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Introduction to The Rules of Life: A Personal Code for Living a Better, Happier, More Successful Life

Richard Templar explains that if we follow a few basic "Rules of Life," we tend to get more done, shrug off adversity more easily, get more out of life, and spread a little happiness around us as we go.
This chapter is from the book


For reasons that are too long and complicated to go into here, I had to live with my grandparents for a couple of years when I was very young. They, like many of their generation, were hard-working, contented sort of people. My grandfather had taken early retirement owing to an industrial accident (a truck-load of bricks fell on his foot) and my grandmother worked in a large department store in London. Having me dumped unexpectedly on her for a while obviously caused logistical problems. I was too young for school, and my grandfather wasn't to be trusted to look after me at home. (Men didn't look after children in those days…my, how things have changed.) Her solution was to tuck me under her wing—on some days physically as well as metaphorically, as she smuggled me past managers and supervisors—and we went to work together.

Now going to work with "Nan" was fun. I was expected to keep quiet and still for long periods and, as I didn't know any different, assumed this was normal. I found that by watching customers—often from my safe refuge under a huge desk—I could pass the time quite happily. Thus was born an immense appetite for people-watching.

My mother—later I went back to live with her—said it would never get me anywhere. I'm not so sure. You see, early in my career, observation of those around showed that there were a distinct set of behaviors that got people promoted. If there were two women of equal ability, for example, and one dressed, thought, and behaved as if she had already been promoted, she would be the one who got the next available job at that next level. Putting these behaviors into practice gave me a fast track up the career ladder. These "rules" formed the basis of my book Rules of Work, now a bestseller in its field.

Just as you can identify behaviors that make some people glide effortlessly onward and upward at work, so you can in life. Observing life in general, people very broadly seem to fall into two main camps: those who seem to have mastered the knack of successful living, and those who still find it all a bit of a struggle. And when I say successfully mastered it, I don't mean by amassing wealth or being at the top in some stressful career. No, I mean mastered it in the old-fashioned sense that my hard-working grandparents would have understood. People who are content, mostly happy on a day-to-day basis, and in general healthy and getting more out of life. Those who are still struggling tend to be not so happy on the whole, and the enjoyment of life just isn't what it should be.

So what's the secret? The answer comes down to a simple choice. We can all choose to do certain things every day of our lives. Some things we do will make us unhappy, and some things we choose to do will make us happier. By observing people, I have reasoned that if we follow a few basic "Rules of Life," we tend to get more done, shrug off adversity more easily, get more out of life, and spread a little happiness around us as we go. People who play by the Rules seem to bring their luck with them, light up a room when they enter, have more enthusiasm for life, and cope better.

So what follows are my Rules of Life. They aren't set in stone, and they aren't secret or difficult. And they are based entirely on my observations of happy and successful people. I have noticed that those who are happy are those who follow most of them. Those who seem miserable are the ones who don't follow them. And the successful ones often don't even realize this is what they are doing—they are natural Rules Players. Whereas the less instinctive ones often feel something is missing and spend their entire life looking for something—often themselves—that will miraculously give their life meaning or fill some empty void within them. But the answer lies much closer to home—simple changes in behavior are all that is required.

Can it really be that easy? No, of course not. To live by the Rules is never easy. If it was, we would all have stumbled on this a long time ago. It has to be hard to make it worthwhile. But, and this is the beauty of the Rules, they are all individually simple and attainable. You can aim high and go for them all or take one or two and start there. Me? No, I never get it all right, ever. I fall by the wayside as often as anyone else, but I do know what to do to get back up again. I know what I have to do to make my life make sense again.

By watching people, I came to realize that all of these Rules of Life are sensible. Personally I love the sort of advice that begins, "Go quietly…," but I'm not sure how I'm supposed to do that. However, a bit of advice such as, "Polish your shoes before you go out" makes more sense to me because that is something I can do and, more importantly, in which I can immediately see the logic. Incidentally, I still feel polished shoes make a better impression than scruffy ones.

You won't actually find shoe polishing here, nor will you find anything inspirational and New Age, which doesn't mean those things don't count. It's just that I feel it is better to have realistic things we can do rather than uplifting clichés that may well be true—time is a great healer, for example, and love does conquer all—but when you want things to do, clichés don't hit the button as far as I'm concerned.

What you will find here is good old-fashioned common sense. There is nothing here you don't already know. This book isn't a revelation; it's a reminder. It reminds you that the Rules of Life are universal, obvious, simple. Do them. They work.

But what about those who don't do them and still seem successful? Well, I'm sure we all know people who have acquired great wealth and who are ruthless, unpleasant, dictatorial, and sail morally pretty close to the wind. And if that is what you want, it is attainable. But I'm assuming you want to be able to sleep nights, live with yourself, and be a thoroughly nice person. And the beauty of all this is it is entirely down to personal choice. We all choose every day whether we are on the side of the angels or the beasts. The Rules of Life help you choose to be on the side of the angels, but it's not compulsory. Personally, when I go to sleep at night, I like to do a quick recap of my day and then, hopefully, I can say to myself, "Yep, good day, did OK," and feel proud of what I've achieved, rather than feeling regretful and dissatisfied with my actions and life. I like to go to sleep feeling I've made a difference, been kind to people rather than hurting them, spread a little happiness, had some fun and generally got nearer to 10 than 1 out of 10 for good behavior.

The Rules of Life aren't about making lots of money and being incredibly successful. (You might need to read The Rules of Work for that.) It is quite simply about how you feel inside, how you affect people around you, what sort of a friend, partner, and parent you are, what sort of impact you make on the world, and what sort of impression you leave in your wake.

I regard my books, sometimes, a little like children. I pat them on the head, wipe their nose, and send them out into the world. I like to know how they've been received. So if The Rules of Life makes a difference to you, or you have a Rule or two of your own that I've missed, I'm always interested in hearing from you. You can email me at Richard.Templar@RichardTemplar.co.uk.

Richard Templar

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