Photo by wang shuhong on Unsplash
Maybe you were raised to be a “good girl.” Or maybe you just aren’t the type of person who likes to create waves. Being a rule-follower can serve you well in many ways. But there are times when breaking the rules might be the key to living a better life.
Bending—or breaking—a few rules might actually be good for your career. Take Lori Greiner, for example. Not only is she one of the cast members on Shark Tank, but she’s also known as “the Queen of QVC.” She’s an inventor and entrepreneur with an estimated net worth of $50 million.
But she certainly doesn’t follow all the rules. Take sleep, for example. You don’t have to look very hard to find books or articles that will tell you the secret to success is waking up early and getting a head start on the day. And you’ll likely hear Tim Cook wakes up at 3:45 a.m. and Richard Branson gets up at 5:00 a.m. because they both want to start the day before sunrise.
Not Lori, however. She told Parade magazine she usually goes to sleep at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. And what does she do right before she goes to bed? She exercises. I doubt you’ll find too many health gurus or productivity specialists who will recommend a robust workout right before you hit the hay. But Lori says she’s a night owl and that schedule works for her.
There’s evidence that says breaking the rules can contribute to success—especially when those rule violations date back to childhood. A 40-year study published in Developmental Psychology found that kids who broke the rules were most likely to earn more money as adults. The study began examining 12-year-olds in 1968.
Researchers noted their characteristics, behavior, and intelligence, and their parents’ socioeconomic status. Then they followed them through adulthood. To their surprise, the “naughty kids” were the highest income earners. While they didn’t necessarily have the most prestigious job titles, they were making more money than the kids who had been labeled “studious.”
The authors of the study offered several possible reasons for this outcome. Perhaps the kids who broke the rules weren’t afraid to ask for raises more often. Or maybe they were more likely to become entrepreneurs and innovators who blazed their own trails.
So, despite the articles that will tell you what you should do to be most productive or successful, keep in mind that you need to do what works best for you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn about people who are doing great things, but you don’t have to copy them. You might find breaking a few rules helps you create your own path to success.
Troubleshooting and Common Traps
There’s a difference between breaking the rules because you’re taking a stand and simply being disrespectful. I hear a lot of people say things like “Well, they’re just going to have to deal with it” when they’re violating policies because they’re lazy or disinterested, not because they’re actually taking a stand. So before you declare yourself a rebel, take a minute to think about your purpose.
When it comes to breaking the rules, it can be tempting to wait for other people to go first. It’s much easier to join a movement that someone else already started than to be the first person to step forward. If you’re thinking about doing something different, there’s a good chance other people are thinking about it too. You just might need to be the one to take the first step.
It’s easy to overlook the “rules” because we get used to them. Take time to consider the rules and procedures that you follow. Just because you’ve been doing something for a long time doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Finally, you might be tempted to think past generations were too tolerant or that they should have created change. After all, it was only a few short decades ago that we thought women were too fragile to run marathons. But there’s a good chance future generations will raise an eyebrow about some of the things we do too. It seems logical now to divide sports teams up by sex, but is it really? Might kids a few generations from now ask, “What on earth made that OK?” At this point, it seems like that makes things fair, but perhaps we’ll think differently about things like that down the road.
From the book 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joy by Amy Morin. Copyright © 2019 by Amy Morin. On sale December 31 from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.