learn the rules, then bend them or break them

Seems I’m somewhat of a troublemaker…

What can I say? Rules and I just don’t get along.

Recently I was told off by my son’s daycare teacher…again.

In fact, this is the 4th time in as many years I’ve been told off by a teacher there, each time for something I have done that was deemed “unacceptable behavior.”

This time it was for playing catch each morning with my son.

Here in Japan, each morning we are asked to dress them in their dress uniform, take them to school, write what time we dropped them off, as well as who (mom or dad) dropped them off and their temperature, then proceed to have them change into their exercise gear as well as put their chopsticks in the chopsticks holder thingy, their cups in the cup thingy, their notebook in another holder, their pj’s and dress uniform in their cubby hole and their bag in the closet.

Now I do believe in following the rules…but only when the rules make sense.

So first off, I can’t be bothered to check his temperature each and every day before I leave, unless he feels hot or he complains about feeling sick. So in the past four years I have actually written down his correct temperature a total of 6 times, the rest I just make something up.

Next, having him wear his dress clothes only to change into his exercise gear as soon as he arrives makes little sense to me, so that’s gone. Haven’t done it once.

And as for putting the stuff away, it’s boring to go through the same old routine day in day out for a few years so as he has aged, I have tried to spice things up.

Since he’s five now I figured it was time to help boost his hand-eye coordination and would throw each item to him and have him catch them. He loved it, so it became our little ritual.

Then yesterday rolled around and my son told me that his teacher had told him to stop playing catch in the morning. When I asked him why he said he didn’t know, so I asked him if he wanted me to talk to his teacher about it and he nodded.

It turns out that

  1. Other kids see me doing that with my son and want to have their parents do it as well
  2. Some kids started throwing things around during lunchtime
  3. It’s not good to throw chopsticks as they are what we put in our mouth

To number one all I can say is that each parent has their own style – I don’t want to be one of those parents kids feel is no fun (which is most of us might I add). That’s who I am and I’m never going to change because I balance fun with being strict and always make sure to teach my son right from wrong. So it’s not about being goofy and having my son act like a fool. I teach him to play seriously. To have him learn through games.

As for kids throwing things around…I never played catch with any other kid, so isn’t it possible they do this simply because that’s what kids do?

And the chopstick thingy, well I completely agree having his chopsticks land on the floor would be a bad thing which is why I don’t throw his chopsticks to him. I throw his chopstick CASE to him. Even if the case hits the ground there is practically no chance of the chopsticks falling out because they are locked in tight.

The teacher then went on to tell me that “in Japan we teach children to hand things to other people.” I was like, “Wait a minute, do you think we’re Neanderthals over in the West?” We hand things to people all the time, but there are times when we throw things to one another as well. And my son has never thrown any of his school objects at other students. He understands that throwing is reserved for our little game of catch in the morning and games such as dodgeball in school.

Now I do like the teacher, which is why I just laughed things off. But it annoyed me and saddened my son to hear that our private game of catch was being stopped by “a silly stupid rule” (my son’s words) so I had to put on my thinking cap – “How can I still have fun with my son but not break their precious rule?”

Bingo! Starting last week I began playing the countdown game. (I just made that name up) I take out his school stuff when I get to his classroom, lay them on the floor and then whip out my iPhone and start the timer. 30 seconds for him to put everything away in its proper place one by one. Little by little I’ll reduce it, so that each day he’ll try to outdo himself.

Rule bypassed, father son relationship saved, fun all around.

Why do I share this story with you? Because in life there are always rules that exist. Some real, some not.

But in either case, you don’t change the world by playing by the rules. To change the world you write your own rules.

  • Galileo proved the world was round.
  • Copernicus proved that sun was the center of our universe.

There will always be people telling us what we can and cannot do. And in doing so destroy more dreams than they know…so screw ‘em. Prove them wrong. They only say it can’t be done because they don’t know how to do it.

I often piss people because I don’t accept the rules as gospel.

Let’s face it, the world is constantly undergoing change. We’re discovering new ideas all the time, so shouldn’t the way we do things change as well?

Some rules like gravity can’t be broken, but as the Wright Brothers taught us, they can be bent.

We all need rules; especially for our safety. But some rules become antiquated and some rules that are created are just plain dumb.

Talk to any successful person and they’ll tell you they didn’t become successful by following all the rules. They all learn to divide rules into three categories:

  • Rules that cannot be broken
  • Rules that can be bent
  • Rules that can be broken

One of the reasons I was the most sought-after teacher at my previous company was precisely because I didn’t follow all the company’s rules. I always tried to put the client’s needs above the rules of the company, just as long as it didn’t cause any trouble. In other words, I knew which rules I could break, and which I could bend. It’s one of the success secrets I teach to all my clients.

But Katharine Hepburn made the best case for breaking the rules when she said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

Adrian Shepherd

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