Rules of Life – Toby Cowern

I had a great discussion recently that started out with ‘Murphys Laws of Combat’, but gradually moved to Individuals ‘rules of life’. A lot of people were involved in this discussion including CRGI’s very own Terry Trahan and Rory Miller, you can see their thoughts on this here.

For a long time, I have maintained only two ‘rules of life’ (that is concepts that should heavily influence all our thoughts and actions) but this discussion really encouraged me to grow my list to six, as I think on it, these have always been there but I had never penned them before. My six ‘rules’ are as follows. I’ll expand a little on each one:

  1. Be Polite
  2. Don’t be an asshole
  3. Make a plan, fly the plan, don’t fall in love with the plan.
  4. Definitions matter
  5. Be aware ‘rock bottom’ isn’t.
  6. Violence of action usually wins…

Be Polite

Not witty, engaging, entertaining, fascinated, shocked, pious, or committed to ‘educating people’, or any other way you may think I mean by ‘Polite’. Out and out, genuinely polite. It never ceases to amaze me how many people talk their own way, very quickly, right into conflict situations. Politeness not only (significantly) minimizes the chances of things not getting bad in the first place, it also gives you an exceptional advantage (especially in witness terms) if things do go bad.

Also, conflict aside, it’s just a good habit to have and brings nothing but positive rewards.

Don’t Be An Asshole

First I’ll point out, this goes hand in hand with point 1. But be aware, you can be polite and STILL be an asshole. I’m going with the wiki definition here:

“The word is… generally used to describe people who are viewed as stupid, incompetent, unpleasant, or detestable. It is most connotative… with a person who considers himself of much greater moral or social importance than everyone else.”

I should stress I see these rules as ‘total’ as in they should permeate all aspects of your day to day life. It is with interest I see people now actively managing very different personas between their ‘online profile’ and their ‘real world’ personality. Sadly, many, while trying to main some semblance of decency and humanity in their regular interactions, fall short massively in how they interact with people online.

Make a Plan, Fly the Plan, Don’t Fall in Love With the Plan

Anyone that knows me, knows I am quite the believer in causality and ‘Cosmic Coincidence’. That said opportunities will always need work to make things come to fruition and as liberating as living a life with no plans may seem, rarely will you achieve your goals without any. So, I am a BIG believer in planning, but planning alone counts for naught. Until a plan is implemented, NOTHING will ever be achieved. That said, plans are subject to change and ignoring a developing situation and blindly adhering to the plan is no idea either. ‘Falling in Love with the plan’ is exactly this, refusing to change, regardless of what the smart thing to do would be. This ties in heavily with the ‘adaptive mindset’ you see referenced here in CRGI often. Don’t be afraid to change, modify or even just walk away from a plan. How quickly you need to do this is very subjective to the circumstances you are in and the impact of the possible outcomes.

Definitions Matter

Here I am largely focusing on semantics. It’s one of the reasons, when I teach, I will often start with agreed or accepted definitions, or will provide my definition, (A nice example here) so we all, at least begin on the same page when addressing key concepts/considerations.

I have lost count of the times I have seen a situation descend into an altercation due to people arguing over a certain subject with one or both not applying the true or accepted definitions of words. This can be used as a deliberate tactic (Breaking rule 2 in the process), but more often than not it is actually a problem born of ignorance. It is for us individually to educate ourselves to the right standard so as to make compelling cases for our deeply held positions. Even more so for instructors who have the exceptional responsibility of passing on knowledge too others.

Descending arguments aside, this point, again, has profound impact on day to day life. Misapplication or misunderstanding of words affects business, relationships, friendships and much more.

Be Aware ‘Rock Bottom’ Isn’t

I have a twofold thought on this. One directly, linked to the above, is the (mis)understanding of ‘Rock Bottom’ which is heavily influenced by individual experience and biases. Failing to understand how bad a situation can get, not only inhibits the ability to empathise and/or sympathise (Profoundly impacting your ability to follow ‘rule one’) but also leaves you personally vulnerable. Kidding yourself by trying to cope in a bad situation with a ‘it can’t get any worse’ mentality is leaving you wide open to figuratively and literally being kicked (repeatedly) while you are down.

Secondly, I approach very much from the ‘preparedness’ mindset. If you can’t acknowledge or accept how truly bad situations can become, you have very little chance in successfully preparing to avoid or overcome them.

Violence Of Action Usually Wins

Take this as you will, as a tactic or as a warning, but it IS something to be very aware of. A tome has and still could be, written on the details of this, but in this brief article, addressing a short list, suffice to say whether you are being violent, or on the receiving end of the violence (This can be verbal as well as physical) whoever uses the most usually ‘wins’. Following my own rule, I’ll highlight, in accord with Rue Four, it’s important to define what a ‘win’ is. In this context it is the person acquiring or succeeding in gaining what they wanted from the altercation.

While the use of violence cannot ever be discussed in absolutes, that is why I say ‘usually wins’, as a concept this ‘rule’ is one we must acknowledge.

The ‘Rules of Life’ are a deeply personal thing and subject to influence not only in background and upbringing but also experience and aspiration. I do feel it’s good to periodically stop and assess what ‘rules’ you live by though, as often identifying these will show your chance of succeeding in your life goals. Feel free to head over to our ’Conflict Manager’ Face Book page and share your ‘Rules Of Life’ and why you follow them…?

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