We are surrounded by rules:
Don’t question authority.
Follow the leader.
Stay on the trail.
Don’t butt in.
Stay in line. (Don’t get out-of-line)
Don’t rock the boat.
Don’t use after best-before-date.
Don’t question science, (or scientific studies or the authority of a scientist.)
Don’t question government (or a governent agent or a the authority of a government representative)
Don’t eat saturated fat.
Don’t drink raw milk.
Don’t wash wool in hot water.
Don’t boil the woad vat.
Send your toddler to preschool.
Children need friends their own age.
Take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.
Obey doctor’s orders.
Fill the prescription.
Colour within the lines.
Statistics are truth, don’t question their validity. or the corollary, “The numbers don’t lie.”
Take your vitamins.
Eat your vegetables.
Eat everything on your plate.
Don’t question (criticize) the status quo.
Don’t be a smarty pants.
What goes on in this house, stays in this house.
If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Don’t talk back.
Don’t wear white shoes in a month that has an “r”.
When students graduate they have to leave the community to go to college.
Get a (real) job.
You can’t make a living with ART (or music, or writing).
You can’t expect people to pay you a living wage for your ART.
You can’t make a living doing what you love.
Don’t tell people how you really feel.
Conversation must be superficial.
Rules of childhood
The list is endless. Most of these rules we learned in childhood. They were there to help us navigate the difficult road of society’s expectations. They helped us get along with adults and with our peers. They helped us fit in with our religious culture (atheists have a religious culture, too). But their role, as a guardian of the childhood years, is over.
If you keep following the rules of childhood, you will never attain the full stature of maturity and giftedness that you were created for. You need to embrace your own nonconformity if you are to reach your goals, become the person you were created to be and fulfill your unique contribution to the world.
Chose your battle ground.
The key to getting your voice heard is not to break the rules indiscriminately — don’t be a rebel — but to chose your battle ground. Pick the thing that’s most important to you, where you will have the greatest impact for good. Is your ability to do the right thing, inhibited by a rule? That’s the rule you need to break.
There are consequences to breaking rules — especially the unspoken rules that control the institutions that we get our value from.
You might not be liked.
People might reject you.
You might be labelled unfairly, a rebel and a trouble maker.
You might be kicked out of the group.
You might find out that there are kindred spirits, that support you in your quest to find a more fulfilling and richer life.
You might find a collaborative partner that wants to help you in your quest.
You might be the impetus to create change in your community, for the better.
It takes a strong person to purposefully break the rule, knowing the consequences, because there is a greater purpose that will come from it. If you are a Purple Sheep, then I know you have the inner strength to go against the flow, to break a certain rule because that rule is inhibiting you from contributing in a greater way in your family, your culture, or your community.
A sign that you are taking the right road
A sure sign that your rule breaking is the right thing to do, is when you bring a problem to an authority figure and suddenly YOU become the problem. Has that ever happened to you? That’s when you know that you are on the right track. The road is about to get rougher, but its ok to take a turn and try a different road.
A personal example
Robin and I have been in this place on the road. It felt uncomfortable at the time. We wondered if we were “crazy”. Then we realized it was the institution that was “crazy”. We got off the road and took a side trail and found Joybilee Farm.
In our situation, Robin was teaching Business, Accounting and Information Systems, full time at a Christian University. He had tenure. He had 4 upper level courses to teach every semester. He also had a part time course because we couldn’t feed our family on the income from his full time assistant professorship. (We lived very frugally and didn’t have a mortgage). It was a crazy schedule and he often worked 60 hour weeks, with no extra compensation, to fulfill his role. So he studied hard and upgraded his credentials and added a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) to his list of professional and educational degrees and designations. Then he asked for a raise to compensate him for the added value that he was bringing to the university. His request was denied. He resigned.
Within 2 months he was offered a position at another university, teaching one course, full time. It was half the work load and double the income. He accepted the position and we squirrelled away our assets to make the break.
That institution was funded according to flow through, not enrollment. The government funded them according to the number of graduates from each program. That job required Robin to pass students that he knew had not mastered the materials and would be a burden to their future employers — because no student was allowed to fail. On that trail, he realized that he could no longer support the institution. It violated his ethics — forcing him, everyday to compromise his inner values in order to keep the rule. He resigned after 5 years and created Joybilee Farm.
He was told that he was “crazy”. And he was admired for making the break. And we found out you can make a living doing what you love, where you want to live. And you can make a living from your art.
What rules are holding you back from fulfilling your dreams? Are there rules that you are keeping, that by breaking them you would be able to make a stronger contribution to your community, or society or your own family? What are they? How can I help? Leave a comment.