I’m not a big fan of rules. Not really.
A few rules are okay. The fewer the better, as I see it.
Some are necessary, it seems. But the nature of authoritative structures with the power to make and enforce rules tends to cause those with the jurisdiction to make rules to keep making more. What starts out as a pamphlet turns into a voluminous volume of increasingly indecipherable gibberish.
This represents a real challenge for me because although I have a distaste for rules, I also believe in doing my very best to follow the rules. Especially when the interest of public safety comes into play.
Good rules should be clearly understandable, easily implemented, pertinent to the task at hand, and effective. That’s all. There’s no need to try to solve all the world’s problems by writing up an ever-longer list of rules. That just doesn’t work.
In my own life, at home where my wife and I raised our children, we have only three rules. Two rules and a humorous guideline, really. Short, easy to remember, truly important protocols for getting through life.
Rule Number 1: No lying.
This rule was broken a lot when the kids were small. Like most parents I heard cute little kids swearing “I didn’t do it,” even when it was obvious they had absolutely done it.
But it’s important to learn young that your integrity is irreplaceable. Once lost, it’s gone, never to be fully restored.
And while there is a good chuckle to be had while a kid with chocolate smeared all over her adorable little head tells you she hasn’t been into the candy bin, it matters that she learns the act of lying risks paying a far heavier price than whatever might be owed for her transgression.
Rule Number 2: No piñatas
This might seem like a frivolous one, but I’m not kidding. We don’t do piñatas. These colorful little papier-mâché mayhem makers might appear to be the basis for a festive party, but in my experience they’re more often a precursor to injury, lots of screaming, and enough tears to ruin any party.
Over the Easter weekend this year I was reminded of how basic and essential this rule is.
While attending an Easter Egg Hunt in the courtyard of a very expensive housing unit in Manhattan, a dreaded piñata appeared. The adults were smug in their enjoyment of the moment. The kids were slightly confused, but interested since they’d heard the word “candy” bandied about liberally and would have gladly run into traffic to get another handful if they weren’t physically restrained.
As expected, the piñata went up, the stick was swung, and within a matter of minutes a baby was crying, parents were fretting, fingers were pointed, and blame was deflected. A perfectly good Sunday morning was ruined.
Seriously, a bowl of candy flung onto the ground would have been equally exciting for the kids, and nobody gets hurt – imminent tooth decay notwithstanding.
Rule Number 3: No heroin in the living room.
This rule can only be carried off with a smirk and a wink, but it’s a good one that my now adult kids remember distinctly. As my wife and I would head for the door to enjoy a rare night out without the encumbrance of kids, I’d turn to my children and say in my sternest voice, “Remember, no heroin in the living room. I’m not kidding.”
That’s when the smirk and the wink comes in.
It’s a good rule because of its simplicity and wide arc of influence. It’s essentially an over-the-top, hyperbolic way of saying “Behave yourself.” Importantly, it doesn’t include any finger wagging, raised voices, or threats of reprisal. Maybe that’s why it worked so well. We never came home to a disheveled space, broken furniture, or experimental artwork on the walls.
In my work life, there are a considerable number of rules. Not as many as most people think, but still, there are a lot of them.
In a perfect world the rule book for any endeavor would be quite short.
Rule Number 1: Be safe.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in real life. What Steve thinks is perfectly safe, Brian finds horribly risky. An activity Amy considers benign is the same activity Heather classifies as life-threatening.
Simply saying, “Be safe,” is insufficient. The rulebook is incomplete.
Yet those two words kick it off with a noble start. Establishing “Be safe” as a theme is a critical component of the overall work. And as anyone who has read through 14 CFR 91 can tell you, every rule therein ultimately comes down to those two words: Be safe.
A disquieting number of those rules have come about because of the tendency humans have to err. For example, 91.151 details the fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions.
Certainly “Be Safe” would imply that carrying just enough fuel to get to your destination is slightly less fuel than you actually need to make that flight. But reality has stepped in numerous times to show that on an individual basis, some of us aren’t conservative enough in our planning, or liberal enough at the fuel pump to actually carry slightly more fuel than we absolutely need. So, a rule is born.
Ugh. We did it to ourselves. Again.
I sincerely hope that one day, the entire rulebook for every aspect of our lives will boil down to three brief entries:
- Be safe.
- Be kind.
- Be respectful of others.
To be honest, I can’t think of a single pursuit that wouldn’t benefit from a strict self-administered adherence to these three rules. And I can’t find much in 14 CFR Part 91 that doesn’t pertain to them in some way.
Simple, clear, and brief. I can dream, can’t I?