10. Rule #6
Peter: Hey Jen.
Jen: Hey Peter.
Peter: You know one of my favorite rules of all, right?
Jen: Rule #6?
Peter: Yes. Thank you for catching what I'm throwing out here.
Jen: Oh my gosh, I am so - I'm impressed. I was not sure if that's where you were going with that.
Peter: I'm impressed too! I'm impressed too. I think it's time - we've recorded enough of these episodes and I'm amazed that I haven't brought up Rule #6 yet, so it's time that we brought it up and discussed it.
Jen: I agree. Let's do it. This is The Long and The Short Of It.
Well, Peter -
Peter: So, Jen - Oh, sorry. No, you go.
Jen: No you go, no you, no you!
Peter: No, you hang up first.
Jen: No, but you. Okay. Peter, before we go any further, I think it's important that you define Rule #6. What is it?
Peter: That's a fair point. So Rule #6 is from the book, The Art of Possibility, which is by Benjamin and Rosamund Zander, one of the best books on creativity, on art performance, anything really creative. It's one of my favorite books, and in it there is this concept described as "Rule #6," and the authors describe Rule #6 in the following way: the two Prime Ministers, which is our version of a president in Australia and in England (in the Commonwealth, we have Prime Ministers) two Prime Ministers are sitting in a room having a conversation, and the door bursts open, and one of the assistants runs in and goes, "Mr. Prime Minister, I've got," I don't know, "Jen on the phone, and she really needs to have a conversation with you. It's urgent." And the prime minister says, "Ah ah ah, remember: Rule #6." And she smiles and nods and says, "Of course," and then leaves. Twenty seconds later, the same thing happens. Bursts in: "They're saying it's really urgent, and now this person is also on the phone, and you really need to come and take this call," she said, and the Prime Minister says, "Ah ah ah, remember Rule #6." And the other prime minister leans over and says, "I've never seen anything quite like this. You have to tell me: what is Rule #6?" And he smiles and says, "Rule #6 is really simple. It is: don't take yourself so goddamn seriously." And the other prime minister says, "Wow, what are the other five rules?" and he says, "There are none. That is the only rule." So that is the definition and the story behind Rule #6.
Jen: I'm laughing because I get it, and don't you think the leader of a nation should take an urgent call?
Peter: I mean, it's a fair point, and I'm not sure how truthful the story is, but it's a useful anecdote in considering how effective something like Rule #6 could be.
Jen: Tell me more. Tell me more.
Peter: Okay. So I love this idea of not taking ourselves too seriously because it's, it's got so many layers to it. Like it's almost like an onion, in that the first layer - like naturally when I think of "Rule #6: don't take yourself too seriously," it's like, okay, be willing to have a sense of humor. Be willing to come at things with a humorous posture and a mindset that is not so literal. So, having the ability to have a laugh at yourself, having the ability to make light of a situation I think is really important and obvious first layer of Rule #6, would you agree?
Peter: But then when you start to unpack it a bit more, you start to see how it can pop up in so many other parts of life and creativity, and you can start to realize that things like perfectionism, or things like fear of what other people think of us, or things like fear that our project, our podcast, our blog, our business isn't good enough, are all examples of us taking ourselves too seriously. And that if we give ourselves permission to not take ourselves too seriously, if we give ourselves permission to ship blogs, podcasts, creative endeavors, businesses, if we give ourselves permission to seek feedback, if we give ourselves permission to be open to generous and generative feedback because we don't take ourselves so seriously, we're not that attached to the outcome. Then we can be more productive, then we can create more, you know, creative and inspiring products, businesses, services, because we're not necessarily attached to this outcome. We're not taking ourselves so seriously that everything needs to be perfect, everything needs to be a hundred percent shiny and polished and finished when we release them into the wild. Is this making sense?
Jen: It makes so much sense. I'm thinking back to previous episodes that we've done on this show, and I'm realizing there's just so many dots to connect here, like what you're describing is a commitment to a "growth mindset," that when you take yourself too seriously, you may be committing to a "fixed mindset." Which then makes me want to link back to this notion that imposter syndrome and dancing with your imposter is also commitment to growth mindset, and so what I'm looking for is how did these two things work together? This idea of Rule #6, and growth mindset, and imposter syndrome. Thoughts?
Peter: I love it. Like, imposter syndrome we've talked about before as being almost a cover for, or closely related to fear: a fear of us being in the wrong place, fear of being found out. And it is, you know, that one frame of looking at that is us taking ourselves so seriously that we're willing to label ourself an imposter, like we're taking ourselves that seriously. But what if we just gave ourselves permission to unattach ourselves from that, and just ship something, or do something and see what happens?
Jen: Ooh, so there's a deep question to be asked here, which is: why do we take ourselves so seriously? And perhaps the answer based on what you just said is what Dr. Michael Gervais calls fo poem, fear of people's opinions - that if we commit to perfectionism and taking everything very seriously, people will hold higher opinions of us.
Peter: I think totally, Jen, I - it promotes generosity, I think, not taking yourself too seriously, like, it removes yourself, you know, from the center, and triggers a generous posture where you might think about a random act of kindness, or you might think about giving someone else a compliment because you're not focused on what other people will think of you. You're not taking yourself so seriously that you're worried about, like you said, fear of other people's opinions.
Jen: So seems like Rule #6 can have universal application if we're willing to lean into the story that you told about someone in a position of ultimate leadership even, being able to employ it. So that's cool. And I also know that "Practice Rule #6" is one of your "Hows" in your own golden circle, so this is something you've actually committed to on the daily in order to fully live your "Why." And for those of you who don't know what we're talking about, we're referencing Simon Sinek's golden circle framework from Start With Why - that "Practice Rule #6" is one of your Hows.
Peter: It is, because of all the things we've talked about, it reminds me to not worry, or try not to worry about other people's opinions. It gives me permission to release work without overthinking it and perfecting it and taking myself so seriously that everything must be perfect and finished and polished. It reminds me to use my sense of humor as a source of connection when I'm working with new people or people that I've worked with in the past in order to collaborate and have fun and build that trust and connection. And it also reminds me that when it all comes down to it, we're all kind of unique and quirky and a little bit weird in our own way, and so a rule that is about being less worried about that, less selfish, less, you know, posturing, where we think we need to perform or act in a certain way because out of nowhere a Prime Minister, or because we're Jen Waldman or we're Pete Shepherd, and instead to embrace our uniqueness, our quirkiness, and our humanity. That is I think why Rule #6 can be so important, and that is why it is one of my Hows. I also just love to laugh and have a sense of humor, which is also why it's one of my Hows.
Jen: I know this to be true about you. Are you familiar with the video of Benjamin Zander coaching the young cellist?
Peter: I think I've seen it, but I cannot for the life of me remember. I've seen a number of videos by Benjamin Zander, but please refresh my memory.
Jen: Oh my goodness. Run to Youtube, friends, do not walk, and look this up. So he's working with a young, very skilled cellist, and when I say young, I can't remember the exact age, maybe thirteen, fourteen, and the cellist is in a very vulnerable position in that Benjamin Zander pulls him up in front of the audience and asks him to play this piece. So - and it's being recorded - so it's just high stakes. Talk about FOPO, fear of other people's opinions, here you've got a room full of people who understand music, you've got the great Benjamin Zander ready to coach you, and it's being preserved for posterity. Yes, FOPO levels are high. And so the kid starts playing, he's very good and he makes a mistake and winces. And so Zander says to him, I'm paraphrasing, but essentially that we have to stop looking at mistakes as mistakes, and instead be curious about them. So from now on, every time you make a mistake, you say, "How interesting." And so the kid plays again, he makes another mistake and he winces, and then Benjamin Zander says, "How interesting," and they repeat this several times so that the permission is there for the kid to learn from his mistakes. And as this happens, he starts playing with more and more and more depth of feeling, and what you realize is that his artistry is growing before your very eyes, because he is less concerned about other people's opinions of his mistakes, and more curious about what they mean and what he can learn from them.
Peter: Yeah. I always thought it was, "how fascinating," but ultimately it's the same thing.
Jen: Oh, whatever it is. I said I was paraphrasing.
Peter: The reason I bring that up is because "how fascinating" is something - I'm just realizing this - that I've also taken from the book The Art of Possibility, and not realize it was from the same book as Rule #6 until just now. And I will say that to myself when I make a mistake, I try and encourage myself to say, "how fascinating," and then move on.
Jen: You're right. It is how fascinating. I just looked it up.
Peter: Oh, you were on a roll, I didn't want to interrupt.
Jen: But you know what? My FOPO level is low because I'm practicing Rule #6 and I'm not going to take it so goddamn seriously.
Peter: And guess what, Jen, how fascinating you made a mistake. Okay, the other thing, just to start to close the loop on Rule #6, which I think we've talked around this and probably talked about it, but it's this line that I actually have written on my whiteboard at the moment, which I think speaks to Rule #6, and that is that "It's not about you." I have this written because when I start to feel myself, you know, going into a place of FOPO, but I'm worried about a podcast episode or I'm worried about a keynote I'm giving, or I'm worried about a workshop I'm running and how it might be perceived and how I might be perceived, I remind myself that it's not about me. It's about serving those that are showing up - there's that word that we always use, or we like to use: "service," "serving." So I think Rule #6, "don't take yourself so goddamn seriously," is saying, "It's not about you; focus on the other. Focus on being generous, focus on serving the other people and not on yourself and taking yourself so seriously."
Jen: Whoa. That is The Long and The Short Of It.