The Rules of Living are simpler as we age. I’m not sure exactly when I noticed, but I certainly notice it now.
It might have been as I explain and explained to my young sweethearts spanning the 6th to the 11th grades (and now beyond for my college sophomore), about a particular rule of life which really does appear pretty clear to me. Or maybe when I am expressing it to a younger partner, employee, colleague, or client. Or maybe it’s when I’m just simply sharing small talk with a potential vendor or prospect in between the business parts of a meeting.
But what is obvious are a few things: first, there’s an age disparity (as much as I hate to admit it); second, the situation we are talking about really does appear to be pretty simple; and third, there’s a convention (or rule) in life that addresses that situation pretty cleanly.
To some extent, I almost feel at times like Moses — or is it Charlton Heston — stepping down from the mountain into a sea of iniquity and infamy, lifting two tablets on which are written ten fundamental rules that, from our standpoint, appear pretty obvious today, but which may not necessarily have been quite so obvious at the time.
Can anyone today question the maxim: “do not steal?” Or how about, “do not kill?”
Or then again, “do not commit adultery!” Or how about, “do not envy thy neighbor?”
Are those really all that difficult to comprehend?
I feel the same way, in a sense, about the discussions I have now days.
It’s not about the Ten Commandments.
It’s more about the simple Rules of Living which appear to be as obvious, at least now that we’ve gotten Mount Sinai in the rear view mirror.
Let me offer a few of those I’ve bandied about in the types of discussions I mentioned above — I’ll call them the top ten Rules of Living!
How about these?
1. Do the very best you can with the tools and resources available to you: then execute, move on, and celebrate as often as possible.
2. We can only control what we can control. We can’t control what we can’t control. So don’t fret or worry about them.
3. Don’t look to the left or right; don’t compare to others. For example, as I told my 10th grader this past year, it doesn’t matter what everybody else got; it doesn’t matter what the curve is. What matters is very simple: study as hard as you can for as long as you can; get a good night’s sleep the night before; take the exam; walk away; and don’t fret the results. Anything else is irrelevant. There will always be people richer and poorer, smarter or not, more talented, or not. Focus on yourself and let others live their lives without critique or comparison.
4. Tell the truth at all times. And if telling the truth is going to create pain, do the best you can to soften its impact and be compassionate in the process. Nonetheless, nothing beats the truth.
5. Don’t talk behind anyone’s back. Assuredly, any talk is going to get back to the person, be hurtful, and will certainly not support your credibility, or your self-respect. Besides, Karma can’t be far behind.
6. Never boast when you win — for you certainly will — or lament or quit when you lose — for you will certainly do that too — because life offers us all a boatload of both wins and losses.
7. Always do what you say you’re going to do, or, said differently, never commit to anything you’re not prepared to fulfill.
8. Always accept personal responsibility for everything that happens in your life — good or bad.
9. Love with your heart, but act with your mind.
10. Treat everyone around you with respect, fairness and compassion.
I could go on and on, of course, because there are any number of these that we all know as simple rules. These just happen to be my top ten.
However, what we don’t always fully appreciate is that they really are rules. Like the Ten Commandments, they can easily be broken.
But rules are rules for a reason. And when they don’t function as rules, something happens — usually not wonderful!
When rules are broken, there will be consequences, whether they are the Ten Commandments or the Rules of Living. For want of a better term, there’s breakage, or slippage, or worse. . . there’s assuredly almost always going to be a cost.
The Ten Commandments are alive and well today. They just happen to pale in the face of the wee bit more granular and imminent, although just as obviously relevant as they were back in the day.
And as to today’s Rules of Living, they clarify what we’ve known forever: they just happen to offer a wee bit more context for what some might argue is a substantially more complex post-modern world.