Breaking the Rules at Least Once

Rule breakers are both the bane and highlight of life. The rule breakers can make life seem really unfair, especially when you’ve played by the rules and accepted the consequences. However, the rule breakers can also shake things up, making life better when they challenge status quo.

One of my favorite rule breakers, based on sheer audacity and a willingness to thumb his nose at authority, is King Henry VIII. He created his own church and installed himself at the head when the Catholic church wouldn’t let him break the rules. He actually justifies his decision by pointing out that Catholic clergy have split their loyalties between country and pope:

Well-beloved subjects, we thought that the clergy of our realm had been our subjects wholly, but now we have well perceived that they be but half our subjects; yea, and scarce our subjects; for all the prelates at their consecration make an oath to the Pope clean contrary to the oath that they make to us, so that they seem to be his subjects, and not ours. (link)

Ignoring for the moment his tendency to execute wives in his pursuit of a son (I’d love to have seen his reaction in the afterlife when he learned that was HIS fault), Henry did something bold by challenging the standing authority of the Catholic church.

Sometimes rules exist to protect the individual from harm. Other times rules exist to protect the status quo. The individuals who can see the difference between the two and act accordingly are the ones who’ll change the world. These rule breakers are the ones who execute when everyone else says it can’t be done or shouldn’t be done. I bet all the major networks wish they’d come up with YouTube. And I bet all the newspapers wish they’d come up with Craigslist.

But the status quo rule makers are too busy protecting aging turf to even contemplate how things might be better if they broke some of their own rules. Here’s the reality. Life tends to treat you better when you play fair (karma and all that good stuff). But don’t kid yourself that always playing by the rules is the only way to succeed, especially if the rules are set by groups benefiting from the status quo.

In pursuit of his own interests, Henry VIII sparked the English Reformation and changed the power structure in his country. Long after his death, the ripple effects spread out for centuries to come. The individuals and the companies that excite me the most understand that rules protecting status quo are just begging to be broken. And then they dare break them. I dare you to break the rules at least once. You might be surprised at the results.



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June 2007
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