starts to cause problems. So, how do you know if you should follow a rule or break it? Also, do you ask for permission first? Or, do you ask for forgiveness later?

To Break The Rule Or Not?

Let’s start with how do you know whether or not you should break a rule. On one hand, rules provide structure and give guidance. However, adhering too strictly to rules often causes problems. Most of the time, the rules that are the most troublesome are the ones that are outdated. Let’s be honest, most rules were written with a set of circumstances in mind that are no longer relevant. Times are changing quickly. The rules that worked well long ago aren’t usually helpful now. So the first step in deciding whether or not to break a rule is to evaluate its relevance. If it’s no longer relevant, I usually break it.

But, that’s not necessarily the only time you should break a rule. Sometimes, you have to evaluate the risk versus the reward. If you stand more to gain from breaking the rule, and the consequences are negligible than it might be a good rule to break. I’ll give you an example, however since it’s was a real case I won’t disclose the companys’ names. Company A had a contract with company B. There was a noncompete clause in the contract. But, company A decided they should start their own version of company B. So, they took clients away from company B and signed up to Company C.  Company B sued company A. Company B won the case because Company A discussed the plan amongst each other via email. Now, even though company B won the case and received a significant judgment. Company A still made way more than they ever would have if they hadn’t broken the contract. So, in this particular case the risk was definitely worth the reward. I will say this though, whatever you choose to do don’t put in writing. Lawyers love paper trails. Don’t serve it up to them on a silver plater.

Do You Ask For Permission Or Forgiveness?

Once you’ve decided that a rule doesn’t work, then you need to decide whether to ask for permission or ask for forgiveness. If you ask for permission, there’s a chance the answer will be no. If you choose to break the rule anyway, the consequences are usually more severe. However, if you plan to break the rule then ask for forgiveness you stand a better chance at getting the result you want. I’ll use my kids as an example. I don’t want my kids eating sugar all the time. My kids all know this because I’m constantly saying you’ve already had too much sugar today, no. Well, my oldest daughter will grab what she wants irregardless of my desire to limit sugar intake and eat in her bedroom (which is also against the rules). My other daughter will almost always ask first. Most of the time I tell her no. She then throws a tantrum. My son used to ask first, but lately has figured out that he’s more likely to get what he wants if he goes and gets it. So, which child gets the most sugar?

Here’s the thing, I don’t punish them when they do this. I actually like that they go after what they want even though they end up eating more sugar than I would like. You see, each time they do this they’re learning a valuable lesson. They’re learning that if they really want something, it’s usually better to do it first then deal with the consequences later.  If you’re always asking for permission, you’re less likely to get what you want in life. Don’t get me wrong if they use this in a situation that is really bad or dangerous, I’m going to punish them. That’s part of the lesson too. The way I see it, my job is to teach them to evaluate a situation and decide if the risk is worth the reward.


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