Flat-Ass Rules

One of my favorite challenges I did last year was the Daily Stoic Alive Challenge, and I am sharing one of the exercises included in this two-week challenge with you as this week’s challenge or exercise. Below is what resonated with me most for this exercise, and I hope it inspires for you what it did for me.

“Jim Mattis, the retired USMC general who famously took Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations with him on campaign, is also someone who appreciates the importance of having good principles, and adhering to them. In the opening chapter of his book Call Sign Chaos: Learning To Lead, Mattis talks about the fundamental lessons he learned in his early years as a Marine. In particular, he writes:

Know what you will stand for and, more important, what you won’t stand for… State your flat-ass rules and stick to them.

This week, your challenge is to answer that question: What are your flat-ass rules? Create five rules based on what you’ve learned throughout your life.

Mattis talks about how it’s the explicitness that is so valuable. Do this, don’t do that. Draw the bottom line. It removes uncertainty. It clears out the ambiguity that leads to decision fatigue. Draw your line.

This challenge isn’t just brainstorming. It’s not about contemplation. It’s about composition. Write them down. Then put them in a display befitting their importance. Frame your rules and hang them on your bedroom wall or put them on your desk—a place where you’ll see them every day so you can always heed them and never run away from them.

Epictetus said:

When the standards have been set, things are tested and weighed…And the work of a truly good person is in using those standards when they know them.

Get yours down on paper. Put them somewhere you can look at them and recommit. State your flat-ass rules. And stick to them!”

Have a great week reflecting on this and writing down your rules. I created my “rules” before this challenge, but I never thought of them as rules per se, nor had I considered the other aspect that this challenge made me do: write down “what I won’t stand for”. This part was more challenging than expected.

Overall, putting my “flat ass rules” down on paper was one of the most difficult but most gratifying exercises I’ve done in awhile. To put my principles into “rules” and to see/read them everyday; it truly made it very concrete for me. It provided clarity and it was liberating! Who knew writing down rules could do that!?! It gave me a way forward when I had no idea what to do. And it gave me a sense of self-worth, despite how difficult the decision was, I knew I was doing the RIGHT thing.

If you are ever looking for a good self-improving challenge, I highly recommend this two-week Alive Challenge. Sign up for it at https://store.dailystoic.com/products/daily-stoic-alive-time-challenge.

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