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Breaking the rules does not mean you suck

Posted by on August 15, 2016

This is my 3rd article in my series about how you don’t suck.

shutterstock_120210133_450You will make mistakes. You will have people tell you about your mistakes and tell you how you SHOULD do it better. You can handle that. You know that mistakes happen when you’re starting out, and as long as you haven’t accidentally ended the world, and if you understand that criticism, from the right people, can actually help you grow as a person, then you’ll be fine. Then you might come across omniscient 3rd parties who have set out ground rules, laws, ways things SHOULD BE DONE. And if you can’t do them, you might think- well I’m not good enough.


When I referee junior basketball, I always tell the parents that the only way you really learn the rules of basketball is by breaking them. No, you cannot take three or four steps in a layup. And no, that basket does not count. You learn, so next time down the court, you remember- only two steps. You might stuff the shot up (make a mistake), and some supporters will give you advice (criticism), but you learn the rhythm of the thing, and get better at it. You broke the rule, figured it out, and improved.

Some rules are worth breaking for the sake of learning. Others are worth breaking because, why not. Marketing is a great place to break rules. There is a rule that all tweets need to be 140 characters long. What if, you wrote an epic tweet, greater than 140 characters, but just as you reached 140 characters you had a cliff hanger, which they needed to click a link to finish the sentence and find out stuff?

There are rules people have created for times and days to post certain content on certain social media. A lot of research and a lot of statistics produced these rules. Great. But why do you need to stick to these rules? Who says that you, starting out, need to stick to these rules? Why not break them and see what happens?

A friend posted some content for his business at 11.30pm on a Saturday night. I saw him post it, and commented- who the heck is online for your business at this time of night? Never mind that I was on social media at that time. A half hour later he tells me someone clicked the link and spent over $500 with him. It happens.

Consider this- ‘they’ say that the best time to post on LinkedIn is between 8am and 9am, and 5pm and 6pm. So you diligently post content, articles, items to establish your expertise, in these times. And so do thousands of other people, posting at the ‘right times’. These rules came into being because LinkedIn is a professional’s social media, and these professionals read LinkedIn on the way to work, or on the way home from work, on public transport. It does not take into account those people who drive, nor those people who work outside these hours.

What if, there was a kind of employee who always worked an hour later, to avoid the crowded trains. If you targeted your content for between 6 and 7pm, or even after 7pm, you might catch these people. The message might be different, catering for a more tired reader, but you could possibly get a more engaged audience, because you’re not competing with thousands of other people for the ‘perfect time of day’.

What other rules can you think of which are worth breaking? You should wear a suit and tie to work? Why? Uniform policy is one thing, and if you have signed up for a business and that is their policy, then you are expected to wear suit and tie, and it is respectful to the contract you signed. But, does a tie around the neck, in a perfect Windsor knot, any indication of the quality of your work?

Look at some of the rules companies are breaking when it comes to workplaces. Google is often ranked in the number 1 place to work, in the world. Why? Free shuttle bus to work, free meals, which are healthy; free laundry, fitness facilities. On-site child care, dog-friendly, and so much more.

How many rules, as an employer, is Google breaking? And how happy are their employees?

Okay, so comparing yourself to Google might be a stretch, but understanding that rules are there, and they can be broken with positive results, is what you need to take away from this. I am an artist, a creative, in what I do. It is okay for me to have long hair and a scruffy beard. I always wear good jeans and a good shirt when I meet clients, but not shirt and tie. And when I am meeting with regular clients, often I am in a good, geeky, nerdy, t-shirt. I am not dressing down, but in my ‘uniform’, which sometimes has raised eyebrows at fashion rules I am breaking. But, this is me.

There are rules that say you should only give 2 re-drafts before making a client pay more. If you want to do 7 because you like the client and they are just as excited as you, as long as it does not tax you and your business, sure, go for it.

You are the person who, at the end of the day, has to justify what you do. If you don’t charge someone by the industry rates, that is your call. If you don’t have to get up and stat work until the afternoon, fine, that is okay.

There are so many rules when it comes to writing, which I see broken every day, which I often break, and I am okay with that.

Don’t be afraid to break rules. It is the only way you will learn who you are and what you are capable of. If you restrain yourself by what others tell you are the boundaries, you will never be as good as, nor take yourself further, than those telling you where you SHOULD belong.

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