Rules For Living

Most successful people have simple rules that direct their lives. What are yours?

Collin Powell is probably one of the most known leaders of the past decade. Journalist, David Wallechinsky, was preparing to interview him for a story about his successful career so he asked his assistant what questions he may ask General Powell. The assistant said, “Ask him about the snippets of paper under the glass cover on top of his desk.” The journalist did. After their first publication these quotations became known as Powell’s rules. Colin Powell gives these rules in the first section of his book, It Worked for Me, In Life and Leadership.

Highlighted below are Powell’s 13 rules along with some reflections of his and mine.

  • It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. This is an attitude of confidence not a prediction. A good night’s rest can change your outlook and even a possible outcome.
  • Get mad, then get over it. Anger is a healthy emotion. But staying mad is not useful. “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”
  • Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. We live in an imperfect world. Regardless of how passionate your feel about what you know your knowledge or understanding, your position, and opinions are still imperfect.
  • It can be done! Always start by believing it can be done. Have a positive outlook not a blind attitude that would not listen to wise input. Be an optimist but not stupid.
  • Be careful about what you choose. You may get it. Do not rush into things. When you are able to examine the cost and possible outcome so you can make the best informed decision, be prepared to take personal ownership of the consequences of your choices. This is the measure of your character.
  • Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Your instinct may be the most powerful tool that will guide you in making tough choices. This is a time when you may have to confront your fears and call on your faith and self-confidence. As the saying goes, good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgments.
  • You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.  Avoid the temptation to tell others what to do. You cannot carry the consequences of their choice. In the same way, while you should always seek good advice do not let your advisers become your decision makers.
  • Check small things. “For want of a nail” is a clever lyric that encourages us to apply logical progression to the consequences of our actions. It says

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Do not ignore small things that can lead to defeating consequences.

  • Share credit. Your success is most often the result of many, seen or unseen. People need recognition and a sense of worth even more than they need food and water. Be very generous in giving credit and expressing your appreciation.
  • Remain calm. Be kind.  Good and sound decisions are seldom done in a state of chaos. Do not let the sense of urgency play havoc with your mental capacity. The storms of life will surely come but even then you must keep a calm zone where you can make important life choices.
  • Have a vision. Be demanding. The purpose is the destination of a vision. Everyone must have a vision that inspires you and empowers you to be demanding of yourself and others who work and live with you.
  • Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. While fear is a normal human emotion, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear unchecked can be a killer of dreams, hopes, and aspirations.
  • Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Believing in your purpose is a force multiplier. Nothing can energize your body and soul as much as a firm belief in who you are and what you are given. The positive impact is seen in your life and in those who are with you in this battle of life. 
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