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5 Rules to Break For A Successful Life

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(c) Meeno

Think the secret to being successful is working like a dog all your life?

If you want to live life on your own terms, breaking the rules can take you a lot further.

We give you the lowdown…


When we work in an organised structure it can feel comfortable and safe because that’s how society says we should do it. It means the boss has the Aeron reclining chair with a private office, while everyone else struggles to work in an open plan distraction zone - on your right, Kevin is always sneezing and Sarah opposite keeps offering biscuits.

It might sound unlikely but pirates had a much better way of doing things and as a result were highly successful.

blackbeard ian mcshane pirates of the caribbean
(c) Peter Mountain / Walt Disney Pictures

Blackbeard made sure his crew were involved in the management of the ship. In fact, pirate ships were so democratic that crew members had a say in where they should sail, who to rob and were able to elect their own captain.

Even more amazing is that after raiding a ship, Blackbeard would free the slaves and offer any prisoners the chance to work with him. Freeing slaves, a man well ahead of his time.

KEY TAKEAWAY - Consider the views of everyone including those in lower ranking positions to keep productive.


You worked hard in school and spent years building a career. You’ve put in your 10,000 hours, which means you’re an expert according to Malcolm Gladwell. However, the truth is believing you’re an expert works against you.

sheryl sandberg

Feeling like an expert gives you a closed-minded outlook and ultimately holds us back. Think about learning the Japanese word for apple. First, you have to think of the word in English and then convert it to Japanese. If you clear your mind first you only need to learn it in Japanese, which halves the workload.

Unfortunately, power only makes things worse. The more confident you feel, the greater the ego, which also holds us back. In fact when someone powerful believes their authority is being questioned they feel they’re being threatened so they exclude the opinions of others...or shout them down. That leads to a narrow perspective and issues down the line.

KEY TAKEAWAY - Even if you think you know something, keep an open mind as it'll help you learn.


Babies. They take one look at a phone and suddenly they’re swiping and trying to make calls...something that took you a whole lot longer to figure out. Why can’t we learn that fast? Well, the first rule of learning quicker is to work on your baby brain.

baby using mobile phone

The first thing about a baby is they approach things with a blank canvas and a completely open mind. When we ask ourselves “What could I do?” instead of “What should I do?” that helps to keep our mind open so we consider fresh ways of looking at a problem. At which point we’re free to come up with a creative solution.

It can be great learning by watching YouTube, listening to a podcast or reading but those are passive activities. You learn most effectively by being involved, so take notes and ask yourself questions to really lock knowledge in. Babies find learning fun, so it’s something they want to participate in.

KEY TAKEAWAY - Learning’s easier when you make it fun, stay curious and get involved.


Everyone loves a stereotype. Not only is it how our minds work but it’s also a lot of fun. Is it true that all French people cycle around wearing a stripy top with onions around their necks? Well, probably not all of them. Strangely some big learnings about stereotypes have come out of wartime.

woman working in wartime

During World Wars I & II men were sent to fight for their countries. Women filled the job void. Research has shown that businesses with the most diverse staff outperform their competitors and ones with women leaders do even better. When the wars ended men returned to reclaim their roles. But why?

Women are considered to be homemakers, sensitive and gentle, whereas men are considered strong, competitive and independent. But these are stereotypes. Clearly business and society thrives when we increase diversity.

These rules of diversity apply to any category. When countries open up their borders to travel and immigration they find their society and business thrives. Diversity leads to better outcomes.

KEY TAKEAWAY - Stereotypes are fun and easy to remember but can hold us back from a better life.


When we’re dressed up heading to an important meeting we want to project the best version of ourselves. We try to appear polished, strong and confident, so definitely no clothing labels poking out or spinach in the teeth. However, creating a polished exterior like that ends up alienating people.

Jennifer Lawrence tripped in the 2013 Oscars while walking up to receive her award for best actress and received a standing ovation. And she hadn’t even given her acceptance speech.

jennifer lawrence oscar fall
(c) Chris Pizzello

Showing our emotions and vulnerabilities makes people admire us more, not less. If we hide who we really are we end up feeling more stressed, have a lower sense of wellbeing and are more likely to suffer from burnout. In any case who doesn’t prefer someone who appears real but happy, right?

KEY TAKEAWAY - Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerable side. Instead of people thinking you’re weak, they’ll warm to you more.

AND SO....

Whether you want to be democratic or show people your vulnerable side, keep your level of fun up and you’ll end up doing a lot better in life.

When you hear the words “It can’t be done” keep an open mind as you’re about to discover a much better way.

Posted 20th June 2018


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