This post was originally published on Rodale Wellness.
As you get on the path to the extraordinary, you must remember that within the culturescape there are no sacred cows that cannot be questioned. Our politics, our education and work models, our traditions and culture, and even our religions all contain Brules (bullshit rules) that are best discarded.
Below are some common Brules we live by, often without even realizing it, and some different ways I’ve come to think about them. They’re among the biggest Brules I challenged. Escaping them shifted my life forward in dramatic ways. These are the four areas in which I decided to eliminate a Brule from my worldview: the college Brule, the loyalty to our culture Brule, the religion Brule, and the hard work Brule.
As you read this, ask yourself if you might be held back by any of these Brules:
1. We should get a college degree to guarantee our success
In addition to saddling many young people with massive debt for decades, studies have shown that a college education really doesn’t guarantee success. And does a college degree guarantee high performance on the job? Not necessarily. Times are changing fast.
I’ve personally interviewed and hired more than 1,000 people for my companies over the years, and I’ve simply stopped looking at college grades or even at the college an applicant graduated from. I’ve simply found them to have no correlation with an employee’s success.
College degrees as a path to a successful career may thus be nothing more than a mass societal Brule that’s fading away quickly.
This is not to say that going to college is unnecessary — my life at college was one of the best memories and growth experiences I’ve ever had. But little of that had to do with my actual degree or what I was studying.
2. We should marry within our religion or ethnicity
I come from a very small minority ethnicity from western India. My culture is called Sindhi. The Sindhis left India after 1947 and are living as a diaspora; that is, scattered all over the world. Like many cultures that live as a diaspora, there’s a firm desire to protect and preserve the culture and the tradition.
As part of that, in my culture, it is considered absolutely taboo to marry anyone outside our ethnicity — not even another Indian. So you can imagine how shocked my family was when I told them I wanted to marry my then-girlfriend, Kristina (now my wife), who is Estonian.
I remember well-meaning relatives asking me, “Do you really want to do this? . . . Your children are going to be so confused! . . . Why would you disappoint your family like this?”
At first I feared following my heart because I felt I would cause great disappointment for those I loved.
But I realized that with a huge life decision such as this, I shouldn’t do something to make someone else happy that would make me so unhappy. I wanted to be with Kristina. So I married her.
I rejected the Brule, so common in my generation, that we should marry only people of our ethnicity, religion, and race as it was the safest way to happiness and the “right” thing to do for the family or creed. Kristina and I have been together for sixteen years, married for thirteen.
Our two kids, far from being “confused,” are learning multiple languages and happily becoming citizens of the world (my son, Hayden, had traveled to eighteen countries by the time he was eighteen months old). My children participate in Russian Orthodox, Lutheran, and Hindu traditions with their grandparents.
But they aren’t limited to any one religion. They get to experience all the beauty of human religions without being locked into any one path.
Which brings us to the next big Brule.
3. We should adhere to a single religion
Okay, here’s a touchy question. Do we really need religion? Can spirituality exist without religious dogma? These are only a few of the questions being asked about religion today. Right alongside a rise in fundamentalism, we’re seeing a rise in questioning of the fundamentals.
The core of a religion may be beautiful spiritual ideas. But wrapped around them are usually centuries of outdated Brules that few bother to question.
A better alternative, in my opinion, is not to subscribe to one religion but to pick and choose beliefs from the entire pantheon of global religions and spiritual practices.
Choose a religion if it gives you meaning and satisfaction, but know that you don’t have to accept all aspects of your religion to fit in. You can believe in Jesus and not believe in hell. You can be Jewish and enjoy a ham sandwich. Don’t get trapped in preset, strict definitions of one singular path, thinking you must accept all of a particular tribe’s beliefs.
Your spirituality should be discovered, not inherited.
4. We must work hard to be successful
This may start as a worthy idea and morph into a tyrannical Brule. Parents want to encourage their kids to stick with challenges, work toward goals, and not give up. But that can get twisted into a Brule: If you aren’t working hard all the time, you’re lazy and won’t be successful.
In my life I’ve always made a conscious choice to work in fields where I love what I do so much that it ceases to feel like work.
When you love what you do, life seems so much more beautiful — in fact, the very idea of “work” dissolves. Instead, it feels more like a challenge, a mission, or a game you play.
I encourage everyone to try to move toward work that feels this way. It does not make any sense to spend the majority of our waking hours at work, to earn a living, so we can continue living a life where we spend the majority of our waking hours at work. It’s a human hamster wheel.
Therefore, always seek work that you love. Any other way of living misses the point of life itself. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s doable.
Adapted from The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
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