Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


cover image for how to break the rules so you can really win


Okay…I admit. I know how to break the rules.


But I am not alone. We have all broken rules at some point in our lives.


Tell me, was there never a time when you wanted to succeed at something so badly that you considered breaking the rules? And no, I don’t mean cheating or being unethical.


How many people pulled you aside to warn you “you can’t do that! you can’t break the rules!”


Well, I’m in your corner. And I have help from Peter Bregman who wrote an article called “Play the Game You Know You Can Win”.


In that article, he discussed the strategy in which instead of playing the game (of anything) by the established rules, you either “rewrite” the rules or apply your unique strengths and talents to the game in creative and different ways.


I really felt like he was talking to me because from as far as I can remember Lorna Barrow didn’t follow the “rules” for many things. They often just didn’t make sense to me and playing by such rules were for the frightened “toe-the-liners.”


At times it was stressful because in my earlier working days, everyone thought I was just being rebellious. Or, “expressing unresolved issues” according to the readily available pop psychologists sitting behind every chipboard desk.


Yet I didn’t set out to consciously break the rules. It was not like I assigned a time in my schedule to review a list of rules and go “aha! Let me break rules #4, 7 and 16.”


To the contrary, I try NOT to break the rules. It’s just that my intelligent mind and common sense attitude get in my way. All the time.


But why would you want to break the rules? Weren’t you told all your life to follow established norms?


Why you should consider breaking the rules

In life and in business, there are many reasons (and opportunities) for you to follow your own mind (also known as breaking the rules) So let me share just 3 of them with you.

1.  Breaking the rules establishes you as a “thought leader”

I love when my peers and clients refer to me as a thought leader. While I’m not big on jargon, I know that what they are saying, is that they really appreciate my unique insight and perspective on issues.


That insight comes from listening to my gut, trusting my experience and of course…not following the rules.  And over time, you can also develop the assertiveness skills which you can rely on in every situation.


2.  You also get to live life on your own terms

Many of the rules we live by were designed for somebody else in another time.  But you have your own set of core values, don’t you? So now you can confidently declare “where is it written that I have to do that by the “book”? And once you  do, you are free to find your own way to live life on your terms!


3.  You can scale and grow your business faster

As a small business owner, you know all the negative and confidence-breaking information you are bombarded with. But you also know that almost every time you ignore that information, and make decisions which are right for you, your business grows.


Even now, when I reflect on my life and my business, I find so many instances when breaking the rules was the single most important thing I could do for my personal and professional growth. 


How to break the rules

By now you are wondering…So if there is value in not always following the rules, is there a “right” way to break them?


I won’t tell you that there’s a right way to break the rules. But I can tell you that over time, I have developed a set of rules for breaking the rules…and I know they can work for you too. 


So let me dive right in and share my 5 favourite rules, for breaking the rules,  with you.


1. Know the rules before you break the rules

Let me repeat: Know the rules before you go breaking the rules.


Knowing the rules is an absolute must. You may want to call this a no-brainer and I would agree with you. Only someone with no brain, would attempt to do anything, especially in business, without knowing the rules.


Yet I see this all the time.

For example, directors who have not read the company’s articles of association even after being on the board for three years and yet they are experts on it.


Or business people who know nothing or little about the business of being in business, yet they are trying to break rules to reach high levels of success fast.


By taking the time to learn the rules, I have discovered something interesting and even amusing.


Some rules have been so badly “written” that all you have to do is to follow them and they will lead you to the outcomes you want. And I assure you, they will be different from the ones that those rules intended.


That’s a really cool way to win the game you’re playing… on your terms.  Speaking  of which…


2. Understand the Game You’re Playing

 In business, and in life as well, understanding the game you’re playing, is a key factor in your success.


You have to find out where the information you want, who are the real influencers in a business and when and how you will disrupt a long-held position on a key issue. 


And what about the “communication” game?


I’m honest and straightforward by default and a day does not pass without someone saying to me “how could you say that? You don’t say such things, girl!”


In each case, I’m saying what I think or feel and I do so tactfully. But I also learnt that in the game of bullshit, a good dose of horse sense is a rare treasure which people will pay top dollar for.


So what’s your game?


Have you discovered your exceptional skills and talents?


Do you know how to be flexible and adaptable in business? 


Have you already discovered that large group of people called a niche that WANT your skills and talents?


Or are you still playing the game of convincing everyone within a 20-mile radius that they NEED your skills and talent?


3. Rely on self-confidence as a tool for breaking the rules

And I daresay self-esteem as well. You have to trust your unique interpretations of situations and circumstances and be willing to act on them.


You should be comfortable with the action you’re taking and be prepared to stand up for what you believe or what you recognize to be right. Strong core values will help you with this.


I can’t tell you how many times I have ignored the “rules”. Not because I wanted to be rebellious but because they either didn’t make sense  to me or didn’t suit my purposes.


I even managed to write a business plan and for me (and you) that breaks the rules.


I remember when I started writing online, the rule was to keep your articles to 700 hundred words or less since the attention span of readers were very limited.


What bovine feces! Was my response to that!


So even back then I confidently wrote longish articles because I found that the attention span of readers expanded to match how well articles were written.


If this means I was breaking the rules, well…so be it…


4. Know the risks when you break the rules and prepare for the consequences

 Breaking the rules is not without its own risks. And consequences. Here is an example from my own life.


Currently, in my line of work, it is now “the rule”, in your writing and speaking online, to demonstrate that you’re human, to be yourself, to be “unplugged”.


The problem with this is that it usually means a liberal use of the big F-word.


Now I am not a prude. After all, I come from a region where people are passionate about politics, cricket and calypso. Most discussions on these topics are drenched in rum and laced with what we call “muscular language”


But I don’t believe this forum is the place for that.


As a matter of fact, videos with life-changing tips or business advice that require me to make sure my grandchildren are not in the room when I view them, leave me shaking my head.


I know I run the risk of you not connecting with me and buying from me but hey, I am comfortable with that. So I’m not following that profanity rule!


5. Know your yourself inside out

 One of the biggest rules of success is to know your own strengths and weaknesses. Or as I like to say, where you have muscle and where you have fat. 


When you want to break the rules, the same rule obtains.


You don’t go breaking rules just because it’s a good idea or you heard that’s the way to stand out. Neither do you follow them because you think it will win you friends.


Just be yourself and choose from a position of strength.


If you’re not playing the game that you can win, it’s not too late to call a timeout and rethink your game plan.


After all, winning is not for losers.


Your next “break the rules” step…

So now you are clear why if you break the rules, you can win at business and life. What’s more, you have 5 steps to follow to break them sensibly..


But I must caution you again…don’t go breaking rules just for the heck of it. This is not how it works. 


On the other hand, if your intuition, your experience and your common sense tells you that some established norm does not make sense or is not right for you, go right ahead and ignore it. Or change it.


It just might make you a winner.


Watching you win as you break the rules…


How To Carefully Break The Rules So You Can Really Win

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!

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