We (privileged educated lazy millennials) hate rules. They stifle our creativity. They make you work within bounds. They restrict you from reaching full potential.
These have often been my thoughts. I’ve been a pretty rebellious kid, and even a student – my inner hipster never wanting to follow a path with guidelines. Recent introspection though, is changing this mindset of mine. I’ve been trying to shape habits. I’ve been trying to be more disciplined. I’ve been trying to understanding how businesses work, how employee rules actually make sense. Truth is, I shouldn’t even be alive if not for rules.
I haven’t told you before, but I used to build racecars in college. ATV racecars to be precise – for a dirt track racing competition that happens every year around the world called SAE Baja. After the ATV’s were used for the race, my buddies and I often used to ride them in the university campus, in the desert, and the barren hills around.
A note for this story : the cars had a roll-cage (to protect the chassis crushing the driver, or the drivers head if the car rolls, provided he’s strapped in) but otherwise they were open at the top (see image above).
On one hot summer evening, I roped in a couple of my buddies to take the car for a ride in the fields. Carefree as we were, we decided to forego the safety harness, the helmets et al because it was so hot. We were pretty pumped up that day I remember, we were drifting all over the terrain. It was my turn to ride and I started with a nice run up leading to a drift on tarmac. The car was fast. I turned hard to drift. My steering bumped. Something was wrong? Something was wrong! Shit. I looked down and saw the sky. The earth again. The sky. My car had toppled and rolled. The second that seemed like an hour ended. I was unhurt. I was alive.
I was safe not just because of luck, but because of engineering. As a mandatory rule, all ATV’s in the competition were required to have bucket seats. These seats hold you down from the shoulders and bury you in. It is because of them that my head did not fall out of the roll cage when the car was upside down and this saved me from getting de-brained on the tarmac! I remember the conversation where we wanted to install regular seats in the car because they were cheaper. We had to ultimately go for the bucket seats because the rulebook said so. The rulebook saved my life. Rules work.
Rules are meant to compress centuries of empirical knowledge into instructions. More often than not, you will not experience all this knowledge in your life time, but need some way to getting by. Hence, you need rules. Rules are like the libraries that a development API relies on. Rules are the brush and clone stamp tools in Photoshop. Rules are a collection of past knowledge set aside for the future. Rules don’t kill you through KFC buckets, they save you through bucket seats.
Men and women. Don’t be stupid. Follow rules. Or laws. For the universe is weaved through their power (see Isaac Newton and his laws of physics). The only work you have is to understand whose rules to follow. The bucket seat rule making body, the Society of Automotive Engineers is a prudent organization which looks into driver safety. Their practicality and concern for your safety warrants that you follow their rules. On the other hand, you’ve got bodies like the North Korean government, whose laws don’t really make much sense, and they definitely don’t bolster the society’s safety levels. You may not want to follow their rules. You guys are smart. You’ll know what rules to follow anyway. All I’m trying to say is that it is okay to follow someone else’s lead who’s just trying to help you. Let’s not resist all the time.