Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Introduction and Rule #9

I didn’t design the total of this post to make the reader feel as if they have missed something, but I admit Rule #9 indicates that you may have missed a post or eight. Don’t worry. You haven’t. This will begin to make more sense in the next few paragraphs.
I love strategy and philosophy. I have probably repeated that sentence in 20 blog posts over the years. It will undoubtedly be repeated here several more times. When I read non-fiction I am often working my way through a work like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of PowerThe Art of War, Hagakure, or The Bible. That last one may raise a few eyebrows, but I maintain that it may be the finest collections of work on philosophy and strategy ever written even without the creationist overtones.
These types of books make me think. They make me examine the way I approach life and relationships. In a way, everyone is a philosopher and strategist. Having a bad philosophy or strategy doesn’t mean that you don’t have one. Even not having taken the time to codify and internalize your philosophy and strategy doesn’t disqualify one from being subject to having these principals that guide and structure your life.
I have put a LOT of thought into the rules that matter to me. These rules aren’t the same as household rules like,” No cursing” or “Don’t throw things in the house.” These are meant to be life guiding rules that allow you to be prepared to meet the situations life throws at you without hesitation or thought. Being prepared is important to me. It is a rule in and of itself, but it isn’t the one I want to talk about today.
I started keeping a list of rules a few years ago. I half-heartedly considered forming them into a book on life and philosophy, and then I realized I was in no position to recommend anyone else live the way I do. My goal for these rules became passing a better life on to my kids. My girls deserve a better life than the one I have carved for myself thus far.
I don’t preach these rules at them. I apply them daily and hope that they extrapolate them from context. The List is constantly being edited and updated. Rule #9 is a prime example of this. Before I get to the rule (I know you, dear reader, are ready to get to the meat of this. I apologize for my preamble.), it is worth discussing two quick things.
The rules are not ordered by any form of importance except for Rule #1. I haven’t found a rule that trumps it yet. By that reasoning, I can present the Rules here in any order without the need for one to build on another. Each Rule stands independently on its own merits.
I am starting with Rule #9 because it is the rule that is on my mind. The reason for this (without divulging the rule) is that I had discarded the rule as impractical. It stayed on my list with a single strikethrough line. Yesterday, while chewing on a problem, I altered Rule #9 to a place that it makes sense.
The original Rule # 9 reads :
Don’t take Shit off of anyone.
That rule doesn’t work. Few people in their world (in all reality probably none) are completely free of “taking shit”. My Mom taught me this rule. She really pushed to live it. I envied her that attitude. I don’t know that I have ever been able to match it. People seem to give me shit all the time. All too often I accept it and don’t want to.
I think that the idea of “Don’t take no shit off of nobody”, as my Mom put it, has a lot of merits. How much less stressful would life be if we all had the balls to stand up anyone who pushed us around unfairly? How righteous a life could I lead if I was this forward, outspoken, and strong man?
Wait, I like to think that I do live exactly that way. When someone pisses me off, I confront them. I speak my mind. I stand up for what I believe in. I also know that discretion is the better part of valor and that there are times that I have to keep my mouth shut and take some shit.
How about at work? Some part of my job is taking shit from customers. I think any job that has customers now believes in the sanctity of customer service. These companies often make taking shit from customers policy. If I followed Rule #9 as originally written at work I would be fired in a day. My first meeting with a manager would pretty much be my last. Taking shit (my grammar app really wants me to change this to taking a shit!), politically speaking, is part of the job.
In life, we stumble into positions where taking shit off of people is a necessity. Try taking an “I don’t take shit from nobody,” attitude the next time you get pulled over for doing 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. You will be in handcuffs faster than you can say,” Prison bitch.”
For me, the original idea of Rule #9 died with my Mom (boy I talk about THAT often). I envy the rather practical way that she lived the rule. I also believe that she didn’t mean it quite so literally.
The new Rule #9 reads:
Don’t take any shit that you don’t have to tolerate.
When you have legal troubles you learn to take shit with a smile. I can be in a (metaphorical) homicidal rage and still keep a smile on my face and be compliant. I am not being fake when I do this. I am exercising the spirit of Rule #9 which is,” Choose your battles wisely.”
Now I could change the entire Rule to just choose your battles wisely. Somehow it isn’t as complete a sentiment. It doesn’t tell you that sometimes living to fight another day is the only way to win. It leaves out important implications. Good Rules simply have to be fully formed and complete ideas unto themselves.
I think it relates well to the serenity prayer. In case you don’t aren’t familiar I will post it here. I say it often enough.
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Contrary to popular belief this is not a Biblical quote. The Serenity Prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s. Still, it is quite profound and gives a fair amount to think about.
Let’s break it down in how it applies to my (much more profane) Rule #9.
“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change”- This means that there are going to be people in positions of power over you and situations throughout your life in which you are going to be given shit that you cannot fight. Well, that part isn’t true. You can ALWAYS fight, but there are times that fighting is damaging and self-destructive. Taking shit isn’t pleasant (unlike taking a shit), but if you can mentally come to peace with the necessity of it and not fight it will pass more quickly and with less pain.
“Courage to change the things I can”- This to me is the heart of the matter. When you have come to realize that you don’t have to take shit off of someone, make a stand. Put an end to that nonsense before it gets bigger. It takes courage and strength to refuse to take shit, but the more you stand against it the easier this becomes. The less shit in your life, the happier you will be.
“and the Wisdom to know the difference”- This part is tough. Wisdom is generally obtained through experience. There is a big difference in not taking shit and becoming a bully. Becoming an overbearing tyrant is all too easy. All strength should be tempered with wisdom.
Sadly, I feel I often have an abundance of strength and a shortage of Wisdom. I make moves slowly because of this. Sometimes, I take more shit than I should while deliberating. I think exercising Rule #9 has cost me a friend recently when it wasn’t applied properly.
Still, at the end of the day, no one should have to take unnecessary shit off of anyone else. Rule #9 has a flipside:
It is your responsibility to not give anyone else unnecessary shit.
This part is even more profound. From the view of Karma, we receive the amount of shit we deserve from the shit we give. The Golden rule states,” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” There are a million ways to boil this part down, but basically, you need to be good to everyone.

When you are in a position of power over someone, treat them fairly and as an equal. When you see that you have wronged someone, make it right. Do your best not to wrong anyone. That is the real beauty of Rule #9. It works both ways. Most of the Rules do. I really look forward to sharing more of them.

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