3 Rules Not to Live By

September 12, 2014

1. Eye for an Eye

Following this rule can be devastating on relationships, whether they be romantic, friends and neighbors, or relationships between countries. We hurt them because they hurt us. This creates a never-ending cycle of pain, fear and violence that is made worse by the fact that we think our actions are justified. For most of us, this isn’t something we do consciously, it’s reinforced over and over again by our cultural conditioning.

When was the last time to you were glad when the bad guy got killed in the movies? How did you respond to the bombings on Sept 11, 2001 when you found out who was responsible? What about that time your boyfriend or girlfriend cheated on you? What did you do or want to do to them in response?

We live in a culture where revenge is normal, justified and encouraged. Superhero movies are a classic example. Consider the impact of this. It could possibly be the most destructive habit we acquire as humans and also the one that goes most unnoticed. From a young age you’ve been conditioned to believe that if someone hurts you, you have a right to hurt them back.

The way out is to realize that defense is the first act of war, and that you can choose a different reaction. People will hurt you, people will attack you and people will wrong you. You can’t control this, but you can control how you respond. When you really get this, you will notice that acts of revenge are equal to the initial acts of violence. The moment you murder a murderer, you are no better than him. The moment you attack an attacker, you are one as well, and yes there is a distinction between self-defense and retaliation.

2. Safety First

I’m not suggesting that we ditch safety all together, but instead of having safety be first, what it it was… I don’t know… third. That’s a good spot for it.

If we really look at this from a deeper perspective, what’s happening is we are making being safe better than being not safe. How often in your life has being not safe turned out to be a blessing? Taking calculated risks is what keeps us feeling alive, and we do it everyday, regardless of how safe we think we are.

There’s a quote from my days in the Navy from William Shedd that I’ve always loved.

A ship is safest in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.

As humans, we are safest when we don’t risk, but it’s not what we were built for.

3. Stay in School

Our education system in the United States has been taken a beating from critics over the last couple decades, and rightly so. It’s purpose is to train children to follow instructions, fit in and not cause too much trouble. You can see how this might present a problem later in life when our goal might be to invent, find our uniqueness and get over the fear of what others think.

At the heart of “stay in school” is a great message. Never stop learning. We are all students of life and the moment we stop learning and opening our minds to new possibilities, we lose what makes us feel alive. The truth is, to really get the most out of what life has to teach us, we have to look outside of what traditional education has to offer. Sometimes school might fit the bill, other times it won’t. Today, more and more people are finding that college isn’t serving them in creating the life they want. Pretty soon there will be kids bragging that they were the first person in their family to turn down college, and opt for a life where they follow what they are passionate about with all their time, energy and resources.

Here’s a new list of rules to live by.

Meet hate with love.
Safety third.
Stay curious.


Get new thought-provoking essays that question the status-quo
(and question questioning the status-quo).