Science of Self ™ Knowledge Centre

67 Rules, Principles, & Truths for Success (Work & Life)

Nov 11, 2017


As humans, we depend on heuristics, or rules of thumb, to succeed and survive. From how often to brush our teeth (twice a day), to how hard we should shake someone’s hard (firmly, up and down 2-3 times).To how much income we should squirrel away for retirement (the 10% rule), heuristics are inherently imperfect but utterly indispensable for getting through life.

With more books, articles, and expert opinions available than we’ll ever have time to digest, how do we determine which ideas really matter? What concepts deserve our attention and can be trusted in the widest range of situations? After consulting with colleagues and dozens of lists, I think these 67 rules are as robust a collection as you’ll find anywhere on the web, without claiming to be ultimate or definitive.

While rules may offer the temptation of certainty and comfort, it pays to remember that the amateur knows the rules; the expert knows the exceptions. 

1. Begin with the end in mind.
2. Activity is not productivity.
3. Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things
4. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.
5. What gets measured gets done.
6. Focus on the critical few (80/20 Rule).
7. People buy on emotion and justify with logic.
8. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to beg for permission.
9. If you aren’t clear, clarify.
10. KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.
11. You can’t build a long-term future on short-term thinking.
12. To be the best, surround yourself with the best.
13. Hire for attitude, train for skill.
14. Hire slow, fire fast.
15. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.
16. Someone who talks about others behind their backs will talk about you.
17. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.
18. Fear and hope are the two great levers of human behaviour.
19. Pain occurs when expectations are greater than present reality.
20. Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
21. The customer is not always right, but always treat them with respect.
22. There is no failure, only feedback.
23. In every difficulty lies opportunity.
24. Insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.
25. Focus on strengths more than fixing weaknesses.
26. The golden rule: treat others as you would be treated.
27. Growth happens outside your comfort zone; success happens inside your circle of competence.
28. We don’t get paid for time; we get paid for value.
29. Underpromise and overdeliver.
30. Practice what you preach.
31. Don’t ask, don’t get.
32. Nobody is busy. People have priorities.
33. If it’s important, people will find a way. If not, they’ll find an excuse.
34. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
35. To understand language, look at the context; to understand life, look at the system.
36. Seek out disconfirming evidence.
37. There are always two sides to every story.
38. Trust, but verify.
39. Correlation doesn’t (automatically) imply causation.
40. Proportion your beliefs to the evidence.
41. Start with ridiculous assumptions, end with crazy conclusions.
42. Occam’s razor: all things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be right.
43. Hanlon’s razor: don’t attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
44. If it’s complex, the answer probably lies closer to the middle than an extreme.
45. In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.
46. Don’t try to be interesting; be interested.
47. You move a mountain by carrying away small stones.
48. Learn to say “no!”
49. We are all salespeople.
50. To a prospect, any price is too high until they understand the value.
51. People don’t buy products; they buy feelings.
52. People join organisations and leave managers.
53. If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.
54. If it were easy, everyone would be good at it.
55. Spread the risk.
56. Differentiate or die.
57. Work to live; don’t live to work.
58. One example is worth a thousand explanations.
59. Being right doesn’t entitle you to be rude.
60. Quality is the best business plan.
61. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
62. People will forget what you said, but never how you made them feel.
63. What would [insert role model] do?
64. Nobody is perfect.
65. Everyone is different.
66. Kindness is always possible.
67. Life is short.

Topics: Psychology

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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