This blog post came about organically, and is the culmination of something like 16 years of work, if you can believe that.
When I was 14, I was given an assignment in school to simply write down my own Ten Commandments—rules about things I thought were important to me personally, and that I would abide by.
I wrote them down and handed them in, but also added them to my journal at the time.
A few of the rules from the original list will appear below, although some have been either changes or omitted – the ones about asking for things, or sleep, and the like are from this list.
Just about decade later, I added a few rules to it, as part of a joke email chain that was being passed around among my friends. Most of the rules pertaining to sex or fashion came about in this addition, and a few of the fitness ones.
Finally, I have made some additions over the past month or so. Here’s how this came to be. I had actually quite forgotten about this list, not having looked at it since I was about 24, but was brought to mind by a book.
Recently, I read The Guinea Pig Diaries by AJ Jacobs, which is essentially a collection of articles chronicling Jacobs’ various lifestyle experiments. These include everything from living a month as a beautiful woman (by controlling his babysitter’s online dating profile) to experimenting with radical honestly. All of the experiments are extremely interesting, but the one about George Washington is most germane to our conversation, and is in fact the inspiration for this post.
Chapter Seven of The Guinea Pig Diaries is called “What Would George Washington Do?” The premise of the experiment was to behave like GW for a month, in every way possible.
You might be wondering, how does one behave like George Washington? Or, more specifically, how does one know how George Washington might behave? Very good questions, with a single specific answer: you just follow the list.
Washington, you see, had a list of 110 rules that governed his behavior, called “Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation.” Washington was not the original author of the rules—they were penned by French Jesuits sometime around 1595—but he did take the time to painstakingly copy the entire list by hand, and followed them as closely as possible for most of his life. (If you’re interested, you can read the entire list here.)
Jacobs’ experiment, then, was to follow these rules as closely as possible, and in essence, do what George would do, and react as George would react.
Upon reading all of these, I decided to pull out my own list of rules, add to it, and see where it went. I have been exceptionally pleased with the results.
I want to share that list with you, and a bit of why I think it has value.
About My Rules for Success (Mild Disclaimer)
Before anything else, I should just point out that in order to make the list feel more real, I have fleshed out a good portion of the rules to give them context and clarify my meaning.
As I mentioned above, some items on the list are quite old, and were added when I was a teenager; they’re a bit obvious and perhaps bland. Other were added when I was in the prime of youthful debauchery; these rules are based on the experiences and worldview of a 24-year old, and so they are a bit over-the-top.
I left in certain rules from both periods that I think I still believe in. In other words, although many of them do not apply to my life now, it’s simply a case of having an entirely different lifestyle, rather than being an entirely different person. For example, Rule 23 has not been applicable to me for quite some time, but in the event it was, I believe I might follow it.
The more recent additions show a lot of the change in what I think about in the day to day. These are the ones about networking, or adding value, and of course quite a few about fitness. Moreover, I think that the biggest difference in the “tone” of the advice or the place it comes from is the direction of application.
What I mean is that a lot of older items are things I applied to myself instinctively, the newer ones come from lessons I’ve learned, both as a person and a coach.
These newer rules, I think, are the ones where I felt were “giving advice” or perhaps writing a rule for other people to follow; the general rules I wish someone had told me when I was 18 that would have saved me a bit of time and a lot of pain. (Although that might have precluded the inclusion of others, which came about as the result of bitter lessons.)
This list gives some insight into who I am and a few of the things that are important to me; however, please consider that I take very few things seriously, so some of the items are largely on there for laughs, and while the fitness stuff is relevant, I don’t know that I could say it’s important in my worldview of personal behavior—it’s just damn good advice.
While I think a huge number of the items here are universally true, I don’t think that this could be ported to another person and be completely applicable. In other words, I’m not making broad suggestions for how everyone should live their respective lives.
These are my rules, for my life; and so I ask you to keep in mind, as you read this, that this list is a set of principles by which I govern my behavior, or try to—and that I am exceedingly and eternally aware of how very imperfect I am.
I know that one or two items might, to some, seem either weird or stupid or vain or petty; that’s fine, because I have at times in my life been all of those things— just hopefully, not all at once.
Now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s get into the list.
Roman’s Rules for Success, Happiness, and an Awesome Life
Never get more than 9 hours of sleep, or less than 3. I believe in adequate rest, but too much sleep wasting time that could be spent on anything from self-edification to world domination.
It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
Stretch your hip flexors. They hate you, and are staging a rebellion against your posture; the only way to quell the uprising is with daily stretches.
Write it down. Your memory is shit.
Get your clothes tailored. A 200-dollar suit that fits well looks better than a 500-dollar suit that doesn’t.
Show love. Never, ever, ever hold back from giving a compliment, as long as it’s sincere. There’s never a bad time to say something nice; get in the habit of doing this. People will love you for it.
Give credit. Don’t steal other people’s shit. If you got an idea from someone else, drop their name and throw them a link. Do this even if it’s not proprietary. Especially in the fitness industry.
On cologne: less is more, if you buy the good stuff. Have a scent for day and night.
[[Roman’s Note: This rule was added when I was 24, and also included “have a scent for each girl you’re dating.” I have no idea what my logic was, but the entire thing was probably as stupid as it sounds. I felt the need to edit this rule because while I still think it’s important to have a few scents, I don’t think one for each person you’re dating is necessary. In any event, now that I’m a one-woman man, I rotate my scents only seasonally, so as not to confuse her.]]
Nobody gives a shit about your SAT score. Or, really, any other accomplishment older than two years. If you feel the need to work this into conversation, you need to become more interesting. (See Rule 34.)
If a girl hasn’t seen Star Wars, don’t bother dating her.
You’re allowed to say no to shit you don’t like. I don’t generally believe in the idea of “obligation.” While there are things you “probably should” do, there is almost nothing you “need” to do. If I don’t like something, I will very rarely agree to do it. I have said “no” to everything you can imagine.For example, I no longer attend holidays with my extended family; I just don’t enjoy it (too much fighting), so I don’t go. Does my family complain? Sure. Do they try to make me feel guilty? Absolutely. Do I cave in? Fuck no.If you don’t like something, take a careful assessment of what going will cost you, and what it can do for you. If there’s no amount of “goodwill” that will make it seem like a good balance, don’t do it.
Do something you hate. Do it every day for 30 days. Then never do it again.
“Don’t criticize an idea unless you’re willing to provide an alternative.” – Momma Roman. If you don’t have a better suggestion, shut the fuck up. [[Roman’s Note: I find this is especially useful for trying to pick a restaurant.]]
Don’t date a woman with another man’s name tattooed on her body. The presence of such a thing implies one of two issues: unfinished business, or a tendency to make irrational decisions. Neither of these is worth dealing with.
Never play cards with a guy who has a city in is nickname. Miami John, the Cincinnati Kid, Texas Dolly—all dudes better to avoid.
Don’t judge what people do in the bedroom. As long as it’s consensual and not with underage kids, make the effort to simply not care where they put their junk, including with what type of people, or how many people, or in what way they do it. Chances are, their porn browsing history is no more fucked up than yours.
Try not to have enemies. But if someone insists on making themselves one, eat their fucking heart.
Sun’s out, guns out.
Use semi-colons; however, use them correctly. Personally, I view the semi-colon to be an indicator of good writing; while this is a gross overstatement strongly influenced by personal bias, I stand by it.
At least once in your life, get absolutely shredded.
Buy the jeans that make your ass look the nicest. This is the only rule that applies for jeans. End of story. Thankfully, it’s not always the expensive ones; Levi’s fit me like a (very tight) glove.
If a girl cheats on you, fuck her sister. Or her best friend. Or her worst enemy. Or all three. Ladies, same applies to you.[[Roman’s Note: Yeah, I’ve done this, and no, I don’t really care how terrible or shallow it makes me seem, because I certainly think it evened us right up.]]
The high five is somewhat outdated. However, we’ll have to continue to use it until a suitable replacement is found.
Train your forearms.
Never tell someone you “don’t own a TV.” That kind of condescending, elitist bullshit makes you look like an asshole. You don’t have to own a TV, or watch it—just don’t say that. Also, be aware what’s on it; having a general understanding of pop-culture is fairly necessary for successful conversation, unless you’re speaking exclusively to other condescending, elitist assholes.
Always be the first to reach for the check. Do this even if the other person invited you out. If they put up a strong fight, let’em have it.
Finding a sports team to hate is as important as finding one to love. And probably more satisfying.
Network Like a FIEND. Tim likes to say, “Your network is your net-worth.” While he’s not wrong, I prefer to say that your network is more like a Dungeons & Dragons adventuring party. In D&D, a balanced party will have characters that can deal with everything from magic to picking locks. In life, you can’t be good at everything—but you can find people who are good at what you’re not. Develop your network so that you can always reach out to experts when you need help—and more importantly, can leverage that network to help others.
Ice cream is the perfect second date food.
A man can never have too many leather jackets. Some make you look dashing, some make you look dangerous. The right leather jacket adds a masculine edge to any outfit, and can be appropriate for most situations.
Try everything.Try every training program and every diet. But when you try them, go full out and commit for the appropriate length; program hopping isn’t a good idea. A complete lack of direction is almost as bad as dogma.I covered this in this video for SuperTraining.TV.
Answer all insults with a smile. Not everyone is going to like you, and some people will be vocal about it. There’s no point giving them the satisfaction of giving a shit.
If someone doesn’t like dogs for a reason other than fear or allergies, I’m simply not interested.
Read as many books as you can. Reading often makes you more interesting, more intelligent, and though I can’t prove this, I suspect a more useful human being. It also makes you a better writer.
There are many things that cannot be taught, but nothing that can’t be learned. I generally advise seeking out experts for coaching; however, there are things that you simply need to learn from experience.
“Wasting” food is not a sin. You don’t need to clean your plate. Eating past the point of being full isn’t going to make starving kids in third world countries any less hungry. If you want to help, make a donation.
Along the same lines, buy your cheat day foods on your cheat day. Throw out whatever you have left over. No need to court disaster.
It’s not the years in your life; it’s the life in your years. Don’t listen to arguments on lifestyle based on longevity. For me, living a life fully of quality years is by far more important than making sure I have a higher total quantity of them. I quantify that quality by feelings of enjoying my food, loving the way I look, and achieving my goals.Perhaps I should have been a rock star instead of a fitness professional, but to be honest, I really don’t give a shit if your method adds 10 years to my life if it makes me small, fat, and weak. I don’t want to live ONE DAY in that condition, let alone an “extra” decade.I’ll continue to keep my weights heavy, my steaks rare, and even enjoy the occasional night out. To quote Neil Young, “it’s better to burn out than fade away.”
Admit your mistakes with honesty and humor. I find that “oh, fuckballs,I’m the worst” is a pretty good entry point for most things.
Get really good at being bad at stuff. I covered this in this video.
Keep 100 bucks stashed away in your car for emergencies. Cause ya nevah know.
Develop a signature toast. I’m experimenting with mine. In the meantime, whenever my friends and I raise our glasses, I intone, “Ours is the Fury.” These are the words of House Baratheon, which I am using as a placeholder until I develop my own.
Don’t trust spell check. I’ve learned this the hard way.
Scared Money Don’t Make Money. This is an old saying that is common in the poker world, which is another way of saying “fortune favors the bold.” In that context, if you aren’t willing to put your money in on a coin flip gamble from time to time, you’re not going to book a big win.In the context of both life and business, I mean that if you’re never willing to take a risk, you have almost no shot of building anything worth mentioning. There are no statues built to those who lived lives of mediocrity, and on the tomb of NO heroes will you find the words, “he played it safe.”
As it turns out, women are right: wearing nice underwear does make you feel better. Here are mine:
Technically, this is a progress pic for my legs. But still. Those are some sweet panties.
Learn how to cook. If you’re approaching 30 and you can’t make a few meals, take the next month and learn. Seriously, time to grow the fuck up it. You should be able to feed yourself. It’s a basic human function. Here’s a cookbook to get you started.[[Roman’s Note: I don’t make this recommendation blindly. You can check out my foray into cooking here.]]
Tip generously outrageously. Not because you have a lot of money, or because of the 1% chance a waitress might give you her number; but because at some point this week, some jerk stiffed her, and it ruined her week. You just fixed it. Karma will be kind.
Floss your teeth for better fitness. I feel that you need to have the basics down before you start in adding things intended for ‘advanced’ reasons. I have friends who don’t floss but go out of their way to use whitening strips or see a dentist for teeth bleaching. This is stupid, to me—if you just took care of your teeth on a daily basis, you’d have to worry a bit less.In the fitness context, people ignore basic nutritional needs, but try crash diets or supplements; they can’t take the time to foam roll, but want the hottest training strategy.If you can’t make a habit of flossing your teeth, you shouldn’t bother with supplements—likely, you don’t have the basics figured out.
Everything in moderation…especially moderation.
Resolve conflicts quickly, privately, and without anger. Throwing a tantrum never did anything for anyone; getting angry and sputtering hurts your cause, anyway. As for privately—in the world of the interwebz, better to resolve things with one person than start slinging mud.
Get really, really good at making introductions. When you introduce two people, use first and last names; then take moment to explain how you know each, and end by giving each a compliment. If it’s a business introduction, make a suggestion on how you think they might help one another. In-person and email intros are important.
Once in your life—and exactly, only once—ball the fuck out. Get bottle service in a club in the Meat Packing District, or a cabana in Vegas. Realize how stupid it was, and don’t do it again. Read about my experience here.
Take the lead. Always suggest days and times to meet, instead of leaving it in the air.
“If you’re gonna write a book, write a fuckin’ book.” – Tim Ferriss. Anything worth doing is worth doing right; go after it and do the absolute best job you can.
When explaining your dietary habits, keep it simple. If you find yourself at a party and you’re 15 minutes into describing the difference between Paleo and Slow Carb, take a breath and stop talking. No one really cares about your endeavor to reset your insulin sensitivity.
Don’t be that guy.
There is no such thing a multi-purpose sock. Athletic socks should be worn with sneakers, and no other shoe. Ever. Dress socks when training is equally unreasonable.
Learn to ask for the things you want. People aren’t mind readers. Whether in a relationship or in business, you are responsible for your success and happiness. No one is going to magically figure out what you want. Ask for it and make a strong case—you’ll be absolutely floored by the response.
Try not to roll your eyes. Hey, I said TRY. Don’t judge me.
Don’t own a lot of things. Except books.
Steak should be served medium rare at most. If you eat a steak medium well, you are not good at eating steak. Check here a blog on why rare steak isn’t bad for you.
Use your sex drive as a general measure of health, as it indicates hormonal balance. Low sex drive is a symptom of everything from depression to low testosterone to over-training. Basically, if you don’t want to get freaky, something is probably wrong.
Don’t kiss on the first date.
End every single conversation by asking, “So, tell me: how can I help you?” Be sincere and mean this. Help however you can. This is the most important rule of all.
Next Steps (Your Turn)
Obviously, I’m going to suggest that you make your own list of rules for success—and you’re likely to simply ignore that suggestion and just treat this piece of writing as a funny blog post. But, I would like you to really do it. Here’s why I think this has value….
Firstly, sitting and taking the time to actually write out what is important to you, and how you think you should behave reveals a few things. The most obvious of these is that you actually have to decide what to include; on other words, really think about your values. I find that just doing that makes you a bit more mindful.
Take a moment and think about the rules you actually follow in your day-to-day life; then think about all the rules you’d like to follow. You might be surprised at the difference in these two lists. Put another way, you might be surprised at the number of rules you’d “like to” live by that you’re breaking every day.
Secondly, writing anything down makes it real—it creates tangibility. I firmly believe that by writing down a list of behaviors you’d like to adopt, or rules you’d like to abide by, you are much more likely to do just that. It creates a concrete system of assessment; a definite lens through which you can filter your view of a situation. Where once there was only an idea, now there is a guiding thought process and a behavior.
Having such a list will make you much more likely to follow the things on it. I know this, because it’s been working for me. In addition to typing it all out as above, I hand wrote all of my rules in my journal (not the descriptions, just the rules).
In the time since did this, I have become exceptionally more aware of them every day, and it’s definitely affecting my behavior. I find myself giving compliments more freely, stretching my hip flexors daily, being more cognizant of my sleep schedule, and even wearing my sexy underwear more often.
Put simply, the result is living life in accordance with the things I think are important—and, by default, I’m living a better life for me.
And I think that’s worth writing a list.
Feeling bold? I’d love to hear one or two of YOUR rules for success; and, of course, I’d be curious for your thoughts on mine!
Let’s get 60 COMMENTS on this, and I’ll be hooking you up with an interview with Tucker Max! (imagine what HIS rules look like!?)
John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.