Questions to Ask of the People Who Make the Rules
What, exactly, are the rules?
Why do these rules exist?
By whose authority are these rules upheld?
What’s more important—the spirit or letter of these rules?
Has anyone ever found or been granted an exception to these rules?
Could these rules be bent, modified, overlooked, or otherwise changed?
Will someone be penalized for excelling under these rules?
What are the consequences for breaking the rules?
What are the people who made these rules really afraid of?
Who benefits from the enforcement of these rules?
Worked for a guy years ago whose mantra was “The most important thing about rules is knowing WHEN and HOW to beak them.” It was great fun working for him!
Thank you for asking these questions.
(Regarding the last one:
I believe they are afraid of other people taking over their power and authority to make rules.)
I love this. I heard a great quote once (which I’m sure I’m butchering) about how most rules exist to set a lowest common denominator of human decency and behavior. Basically, don’t pee in the pool and wear shoes when you go into McDonalds…
But if you’re able to think critically about why rules exist and what they mean within the context of your own life, you can see where they should be challenged or disregarded altogether. Choosing to follow some rules doesn’t mean following them all if they don’t make sense for you and your life (assuming they don’t disrupt others’ ability to do the same, obviously).
Thanks for sharing!
An extension to number eight “What are the consequences for breaking the rules?”; What are the consequences for following the rules? Because people ask themselves does the consequence for breaking outweigh the consequence for following?
One I’ve always wanted to know – what if my rules are different to yours?
Is following the rules to a T making you miserable?
Something I know all to well from past experiences. Fortunately, I’m not like that anymore.
Simply put. It’s always worth asking these questions.
What if you don’t understand the rule? What if the rule is in another language? What about the “unspoken” rules?
What was the context in which the rules were promulgated, and how does it differ from today’s circumstances?
I read recently that “rule” and “royal” come from the same roots. So it was the royals that made the rules we little people were expected to follow.
Unless you are questioning TSA rule. Then you could miss your flight. And they have the stupidest rules.
Do the people that make the rules actually follow them?
All my achievements in life have come from breaking the rules!
This post’s a great point (hehe… “post”…)- Sometimes rules are just made to be rules because there aren’t any. Do they all really have meaning? Are they all for the greater good? Or do they serve to keep us “safe?”–one of my least favorite words.
Safety and comfort lead to laziness and settling. When we can push past our boundaries and break/bend the rules in our favor, then we can achieve great things!
Thanks for a great, to-the-point post, Chris!
I can’t remember where I got these but I wrote them down and still refer to them. These are the types of “rules” I can get behind:
Avoid having an ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
You can’t make someone else’s choices; you shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
Remain calm. Be kind.
Don’t take counsel of your fears of naysayers.
What if you are being asked by the”authority” to spy on your neighbors and report if you think anything is “suspicious” will you???
( by the way, truckers are being asked to spy on others on the road and report anything “suspicious”…all being brought to you by the lovely people who “guard” the airports).
As more and more of our civil liberties are being squashed by more rules and regulations, these questions become very important.
“No spectators beyond this point!”
Who made the rule?
Probably the insurance company.
Because people can be very stupid, then they get in trouble, then they want to blame someone, then they sue.
(No offence, but a society without rules (legal or societal) could be a very unpleasant place to live)
To take the insurance example further:
No following the insurance’s rules to minimize risk=
because no one in their right mind would put on an event in our litigious society.
Love your writing, Chris, love your ideas, wish you great travels, however IMHO the reason you are able to break rules and carry on the way you do is because most people follow the rules.
That’s fine, but I don’t think I said all rules were bad or that all rules should be broken. The point is that many rules exist for no good reason, and often the reason is to enrich the person or group who made the rules.
Who are you to tell me what the rules are? I make my own rules.
Hah! Love it. All skydiving drop zones have this sign posted in the landing area to keep small children from taking a 200-pound man to the spine at 30 miles an hour. ‘Course, taking a 200-pound man to the spine at 30 miles an hour is a very effective way to learn the importance of situational awareness to the extent that you don’t need to be told. 😉
It seems rules are certainly to benefit the state. Rules certainly are set to deter people from harming each other, but I think most people have no intentions to hurt another just because rules are in place. I believe most people are good, and having rules in place or not wouldn’t curb their natural behavior.
Most Governments have way too many rules.
I have often found myself in awe when embarking into rule dominated territories…. absolute amazement that so many people with intelligent minds can be so ignorant.
Agreements – I love. Rules which are often not based on equality, freedom, consent or even reality are rediculous and potentially abusive.
… have you ever had the feeling that the rest of the universe is laughing at us???
Was the rule made for someone who isn’t around any more?
Sometimes people set up reactionary rules to deal with an individual situation (or an individual who has become a situation). And then the rule remains long after the person it was created around has moved on. Those are infuriating.
I have to agree with James Cornell (above)
I’ve always tried to discover the rules…sometimes they’re unwritten and unspoken, so figuring them out is just trial and error.
So does that mean I follow them. Of course not. At least not if they don’t make sense.
Sometimes rules are there for a reason, so it’s helpful for me to find out
what they are
why they are there
and now I’ll add the rest of your questions to my questioning of the rules
….then I question, is this rule necessary?
Does it keep in place an old idea that I don’t agree with?
Does it conflict with something I know, believe, feel?
Can I do this better?
Do I need a different rule?
The bottom line rule is always the golden rule, as long as breaking the rule doesn’t conflict with that one, or get me in jail, then they’re pretty much optional.
Basically I feel rules give a good guidelines, and once I know them, I can consciously decide to follow them, break them, or make my own.
Thanks Chris, I’m sure you got a lot of people thinking.
break the rules if they hurt your spirit. You are the boss of YOU.
Will someone be penalized for excelling under the rules? – This happens too often. “Someone” is not meant to excel. That someone is meant to feed those on top, in a trickle-up economy.
What are the consequences for breaking the rules? – Some people actually can break the rules without paying the price. Not many, and I can think of someone who has done that. In fact, she is her own worst enemy. Outside of that type of exception, breaking the rules brings negative consequences. It is far better to make one’s own rules.
What are the people who made these rules really afraid of? – They are afraid of losing their money, power, position and illusion of real authority.
I love being challenged to think differently. Thanks Chris!
Some other questions about the rules…..
1) What can be gained by following the rules?
2) How can discipline, personified in the rules, benefit me and those I serve?
3) What is the purpose of these particular rules?
The rules aren’t always in need of being bent or broken.
Though the need can arise to modify them. Aiming to achieve with intent and not to simply change them to meet a need for the lesser version of ourselves can lead to a life uncommon.
Be Great! It is what you were made for!
These people are afraid of losing control, or rather, the assumption that believe they have control over others .
Obviously we have to have some rules. Anyone who’s attended a family reunion at Thanksgivings knows that. However, rules should be applied equally. When someone gets away with operating outside a legitimate rule that is there to protect the whole, whether it’s the 1%, or a common thief, they should be reigned in. If the “authority” who has the responsibility to do the “reigning in” does nothing, then they are now outside the rules too. And they wonder why people are marching in the streets.
Home Owner Associations are the worst! I believe the constant proliferation of rules is due to boredom, paranoia, and a misconception & abuse of “authority”.
You can’t take a walk or drive down the street without being bombarded with rules… They’ve become so prevalent & overwhelming that we’ve become numb & oblivious to them.
I think there should be a RULE that, for every NEW rule, one OLD rule should be removed!!
Who is enforcing the rules?
And can I sprint faster than they do!
JK (but not really)
Rules are the vice in which society imposes on self-reliant people to break… and imposed by the people who lack their own.
Loving @sarah russell’s response – don’t pee in the pool is so perfect.
Rules can also serve as a massive excuse to do or not do.
Went to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland a few years ago – at night. Got thunderstruck by the lack of “rules.” No guardrails. No lifeguard. No warning signs screaming at you. No cordons. No floodlights.
Actual areas of darkness, quiet and discovery were allowed to happen. What didn’t happen: no injuries, no falls, to my knowledge, no lawsuits or peeing in the pool.
There was a collective expectation that people act like civilized, considerate, intelligent humans. And they did. (I vaguely remember this sort of culture from childhood)
That trust meant everyone could have their own experience and some magic could happen.
The more we police, the less we sometimes seem to expect of ourselves and each other.
In Bali, the sidewalks are raised about 2 feet above the street under which water and other slime runs. These are their gutters. But, as it would be in a developing country, there is an occasional hole or panel missing in the sidewalk revealing the drop.
Are there cones or signs telling people to be careful of the holes? No. Your journey down the sidewalk (and your life) is in your own hands, you must have enough sense to step carefully and choose wisely. If you fall in, there is no one to sue, you have no one to blame but yourself.
If this situation were to occur in the States, and someone was to break their ankle from falling into a hole in the sidewalk, the city would for sure be getting sued. Insurance premiums would be going up. That person would likely blame some external thing – the lack of excessive signage, the lack of city planning – for their error, when really it is their fault that they were not paying attention.
Are rules that are common sense needed? Perhaps it would be better to empower everyone to take full responsibility for their actions instead of take away peoples’ ability to make the smart choice.
Rules come and go, depending on who is in power and what their agenda is. In the end, we will have to answer for breaking a rule that is in place for a good reason. Conversely, we will also have to answer for obeying rules that we know are wrong (Nazi Germany comes to mind as the obvious example there.) You have to have the courage to follow your heart, do the right thing, and if a rule gets broken in the process, then so be it.
Wait, are we talking about rules set by the employer/guild/union/boss for the qualifications to continue working, rules set by owners of public/private property, rules from social and cultural norms, or laws from city/state/federal (non-US people adapt your classifications accordingly) authorities/governments? Each of these have different ratios of “break/bend/follow”.
Years ago I decided to observe all rules . . . to observe them . . . and then to decide whether to abide by them or not.
For example I still go through many red lights selectively.
Traffic signals are there to control traffic. When there is no traffic a red light has no validity. I ignore it.
Great questions! They provoke consideration & elicit responses, many which seem to raise the bar.
Three “areas” come to my mind:
1) Where do “rules” live? They live in language & in the invisible waters, if you will, of our relationships and in our agreement making, whether global & external or local & inner. What would happen if more & more people became more & more conscious & intentional about & for how we live together on this one planet? If enough of us woke up to create new ways of relating to one another, of cooperating with each other & collaborating together to re-generate our fragmented & largely self-destructive global civilization… What new rules would we agree upon? What’s possible? Other than Collapse?
2) Soon there will be 7 Billion human beings on Earth. Where do “rules” fit in here? What’s necessary for our species to wisely steward our planet? More rules? Or different ways of thinking?
3) For me it’s more about Ethics than rules. I remember a course once where we were challenged to consider “rules are all fear-based and require force to enforce.” Ethics, however, were individual & arose from one’s heart. Ethics provided guidance. What do y’all think?
Why do people feel they have to defend the rules to the death even when they agree they don’t make sense?
Rules exist because humans are such a variable sort of species. Some need rules to keep themselves safe, some need rules so they know not to hurt others, and others need rules just to give them direction in their lives.
In my opinion this is why religion exists as well. How do we know we should be nice to each other? Not because it makes sense. But because our gods tell us to. It makes a better argument because it can’t be argued.
We really should just take responsibility for our own actions, much like Alyssa said above.
I like the last one. I think a lot of educational rules and regulations are created out of fear.
What are these rules in service to?
What and Who are these rules intended to protect?
Are there rules still relevant…?
And finally, – never mind all the understanding I’d get from asking – who what where when why – ultimately I want to know:
“How do I get around these rules?”
Are they rules or merely guidelines?
If rules are meant to be broken, are the rules in fact little more than suggestions on how not to behave?
What are the rule’s loop holes?
Rules are just someone’s idea of managing other people for the benefit of the rulemaker. Better to ask forgiveness than permisssion.
If it’s a rule…why does it keep changing?
But the overall question is why? Then you have to ask is it because a need of control or balance? Do we have the rules so to coordinate order? Or without rules would there really just be chaos? And in that case you have to ask do people actually have the control necessary to not become the evil that the rules try to supress?
I agree with James above that “most Governments have way too many rules”. For example, in some local government areas in Australia it is unlawful to sleep overnight on a vacant block of land that you own, yet lawful to sleep in a state forest. And it goes on and on, all under the constitutional banner of “good government” (of the 99%). I’m fed up with unnecessary over-government, where there is a rule for every pernickety thing you can think of.
He who has the gold makes the rules, and the rules are designed to keep the gold intact.
“Hey, if you tell me what that rule really means, I’ll tell you if I’ll obey it.”
“If I obey that rule literally and from the heart, what will it get me?”
“Rules are for the cravenly fearful.”
Interesting post. For me two things come to mind:
1)What will happen if/when I break this rule?
2) Rules work because most people are too lazy/scared to question what they’re told. I’m sure we’ve all been through customer service hell with an employee who can do nothing but tell you “that’s our policy”. It’s much easier to blame the rule than come up with a creative way to bend the rules. Same for just about any situation where some guts, work, and creativity would be required. “I’m not allowed to…” can be an easy way to let yourself off the hook.
Some rules are needed because common sense is not too common. Yes, question any that don’t make sense to you.
I think one should understand the difference between a “law” and a law or rule. A law is created by a man or men to govern others to their way of thinking. A “law” (scientific) is not created by man and governs everything. This is why I am a non-conformist because I value logic and objective thinking (thank you Aspergers), not some subjective man made device. Here is my life motto:
“When you push yourself to the limits, is it the laws of nature or the pain forcing you to give in to them that makes you stop?”
Just today I had a great exerience living with in the rules. At my job I am in training. I decided early on to ignore the rules and blaze my on trail. For my first progress check I did excellent and better than my peers, must to dislike my trainer who made the rules. Today, I had my second progress check and I failed. However, at the end of the day I still came out ahead because my path is showing my boss that I have initiative like he has never seen before. Talking with him, he recognizes I will trip and stumble along my path, but he realizes the rules are only going to hold me back. That’s why he has my back and lets me ignore the rules.
@Julie Kucinski – Lack of ‘rules’ in Iceland leaves spaces where the magic can happen. That’s lovely. We need more of this.
In Dakar, Senegal there are now NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS whatsoever, the remaining sentinels in the city centre having died between my last two visits and yet somehow everybody manoeuvres their way through. I’m told there are accidents but in two months I didn’t see one and I loved not having to stop constantly for the lights; it makes for a nice smooth ride which helps you to arrive at your destination feeling calm.
Studies have been done, in Sweden I believe, on the effects of no lights and it turns out people are much more considerate of other drivers and pedestrians when they have to make up their own minds.
Rules encourage herd mentality and with it very often an abdication of personal responsibility.
Rules are there to control people because they make the rulers feel safer about what the general population is up to.
After all, if everybody did their own thing we’d have anarchy wouldn’t we¿
The point is to not generalize. You have to think for yourself. Don’t blindly follow the rules, consider both sides of compliance and noncompliance with the rule, and move forward bravely if the later is possible and works better for you.
3 additional questions:
1. Is it possible to break the rule? (see below)
2. Is this really a rule?
3. Am I just conforming to some sort of norm?
You may just discover how to do something differently. 🙂
Hmm, I see 2 rules right in front of me, check the bottom of the page: A name and email are required in order to post a comment (2 rules) not really much choice if I want to post this comment.
Wonder who has broken rules in a village and has the whole population sneering at them for the rest of his life. Great if you can go somewhere to escape it all, not, if you are tied at your limbs and have nowhere to go.
Oh this is a good one and I love the comments.
I’d add “By what process can the rules be changed? Is negotiation possible or are these rules set in stone by you for all time?”
If the answer to the first question is “No, they can’t be changed!” and 2. “No negotiation is possible!” then, hey, I’d say you’re living in a dictatorship and revolution is the only answer 🙂
A good friend of mine has a great saying,
“Rules are guidelines for the wise and gospel for fools”
I have found again and again in life that the gatekeepers of the rules often have no idea why the rules are there. The other thing that happens a lot with rules is that the reason for the rule falls away but the rule remains without anyone realising its no longer needed.
So always question the rules. They may be unnecessary, invalid, or downright dumb. Then again, they may be there for a reason, and some are 😉
What are the rules?
This is a great thought-starter…more food for thought: A government’s only real power is its power to control its citizens. This tends to play out over time as a polarizing of society into controllers and the controlled…and those who won’t be. I’m glad there are still some free thinkers around 🙂
Whether we’re discussing rules or law, an essential question is whether people serve the law or whether the law serves people. As rules become outdated or irrelevant and/or serve only the few … we are the ones charged with instituting change.
I love this topic and could go on for hours…. I was raised with more rules than most and my life was so boring and stress filled. As I have gotten older I have found that I follow social and posted rules based on interpretation and how serious the consequences if broken, like will I fall off a cliff if I step past the rope….. I find everyone has their own set of rules, outside of the norm, usually based on up bringing and these rules to me are the hardest to work around, it seems that these rules are the ones that are steadfast and can really create alot of friction. And, as stated in previous posts, most people don’t even know why the rule exists in the first place.
Rules provide structure. It’s usually good to start with rules.
Once you learn to play the game according to the rules, you can test whether you need to revise them, or not.
The rules in our minds are like psychological electric fences that prevent us from living the life of our dreams. These rules are made by social conditioning, religion, parents, culture and so on.
I like the mantra: Screw the rules. This doesn’t mean that I do wild and dangerous things, it just means that I question rules in my mind.
Inquiry is my light saber – my industrial power tool.
Martha Beck wrote these Qs, which I love to use with clients:
– If I didn’t care what people thought, I would _____.
– If I were sure I’d succeed, I would ___________.
– If I had the nerve, I would ____________.
– If I could be certain it was the right choice, I would )________.
– If I weren’t worried about the future, I would ________.
– If I had the freedom, I would ___________.
Now pick one and do it!
What if the rules changed and nobody knew?
How can you change your own rules when you outgrow them?
What rules your choices and behaviors?
What choices do you have in a world of rules?
Whenever I visit America I am always struck by a) how many rules there are and b) how in fear people are of breaking those rules. There is an absolute blind devotion to these edicts from above.
I don’t see that anywhere outside of north america, with the exception perhaps of Japan. But in Japan there I have yet to see a ‘rule’ or signpost that was not in the true interest of the greater good.
In America it seems that rules are in place to give petty minded people a crutch to beat you with.
While in LAX a couple of weeks ago I had to take a piece of luggage over to the TSA area myself (it was a fragile musical instrument I needed ‘checked’). I walked into the little room and handed it over. One guy started freaking out. ‘You want to go to jail?’ he asked over and over. I was like ‘what are you talking about’? He was going on about the sign that said no one was allowed in this area.
That must be a nice idea for him because it meant no one could come in and make them do their job, but, it turns out that the sign was actually facing the wrong way. The ‘no admittance’ part was on his side and on the public side was a list of what you could have in your bag! I pointed this out. He was not receptive.
I remember to have missed such a rule, somewhere it was mentioned not to climb the mountain-like structure, kind of an old temple, can’t remember exactly where. Since, i missed it, i started to climb the stairs and sort of reached halfway when people at the foot of the stairs started to shout that it is mentioned somewhere in the corner, in a message board that the stairs are unsafe and can collapse… so i could had fallen down.
They started to shout so much that i had to rush down, which almost resulted in my fall. I so nearly regained my balance and slowed down while coming down…
The rules can be a reason for the cause of the problem itself, after all, that rule was made for the safety so that the travelers do not fall down, which almost made me fall…
My suggestion is that the rules had to be made by more sensible people, the maker of the rules and those that are the enforcing it, has to be criminally charged for their actions… only then the stupidity and the carelessness of such rule makers can be avoided.
My Dad used to say to me, in order to have freedom you need to have laws (rules). They provide a frame to live within.
That made a lot of sense to me, especially when I pictured a society without rules (laws), where anyone could do what they wanted at will. Since not everyone is peace-minded I decided that living within a constitution and laws that protect Human Rights is definitely worthwhile.
For the most part in life I’ve found that I can only control how I respond to the things life throws at me, I can’t control they way people conduct themselves, but I can make my own personal ethical and moral policy that will me keep me safe.
Example… If someone wants to burn up the road and needs to get ahead of me in traffic, by all means I can spare a few seconds which allows that individual his right to the road and thereby put that person in front of me. At least that way if that individual speeds and drives crazy the he or she will be in front of me not behind me, and I can now see that person; this gives me a measure of distance and some control over the situation. So by allowing that person to be as dangerous they want (unless an police or some other authority finds him); I have control over that situation.
It appears to me that we are rumitating over the basic topics of FREEDOM and PRIVACY…and how much that do we/I actually have? Do you know? Do you have some backroom knowledge?
Don’t pay for or allow injustice to take place or continue if you have knowledge (if YOU CAN SEE down the road better than I), stand up and make your voice heard. Report it.
What should they protect us from?
Who benefits from the rules?
Who would be harmed if you don’t follow the rules?
Who would be harmed if you follow the rules?
I follow rules that help me and my loved ones perform physically, emotionally, and spiritually well, live peacefully with others, and avoid negatively impacting world around us. If a rule meets that criteria, it’s a keeper!
You know, I’ve forgotten most of what I read in AoNC but the one thing I remember vividly is the fact that gatekeepers are the ones who tell you your options are A and B while neglecting to mention C and D. I can honestly say… that idea itself opened my eyes. It’s a beneficial questioning of authority and while I don’t always get my way when I do it, I do get something a lot closer to what I want than the initial options presented.
I´m 21 and I have been asking my self these kind of questions for a long time….. why can these people make the rules and expect everyone to follow them without problem?
I’m 38, and my first question is still, “Says who?”
Who makes these rules and why do you believe them? I say this all the time.
What is the source of a rule. Do I or should I trust the source. A good rule
is one where I do not need to relearn the mistakes of others.
Rules are meant to be broken (think creative destruction).
Even those who made the rules, often do not believe them or live by them, so why should we?
If rules are to be used as guidelines, then look to nature instead and learn to be wise first.
All rules have consequences attached to them when broken, whether the rules make sense is not the point. So therefore you risk punishment and whether or not you knew the rules existed will not be a defense. Welcome to reality. It may be a good idea to work on rules that you think unfair to have them repealed..good luck on that, too. Another touch of reality in this world of “freedom”.
I think the question of the role of rules in our lives is especially interesting in the world of art. I once talked with a fine art photographer who explained something I also learned in an art history class I took (practically a decade ago now…). Anyway, in the art world, it seems that rules exist to establish a status quo for a while. And also, it establishes your place in the art community. However, all rules are made to be broken, and in order to break the rules the best you have to know them really well.
You must have noticed – The people who lay down the rules have PREMISES. Mother at home. Boss in the office. Shopkeeper in his shop. Manager in the restaurant. etc. Step over the thresh hold and THEY lay down the rules. AND they are covered by the LAW! Many instances. 1) Girl friends want me to live in HER place. They can kick ME out, rather than suffer the humiliation of me kicking HER out. (If it came to that. But the threat is always there.). 2) Restaurant manager always expected a YES answer, because I ate free every night. I went along because I wanted to do these jobs anyway, for ME! One night I flippantly refused an idea of his because I did not want to do it. OH the FUSS! Moved my table three times. And the threatening body language! There is a subliminal message. Obey or I kick you OUT!
Ones own premises gives you a degree of “Authority” Power to kick the dis- agreeable person out. The final check mate. I win.
The subtle put downs. Someones house. You go in and sit down. “Oh not there!” and they move you. or the boss leaves you standing. No chair.
You are on their game board.
The spirit of the rules certainly are my perference. Especially when it seems everyone is trying to play by them and they all are getting no further than the next person. Thanks for sharing Chris!
Such intense debate and discussion over such a simple issue: the golden rule. It started it all, and is the most important concept and the basis for morals, ethics, and law enforcement. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” End of story, good night.
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