As an observer of humans for over half a century, I’ve come to realize that there are certain rules and ideas that make life easier to manage. I’ve come to call these John’s Rules of the Universe. For years I have thrown these into conversation to help people understand why they’re unhappy, or why I’m unhappy, or how things really do make sense, or how they really don’t. I use the same rules over and over, but after the first one, I started making up the number. Recently, my manager started writing down the ones she liked, but that just put pressure on me to keep the numbering straight.
Here’s the full list. Sometimes I swap #2 and #3 (usually based on my mood), and the order of #6 thru #9 changes as needed. #1 was a very important lesson from my mother. #6 has been with me since college. #2, #4, #5, #7 and #9 were inspired by IBM. #3 and #8 were inspired during my post-layoff wandering in the desert. #10 has been around for a while, but I only got the wording right in the last couple years. #11 was one of the great lessons from my stroke. And #12 is my response to people who demand my approval without bothering to find out what I approve of.
- Don’t pick at it, it’ll get infected.
- The best way to get others to do what you want is to get them to want it too.
- If something is unacceptable, don’t accept it.
- Never give up what you need to get what you want. Always give up what you want to get what you need.
- If you’re not willing to play the game, don’t be upset when you don’t win.
- Never kick a man when he’s down unless you’re the one who kicked him down in the first place.
- Only change things to make them better. Never change things because you’re bored.
- Unhappiness is the difference between what you want and what is. Pick the smaller one and change it.
- Happiness is not a destination. Happiness is a mode of travel.
- Benefit of the doubt requires doubt.
- If other people can’t laugh at your misfortunes, why bother having misfortunes in the first place?
- Respect is not an entitlement. Respect is a reward for good behavior.