Rules and resolutions: Everyone needs a code they can live by.
Rules And Resolutions
Saturday, 24 March 2012 11:28 Hrs
❝ Everyone needs a code they can live by.

It’s still summer, Christmas has passed and the new year is well on it’s way. With some spare time I had the chance to catch up on some films and TV shows. Somewhere between ‟wax-on, wax-off” and laughing at DiNozzo being slapped on the head, [0] I realised the distinction between resolutions and rules. Why one works and the other doesn’t.


At the start of each new year when anything appears possible, we resolve to ourselves to improve or change. We call these promises, resolutions.

❝ It’s optimistic to think change will occur without effort.

It’s easier to think of making changes as being light and easy to achieve. Neatly resolved. I can just imagine some marketing campaign for %new-years% resolutions a random smiling person stridently marching through a green park on a bright sunny morning grasping and catching feathers. Symbolically going through their lists of resolutions with ease.

A resolution is a promise to improve yourself. Resolutions are great in theory yet seldom work. Why? I like to think of a resolution as a lot like a feather. A resolution as a feather has lightness and simplicity. A simple purity that at first glance is attractive until the promise of resolve collides with daily life. Resolutions are easy to discard because they have no mass. A better solution is to find something heavier than resolve.


A resolution is meant to spare you the pain of consequences, but can’t. The very attractiveness of a resolution distracts you from the failure of not following through. If failed resolutions hide the consequences, maybe understanding the costs of inaction just might be the key to necessary changes? Can we encapsulate pain and lessons of failure for later use?


Rules aren’t clean, simple or light. Think of rules as a path to navigate around sharp rocks. Rocks have weight. You stub your toes on them, you scratch your self climbing over them.

❝ Rules are lessons learned, never forgotten.

Rules have greater mass than resolutions because they have real consequences. The downside? Rules may appear trivial until you observe the consequences breaking them. That’s why if you intelligently follow rules, the appear to work. Rules are the lessons of someone else’s pain.

Rules really are small hacks or recipes, on ‟how not to stuff up.” Understanding the costs is the key lesson to making rules work. Rules work because you remember the pain and encapsulate it into words. Resolutions fail because there is no direct relationship to pain or failure.


One of the best ways to make rules is to look at mistakes you have made in the past. If there’s a more scientific way other than continually stubbing your toe, it’s somewhere to be found at the intersection of scientific deduction and your own psychological blind spots. A more intuitive way might be to keep feeling pain, try to find the root cause and a reminder. The easiest way is to blindly copy someone else’s rules. Copy at your own risk because you may lack the intuitive understanding the consequences.

My Rules

I have my own rules. Not all are listed. The ones that stick best are the ones I’ve learned the hard way. I might explain a few of them at a later date.

1 Nobody gets left behind [1]

2 Do the hardest things first [2]

3 Don’t screw over your mates

4 Teams beat individual

5 Assume nothing, double check

6 Got COM?

7 The 7P’s

8 Make bullets OR shoot bullets

9 Observation is look & REMEMBER

10 Repeat instructions, twice, differently

11 Right tool for the job OR HACK

12 Visualise the result

13 PYK, old over new

15 Observe, listen, acknowledge

17 Know your current location


19 Learn new skills, master old ones

22 Never, never, never give up

23 Communication is less, not more

27 Fortune favours the prepared, brave & lucky

35 Your fortunes can turn on a dime

36 Near enough is sometimes good enough

38 Always carry water

39 Speed, completeness or both?

40 What’s your plan C?

41 When trouble strikes, pause before decision

42 The trained run towards trouble

44 Secure the women and children first

45 Surround yourself with the people you would give your own life for

46 IFF

51 Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, you still screw up

69 When you screw-up, what matters most is recovery

What’s yours?


[0] ncis.wikia, ‟Gibbs Rules: A set of ad-hoc rules created by fictional character, Leroy Jethrow Gibbs.”, [Last Accessed: Wednesday 4th, January 2012]

[1] As told by co-author Hal Moore in, ‟We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young.” As a creed, it’s as old as Sparta itself.

[2] Thanks to Todd Jordan for reading through the draft and wording on rule #2.


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