A five-year old slugger smacks the baseball out into the field and sprints toward third base.

A tiny midfielder, playing her first soccer match, reaches down and scoops into her arms the ball rolling through the green grass toward her.

A small child on the basketball court receives a pass from a teammate and excitedly races to the hoop…without remembering to dribble.

If you’ve ever coached a children’s sports team, then you know the importance of explaining the simple rules of the game. Initially, chaos and confusion reign supreme as children accustomed themselves to unfamiliar regulations. Yet over time, the once-confusing rules become second nature, and the kids play together without even having to think about them.


Playing a sport without knowing the rules leads to chaos, confusion, and even can result in injury. Likewise, going through life without a reliable set of rules gives rise to disorder, dissatisfaction, and even harm. In this lesson, I’d like to share six simple rules that have helped me to navigate life. I hope they provide you with food for thought as you consider, or reevaluate, the rules you live by.

RULE #1: Put family first.

Lots of leaders give lip service to putting family first, but they don’t actually practice giving their spouse or kids top priority. What does it mean to put family first? For me, it involves redefining success. I do not measure my success in terms of career accomplishments. For me, success is when those closest to me love and respect me the most. Practically speaking, I make sure to schedule time with loved ones before setting my work calendar. It’s far more important for me to give prime time to my family than to “get ahead” by working overtime.

RULE #2: Follow the Golden Rule.

As followers, we universally ask three questions about our leaders: 1) Do they care for me? 2) Can they help me? 3) Can I trust them?

As a leader, regularly pose those same questions to yourself—Am I caring? Am I helping? Am I reliable?—as a reminder to treat others the way you would like to treated.

RULE #3 Take care of yourself.

Doing something for yourself is not a selfish act; it’s a sustaining act. In a university commencement address several years ago, Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises, spoke of the relation of work to one’s other responsibilities:
Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them—work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls—family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.
I’ve learned the importance of this rule the hard way—through the trauma of a heart attack. If you’re not carving out time to rest and replenish, to exercise, and to monitor your spiritual wellbeing, then eventually you’ll breakdown. When that happens you’re no good to anyone.

RULE #4 Choose a positive attitude.

Happiness cannot be won, bought, or brought to you by another person. Rather, it results from a conscious choice to be grateful for our blessings and to make the best of life’s letdowns. Whatever happens to us, we always have control of one thing: our attitude.

RULE #5 Have a personal growth plan.

The key to personal growth is to have a beginner’s mindset. Beginners admit they don’t know everything and proceed accordingly. As a general rule, they’re open and humble, noticeably lacking in the rigidity that often accompanies experience and achievement.

RULE #6 Give more than you receive.

Everyone must ask for help at some point along the journey of life, but each person also has an inborn need to serve others. When I stopped trying to extract value from the people around me, and instead began searching for ways to add value, my influence soared.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.