Stop Looking For Rules. There Aren’t Any.

August 28, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

Two months ago (I’m guessing), I put my email address in my Twitter profile. As a result, I get a lot of email. And I’m not complaining. I enjoy getting to correspond with new friends who either follow me on Twitter or are familiar with the blog. I work out of my apartment most days so, frankly, it’s not like I’m exactly overflowing with social interaction, you know? [waves to her cats, JackJack and Swat]

But I’m noticing a pattern with a lot of the email I receive. They’re from people looking for the “ultimate” way to do something. They want the “rules” for creating a personal brand, developing a power Twitter account, writing a successful blog or for growing a community. [I know. Don’t ask me why they think I have insight on this.] They’ve been suckered into reading stuff like this bullshit touting the 8 Ways To Do X or the Ultimate Handbook For X. They want the secret rulebook and they’re hoping that I’ll be kind enough to give it to them. So they email me.

Problem is, there no secret.

There’s no ultimate handbook. There are no solid rules. For anything. So stop looking for them and focus on creating your own game.

But let’s pretend there was a secret set of rules. Ten things that everyone said you absolutely HAD to do. Would you do them? Would you really? Would you voluntarily follow the exact same template that everyone else was using so that you had zero chance of standing out? If you would, you’re a moron.

As the proverb goes, fortune favors the brave. Not the copycats.

  • Had Henry Ford followed the rules of selling cars, we may have never had mass-produced affordable automobiles.
  • Had Zappos followed the rules of selling shoes, they’d be nothing but a thin affiliate site.
  • Had Chad Hurley and Steven Chen followed the rules for video, we’d have no YouTube and they wouldn’t be millionaires.
  • Had Cirque Du Soleil followed the rules for how to run a circus, they’d still be competing with Ringling Brothers instead of forcing others to compete with them.
  • If Amazon had followed the rules for being a bookstore, they may not have even survived.

And there are a million more examples.

People looking for the rulebook are doing it backwards. If anything you should be looking at who’s following the rules…and then figuring out how you can get your hands dirty and break every single one of them to be better. Why the hell would you choose to stay on the same path that everyone else has already trampled through? Get your hands dirty. Figure out what works, what doesn’t work, what’s fun, what hurts, etc. Then take that and create your own game with your own set of rules.

  • How did I create my mediocre “personal brand”? I didn’t. I was just me.
  • How did I create my “blogging strategy”? I didn’t. I started blogging and over time learned to duck, weave and punch at the right times.

There are no surefire “rules” for replicating anyone else’s success. Nor should there be. You don’t want someone else’s success. You want success on your terms, based on who you are.

You create your own rule book by jumping in and mucking things up. Then, little by little, you feel it out. You get an idea of what works for you, what doesn’t, and you create your own personal strategy. Pretty soon, you learn to smell blood and you’re able to replicate the success time and time again because the strategy becomes ingrained in you. And that’s when you become dangerous.

The “rules” you read about on this blog and elsewhere aren’t rules. They’re suggestions. Take them as such.

Right now, you have the power to create a brand new world in your niche, maybe to even create your own niche. You don’t have to play by their rules. In fact, screw their rules. Create your own game, form your own vocabulary and make others cave to the way you say things should be done.

The best advice anyone can give you is to follow what feels right to you. You may be totally ass backwards in your attempt. But when you fall on your head, you will have learned something about that tool and its capabilities. And you will have learned how to use the tool instead of just mimicking back what other people have told you. Do that consistently and you’ll be a hell of a lot smarter the second and third time. Pretty soon, you won’t even have to think about it anymore. Don’t be the kid who got through high school by memorizing names and dates. Success lies in your ability to master tools and then hack them in ways that work for you. That’s how you become dangerous.

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