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Good Rules

I swear I’d never thought I’d put those two words (Good and Rules) together, let alone write them. Together they create a bit of an oxymoron. For anyone who knows me, rules are not something I put a lot of stock in. To me, they are meant to be questioned, poked at, and certainly tested. Perhaps it’s my New Jersey roots acting up again or perhaps it’s just the pot-stirrer in me having fun. But my friend Jessica Esch changed all that one day and now I’m a believer.

Instead of creating new year’s resolutions every January, Jess writes new rules for herself. These serve as her guidelines to which she promises to uphold and obey during the coming year. They inform her decisions, help her select perspectives that serve her intentions and give her permission.

Like I said, I’m a believer.

The magic in these rules is that they have been hand crafted and selected just with Jess in mind. She chose them. She wrote them down and agreed to their terms and conditions (but please note the clause at the bottom of her rules, lest you are concerned about locked in)

Being a witness to Jess and her rules has totally reframed my previous notions of them. If asked what the key has been to growing my own successful business has been, my number one response would have been, “I gave myself permission to break the rules.”

And it’s true, I didn’t do market research when creating any of my offerings like Homecoming, my women’s circles or Tribal Gatherings. I joked about having a “focus group of one” and constantly asked myself the question, “Well, what would I want?” and then designed accordingly. I didn’t do benchmarking or extensive research on my “competitors” to see what was already out there. In fact, I adamantly refused to see them as competitors (much to the chagrin of many), and chose to enlist them as allies, as sister organizations on a similar mission. This paradigm shift is often referred to a “Blue Ocean” approach to strategy and assumes abundance versus lack – far from the shark infested and bloody waters of the “Red Oceans”, which insist we go toe-to-toe and grab market share from our would be competitors. But why we insist on doing that is another post altogether…

The rules I’d advocating in this case represent more than just permission, though. They honor our need to be in control of our destiny. Yes, I said control. There, it’s out of the bag.

Control gets a bad rap these days because it suggests it precludes working in isolation of faith, serendipity and openness. But that’s just not the case. Control, as I see it is more of a manifestation tool. It is not the end, it is part of the means to the end. It’s like the infamous story of the man begging at the feet of the statue of a saint to win a lottery ticket. Every day he’d say the same thing, “please, please let me win”. One day the statue came to life and said, “my son, please, please buy a lottery ticket.” Exercising a degree of control and honoring that urge is buying your lottery ticket. In working with my coaching clients, I often refer to it as a “woubbie”, something that feels good, smells good and is comforting to hold. Like a soft and well-loved blankie of a toddler.

These “good” rules – or your version of them – can be a great woubbie to get you through the dark nights and lonely days on the transition road. They can be the anchors and bell buoys in your harbor. And as long as you hold fast to your belief that there are a lot of other variables at play – the direction of the wind, the turn of the tide, the harbor master’s whim and the other boat traffic, they’ll serve you well.

Want some inspiration? In addition to Jess’s rules above, here are a few more from some women I admire:

  • Start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results (Elizabeth Gilbert)
  • Cast out your will and then cut the line (Elizabeth Gilbert)
  • Trust the spark. When you find your natural exuberance, you will find security (Tama Kieves)
  • Let life get wind of you. Catch on fire and the world will catch onto you (Tama Kieves)
  • Obey your instincts (Martha Beck)
  • Open your eyes, follow your heart, and trust that life is unfolding (me)
  • Create your own music and join in the dance, for in it lies the magic of life (me)

So pull out a pen and get yourself a clean piece of poster board. Give yourself the permission that no one else can give you. Write the rules that you want to obey. And then hold them lightly and watch what happens. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing. As are you.