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How to Break the Rules and Do the Impossible

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship, Personal Growth.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could know what was going to happen tomorrow the day before?

In one way, that means you would’ve already lived today. Before today even happened. You would know all because you would have already done it. You could know before it happens.

There is a way to do this—it’s called “other people’s experience.”

Whatever problem you are encountering, you and I are not the first to go through it. People before us have already experienced the How to Break the Rules and Do the Impossibleexperience. They are familiar with, capable of, and proficient in whatever.

It is up to us to find out what they know, what they learned, and how we can own it. That can be done by reading. By watching biographies. By interviewing older and even younger people.

But be prepared to humble yourself.

When Andy was offered his first publishing contract for his first novel, The Traveler’s Gift, do you know what I did?

I walked into a bookstore and bought Book Publishing for Dummies.

Here I was—a guy who had sold over 600,000 copies of a self-published book series (Storms of Perfection Series)—buying a book on book publishing. For dummies.

But guess what? Reading the book gave me all kinds of nifty insider info on what to make sure you get in a book contract. Like a little thing called the movie rights.

Who’s the dummy now? :-)

Reading can fast forward you in any area of life. Pick a subject, any subject—and read all you can in the next 60 minutes. You are looking for one idea that could change everything or send you in another direction.

There’s a funny thing about a new idea; it leads you to another and another.

If someone is alive, then he has experience in something. Wise people want to know what that is. They ask questions. They take notes. They review and study them. They analyze, apply, and ask some more questions.

It helps to know the rules of football or any game before you get on the field. There is a playbook. These rules do not require your opinion. It would behoove us all to find out what the rules are in any endeavor we are pursuing. The great news is that you do not have to make this up as you go.

Publishers have rules. Record companies have rules. There are even rules that speakers follow. The more you know ahead of time the smoother it will be for you when you arrive. The less you know, the more foolish you will look…and the more you will spin your wheels and waste your (and others’) time.

Remember, you can Google anything. Literally anything—any subject, any question, anything that you need to know more about.

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” —Dalai Lama XIV

There is a time to buck the system. To go against the grain. To break the rules. To be the person who makes the entire room do a double take and say, “Huh?!”

But you have to first know the system. Once you know the system and have mastered it, you can then tweak it and do what no one else has ever done. You can then do the impossible.

Don’t believe me?

Times I Mastered the Rules, Broke the Rules, and Did the Impossible:

  • Made The Traveler’s Gift hit the New York Times Bestseller List…six months after its release. We followed all the rules, did everything we were supposed to do, and the book did nothing upon release. Everyone was ready to give up. That’s when Andy and I used our own money to buy thousands of copies to mail to influencers around the country. And wouldn’t you know that a copy just happened to find its way into the hands of Robin Roberts of Good Morning America? Six months after the book was “dead in the water” it became a bestseller.


  • Hired college kids to create and design all of Andy’s online stuff. I spent years mastering “traditional” hiring before I got tired of traditional results. So I hired two college kids to do graphics and web coding. They created a website that got the best results I’d ever seen. They have since created their own company that was seed-funded by Techstars—Help Scout. (By the way, if you are a small company and insist on delivering outstanding customer support—you MUST check this company out!)


  • Managed one single act for over 30 years. It is still a learning process. But, somewhere along the way, I created enough of an illusion that I know what I’m doing for a few people to consider me a master of artist management. The rules say I should be managing a multitude of different acts right now. But I don’t. And you know what? After over 30 years, both of us are happy, excited, and can’t wait to see what happens next.


When you do the impossible, you will look like a genius to many people. What they won’t know is that all you did was master—then tweak, improve, enhance, and perfect—what was already there.

Is this post resonating with you? Click here to tweet this: “How to Break the Rules and Do the Impossible” by @TheRobertD: http://bit.ly/1mRTjso

It would be foolish to try to re-create the wheel every single time you get in your car to go somewhere. I see people trying to re-create the wheel daily. The amount of time that is wasted on something that was already done is appalling.

How many times do we do this on a daily basis? It’s childish, elementary, and idiotic. Get the manual. Get the handbook. Read the books. Seek council. Find a mentor. Hire a coach. Do not try to do this on your own or figure it out from scratch. There is simply too much information out there to not take advantage of it being so accessible.

Rulebooks for Life:

  • The Bible – Don’t let this one scare you or blow you away. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a Believer or not. There is something inside its pages for every situation and season of life. Even after 2,000 years—it is still on the bestseller list.
  • Say Goodbye to Survival Mode by Crystal Paine – It’s fresh on my mind because it’s new and I just finished it. De-stress, de-clutter, and simplify your life. Principles that will be relevant 200 years from now. This is for moms, dads, and ALL others.
  • Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud – Another modern favorite. Life is too short to deal with foolish people. This book will teach you how to recognize them before it’s too late.


Question: What are YOUR rulebooks for life? And what rules have you mastered and then broken?

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  • Great post, Robert! I’m a strong believer in learning all that you can from various sources, and then re-configuring the information into something that fits your own DNA. If you don’t make it your own, you will always have an artificial ceiling to your success.

    Adding to your list of Rulebooks for Life:
    – “The Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill: Addresses all aspects of a successful life. Just as relevant today as when it was first published in 1925.
    – “UnMarketing” by Scott Stratten: Scott addresses engagement with today’s social tools. He shares how he failed in the past, which is an education for all.

    I’ll have to check out the books you listed by Og Mandino and Zig. I haven’t read those yet. As always, thanks for the great content!

    • Thanks for sharing those, Stephen! Napoleon Hill’s stuff IS fantastic. I have heard of Scott and need to check him out.

  • Steve Pate

    Those with paper degrees must know more than me….then I figured there is a difference between those who are educated fools and those who apply the knowledge they have. So the rule I broke in my thinking, ask help from those who have experience over a paper degree. But its great when you can find the combination with both.

    The other rule I love to break, “we have always done it this way” rule. When I hear that from volunteers or board members and even myself, I tend to follow that statement with, “then it is time to break it.”—Great post Robert.

    • Love your thinking on degrees, Steve. Sometimes they are meaningless, but other times they are huge. It’s important to be able to recognize the difference!

  • Hi Robert! One of the rules I’ve broken is the “everything needs to be perfect to move forward” rule. I am now setting deadlines to ship and when the date comes…I ship. I don’t want to let the last 10% of a project keep me from moving forward when I have 90% ready to go. I am now trying to live by the guideline: ship…and adapt.

    • That is a big one that is such a HUGE barrier for so many. Most of the time, “done” is better than “perfect.” We can’t always make the right decision, but we CAN make a decision…and then make it right.

  • Kim Ha Campbell

    Hi Robert D, it’s Kim, I spoke to you 4-5 years ago:) about writing my book…I kept hiring and firing my ghostwriters….and I still don’t have a book:) ….in search of a new ghostwriter and so determined this to get it DONE and that it will be GOOD ENOUGH :) what are your thoughts:) BTW, we were former TR Plats;) and live in Brentwood, TN:) we miss you!!!

    • Hey Kim! If you’re going the ghostwriter route, finding the right person IS critical. Almost as critical as making sure you have the proper vision laid out for what you want the book to be. Have you created a proposal for the book? Even if you’re going to self-publish, writing a proposal is the BEST thing you can do to get clarity on what you want the book to be. It is like rocket fuel for the project.

    • Hey Kim! If you’re going the ghostwriter route, finding the right person IS critical. Almost as critical as making sure you have a firm vision in place for what you want the book to be. Have you created a proposal for the book yet? Even if you plan to self-publish, creating a proposal is the BEST exercise you can do to get clarity on the content. It’s like rocket fuel for your project.

      • Kim Ha Campbell

        Thank you for the reply:) You are still at same place in Franklin where we met last? Not sure what a “book proposal” look like but I have the “vision” and chapters outline…:) perhaps, what resources do you recommend to get a book proposal done?

  • Wow, I’m impressed how you are always trying to learn and not rest on your laurels.

    I love the idea that no matter what you are experiencing someone else has already been there. And there is a good chance someone wrote some wisdom about it down.

  • Nikki

    The Bible, The Greatest Salesman in the World, Evolve or Die, The Top Ten Distinctions between Entrepreneurs and Employees, The Noticer.
    I believe I mastered the art of communicating and then broke the rules through love. I decided that even my worst enemies have something important to say; I found if I show grace and allow people to share whatever is on their heart, eventually, they run out of things to say, so I then have the opportunity to share truth in a spirit of love. My job isn’t to change people; but to love so much that people want to change. It throws a wrench into the monotony of patterned negativity.

    • Love, and simply having a heart, are very important ingredients that are sooooo often never mentioned when discussing business. Thanks, Nikki!

      • Nikki

        I found this lack to be all too evident. Thank YOU, Robert! You’re helping myself and so many to get on & stay on the right track!