There Are No Rules to Getting Ahead

This is the fifth post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.


Lisa sent out a request I was really excited about: “Write a post about breaking rules to get ahead.” Oh yeah, since it is for Women of HR, it would be good if the rules were ones that women should break.

I thought “Fantastic, I am a female CEO in technology and HR.  I should be able to come up with a bunch of those.”

I am stuck!  Not just a little stuck, I am stuck a lot.  I have been pondering this post for at least a month.  I have put time on my calendar to work on it.  I can’t come up with a single rule, real or imagined, that has gotten in the way of my moving ahead.

The economy? Yes, that has been a barrier a few times in my life.  Competition? Only occasionally have they gotten in my way.  They mostly just annoy me and shock me.  Slow growth? Rocket growth? Yes, these have both gotten in the way of doing some things successfully.

But I can’t find any rules.

I thought I had completely failed to be of any help on a blog post that I thought surely I could share some wisdom to help others get ahead.  I was going to quit and tell Lisa I failed her – then I realized the pearl I have to give.

Those of us that do big things don’t let rules get in our way. 

We realize there are no rules to getting ahead.  Those rules are a fallacy.  There are barriers and there are difficulties, but just like there is no pixie dust that will make you successful, there are no rules that prevent you from doing good things that will make you successful.

Knock that rules concept out of your head and you will find that progress is much easier.  Every one of you has achieved something big or had accomplishments you are proud of.  When you look back at the path to those achievements, I bet you can’t come up with a single rule you had to break.  They were not there messing with your mind.  That is how you succeeded.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Lois Melbourne

Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children's books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.


Lyn Hoyt

Lois, Dorothy – I need to have the words “flexible” tattooed on my body somewhere! There are always exceptions. Funny, Louis and I have the same “rule”. We try to only travel a few times a year, and only once together. Loved the salad days of trade show booths and kids in strollers when we all could go and my husband and I would tag team the booth and exploring cities with kids. Thanks for reminding me to forgive myself and embrace the grey. No black and white options when personal and business blur. I also must to remember this when my employees struggle with personal obligations and the need for flexibility. I await the next change in my business, the next age and stage of my children. There is no constant.

Lyn Hoyt

I will say this series and the manifesto has really given me some food for thought. And I totally know what to do. I have a vision. And some rules I can break easily because I own my company. Lois, you and I have talked about this. Made ever more complicated by having a husband/ business partner. But, I am unsure my family can deal with the time commitment it will take to go to the next level. I put them first. I contemplate this as I sit with my laptop at the kitchen table. Home with kids on holiday break, wanting to make cookies. But, I have a lunch meeting and production deadlines. All will be accomplished with minimal disruption to my family. There are more than corporate rules to break, there are family rules.

Lois Melbourne

Some might find my response splitting hairs, but I look at the family component and many other restrictions as expectations not rules. An example is that Ross and I don’t travel away from our son more than a couple times a year, if that. It is not a rule, but it is the expectation that we have set for ourselves and it has worked really well.

When I think of a rule it is more of a black/white; follow/break; right/wrong perspective. When you are dealing with family, careers, running a business, etc. there is not a preset formular that works. You have to create expectations adapt and do the best you can. Thus following rules won’t get you there because there is no receipe you can follow for success. On the flip side, this gives us freedom too.

Forgive yourself and enjoy the fact that you are in a position that while you are working you hear their voices. Cookies can be baked this evening, I bet :-).

Dorothy Douglass

It seems so illogical for HR-types to advocate to “not let rules get in our way.” And yet, you are exactly right. We need to be flexible, adaptable, and most of all nimble and sure-footed, to find success in our world. We have to use common sense and logic and be okay with asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Otherwise, we will always be stuck “in the box.”


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