The Rules of Society You Need to Break To Be Successful

Most of us don't build wealth by obeying the rules of society. Successful people break them.

I'm not talking about breaking the law. I mean breaking the unwritten expectations that society places on us throughout our lives and career. These rules stunt our progress because they trap us into taking the slow road or letting other people take advantage of our kindness.

If you want to be successful, you need to break these unwritten rules.

9 Rules You Need to Break

1. Never Be Selfish.

Break it: Every airline already knows this. Before every flight, they remind us to put our oxygen masks on first, then our neighbor's. We won't be any help if we fall unconscious because we opt to help someone else first.

Taking care of yourself first (this includes health, money, and self-care) puts you in a better position to help others.

I call this healthy selfishness.

2. Follow Your Passion.

Break it: Our passions don't pay the bills like our strengths.

Passions are typically more creative. Strengths are more analytical and valuable. For instance, your passion might be photography or painting, but your strength is tracking and organizing numbers. You'll probably make more money being an accountant than a photographer or painter. Accounting is a highly marketable skill.

Follow your strengths. Leave your passions for the weekend after earning a much bigger paycheck.

3. Wait Your Turn.

Break it: This was a great lesson when we were 10-year-olds. But waiting our turn is terrible advice when we are adults.

The truth is building wealth and being successful isn't a single-file line. Instead, it's a crowd of people finding that “secret passage.” We are all scrambling and doing our best to make our own way in this life. You cannot wait for other people to find their way before making your own. You need to own it.

Don't wait your turn. Step up because it's *always* your turn.

4. Control Your Time by Saying “No.”

Break it: Say yes to almost everything, then double down on what works. Then, say no to everything else. This philosophy keeps us trying new things and learning what works and doesn't. It's a critical step toward finding success in life.

Yes = growth.

No = missed opportunities.

My advice: Try ten things. Say yes to the one or two that work best.

5. Never Deviate From the Plan.

Break it: Plans are meant to be broken.

If blindly followed, plans are a net negative. Life doesn't care about your plans. It doesn't give a hoot what you want or believe. And we need to be prepared to pivot if our plans don't work out. It doesn't mean we failed. It just means life happened.

When you need to pivot, don't hesitate. It's okay to switch things up.

6. Hustle 24×7 To Get Rich.

Break it: Hustle during the day, and relax in the evening. Burnout won't help us achieve goals.

Netflix is okay. Sports are okay. Sitcoms are fine. It's true that watching television all day is generally an unproductive use of our time. However, using television, Netflix, or movies to unwind helps us to refill our tank with energy to start the next day with drive and determination.

Use them to unwind. But don't let television overtake your life.

7. Strike *Only* When the Time Is Right.

Break it: Just strike. We're not fighting a war here. Waiting for the right time means we'll be waiting forever. We always find a reason to wait, don't we?

Want to:

  • start a business?
  • take a trip to Europe?
  • begin a fitness program?

Your time is now.

Most of us have heard the phrase: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

8. Don't Rock the Boat.

Break it: I spent a career rocking the boat. It got me opportunities I would never have gotten.

The key is to be professional, not a jerk. Rocking the boat isn't about being an ass. It's about being a trendsetter and changing course. And speaking up when something doesn't seem right or if your ethics are being compromised.

If something isn't right, say so. Doing this calmly and professionally will get you further than remaining quiet and in the back of the room your whole career.

9. Never Get In Over Your Head.

Break it: I will remember one Friday afternoon at work for the rest of my life. I got pulled into a meeting. I thought I was being fired. On the contrary, I got promoted up two layers of management in a single day. I had no idea what I was doing.

I wanted to say no. I had never held a leadership position before. I wasn't ready for this.

But I said yes anyway, determined to figure it out as I went. That decision ushered in a new *high paying* career trajectory because I got in over my head.

Get in over your head, then figure it out as you go.

This article was produced by and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.