Stop Following The Rules

When I look at the lives and accomplishments of the black women I most admire either for their business acumen or just the amazing lives they’ve been able to create for themselves, I realize they all have one thing in common.

They broke all The Rules.

And yes, I purposefully capitalized “The Rules” to emphasize their existence as this huge entity that tries to run our lives.

You know, all the “you can’t do that because” Rules like:

  • You’re too young.
  • You’re too old.
  • You’re too black.
  • You’re too poor.
  • You’re too late.
  • You’re not pretty enough.
  • You’re too pretty.
  • You’re too strong.
  • You’re not strong enough.
  • You’re not qualified.

Not to mention all The Rules that tell you that you have to do it just like this and don’t skip a step or it won’t work and oh make sure you don’t start until you’ve got all your ducks in a row and all the “what ifs” worked out and by the way you might as well wait until you’re 30 or 40 because that’s when you’ll really know what you want out of life.

Just think about how different their lives would’ve turned out if Oprah or B. Smith or Tyra Banks or Holly Robinson Peete or Ursula Burns had actually followed any of The Rules laid out for them.

Because contrary to what we’ve been taught over and over in school, success does not come automatically to those who simply follow The Rules.

Just because you go to college and get good grades doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll land your dream job. Ask all the unemployed college grads and they will tell you. Just because you go on to get a Master’s degree and your own condo and a nice car still does not guarantee you happiness in life. And we all know that even if you follow The Rules in any dating book or manual to the “T”, you are not guaranteed love for a lifetime.

Yet even though they really don’t work, The Rules will always be with us.

That’s because The Rules were created for all the people who are satisfied with “good enough.” They are perfect for the people who are fine with someone else telling them what to do with their lives and how to do it. The Rules are for people who are willing to settle for a mediocre life because they aren’t willing to put in the time or effort to create an amazing one.

But for those of us who want more out of life, The Rules are useless. We see that they can only take us so far and then we have to figure out the rest ourselves. We realize that we’re actually sick and tired of playing by The Rules anyway.

And then we decide to create our own.



Comments & Feedback:

  1. I discuss this issue with my friends all the time – we have always been the “good girls” who played by The Rules, which told us that if we just studied hard and stayed out of trouble, we would have everything we always wanted. Fast-forward 30 years – we are now women who are highly credentialed, working at intense jobs that, while well-paying, leave little time for a social life; as a result we are perpetually single. (Because we were always encouraged to put “books before boys because boys bring babies” we never really developed those dating muscles). The good news, though, is that following The Rules has allowed us to arrive at a place of comfort where we have more choices…it’s just a matter of being brave enough to make them!

  2. Don’t forget that OTHER Rule….”YOU HAVE KIDS” this is the #1 Rule/Excuse I hear, and it irritates me to no end. The best advice that I ever received on breaking this rule was “you are STILL you Zenzile! You are still in charge of accomplishing all your goals and dreams and making your life happen, you just have to work even harder to make them happen because there are 2 of you now” I took that advice and ran with it.

  3. I totally agree. While rules are good in some instances (i.e., don’t touch that hot stove), they ultimately stifle the unique gift we bring to this world. Cheers to all the rule breakers who find ways to kick down doors…

  4. Great post! I think I’ve fallen into the trap of playing by the rules which is why I’m on a mission to break out. At this point, I’m exploring every option and looking for every opportunity to try something different. I’m tired of being complacent and following the rules because it doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.

  5. Natisha

    as always…LOVE IT! especially since I recently decided to leave the PhD program that I quit my job and relocated across the country for simply because i was no longer living the kind of life i wanted. re-evaluated somethings and now, i’m getting back to myself again…thanks for the confirmation that yes, i’m going in the right direction :)

    • Yes, you are going in the right direction :) And congrats for realizing that the PhD wasn’t for you. At first I felt like a failure when I quit my program but that feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of liberation to do something that was better for me. Excited for you!