My Rules

Introduction to My Rules
When I began this vagabond lifestyle of mine, I knew that I would come to find myself in a lot of ways. As I grew into the lifestyle, I began forming a lot of ideas of how to make it successful. As these ideas evolved, they started forming a set of rules. Eventually, I began writing them down, and even numbered them.

1. Right Now is more important.

For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. – Viktor E Frankl

The heart of this rule is to always be in the moment. Tomorrow does not matter, and yesterday is gone. Even each individual moment in the day, the one being experienced Right Now is more important than any of the rest.

2. Seek the beauty in everything.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” – Rainer Maria Milke

 On the surface, saying such a thing as “Seek the beauty in everything” seems cheesy, and somewhat not so difficult. The truth is: it is more difficult than it seems. In the worst moments of life, there is a grand beauty to the bad sides, and this rule calls to seek that even in those times. It also calls to seek the beauty in surroundings and in others, regardless of preexisting bias and preferences.

3. There is a time and place for everything.

“There is a time for everything, … a time to kill and a time to heal, … a time to weep and a time to laugh, … a time to search and a time to give up, … a time to love and a time to hate” – King Solomon of Israel

This is one of my rules that I would feel all of my rules would be incomplete without. Each rule has its time and place, and each rule has a time and place in which it does not belong and should be broken. Expanding even further, however, this goes for more-or-less everything in life: everything has a time and place in which it belongs and a time and place in which it does not belong. This rule calls to consider each time and place and learn the wisdom to know what belongs when and where.

4. Always expect the worst and always hope for the best.

“I’m beginning to think that to hope isn’t the same as to expect something. To hope is to believe that life is an acceptable chaos.” – Goenawan Mohamad

“I smile at every circumstance that comes my way because I don’t expected life to be an easy journey.” – Edmond Mbiaka

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I hold that to be true, but I also hold the contrary to be true: anything that can go right, will go right. This rule calls for preparation for the Murphy’s Law, while also calling for maintaining a positive mindset in hope of things going right. In that, this rule is one of the cornerstone rules following a similar theme of my rules: taking responsibility for your life.

5. Laugh At Yourself

“You grow up the day you have the first real laugh at yourself.” – Ethel Barrymore

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” – Alan Alda

What’s the point of things without a good sense of humor? Why make my list of rules, if I can’t laugh at how ridiculous that is? A life taken too seriously is a terribly boring affair. So, I made a rule to remind myself to step back and laugh at the stupid and/or silly things I do on a frequent basis. A reminder to laugh at myself, instead of doubting myself.

6. Never stop changing.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

“If you want to be a new man you have to stay in new places, and do new things, with people who never knew you before. If you go back to the same old ways, what else can you be but the same old person?” – Joe Ambercrombie

How does one expand on the point made by Winston Churchill? This quote alone sums up my Rule #6, “Never Stop Changing.” It’s difficult to even think of what I could possibly add. I’ve spent weeks, now, researching quotes and what people have to say. Turns out, a lot of people have a lot to say about change. Yet Winston Churchill still stands as the one to make one quote summing all of it up.

7. Be radically self-reliant.

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.” – Janis Joplin

I must confess that I stole this philosophy straight out of Burning Man’s 10 principles. I like their wording, and I like the meaning behind it. It also serves as something of an obvious philosophy for me to hold in this vagabond lifestyle of mine, although I really do think that it expands beyond those obvious points as well.

8. Always be a survivor, never a victim.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor E Frankl

“Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it.” – Robertson Davies

This rule: this rule is my most treasured rule. It is simple, but expands into everything in life. It is such an invasive philosophy that there is really nowhere that it cannot be applied. It makes up a part of my very identity, even. Yet, despite such an invasive role in my life, it is one I still find particularly difficult at times as well.

9. Always listen actively.

“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” – Alan Alda

“If for a moment you are inclined to regard these taluses as mere draggled, chaotic dumps, climb to the top of one of them, and run down without any haggling, puttering hesitation, boldly jumping from boulder to boulder with even speed. You will then find your feet playing a tune, and quickly discover the music and poetry of these magnificent rock piles — a fine lesson; and all Nature’s wildness tells the same story — the shocks and outbursts of earthquakes, volcanoes, geysers, roaring, thundering waves and floods, the silent uprush of sap in plants, storms of every sort — each and all are the orderly beauty-making love-beats of Nature’s heart.” – John Muir

This rule might seem obvious, but the challenge would be to take it deeper. Actively listen not only to others in conversation, but to the animals and plants in nature. To the rocks and streams. To the wind and rain, and the sun and the stars. To the spiritual centers of the universe and God. Listening actively is not shutting up, but rather partaking in deep, heartfelt conversation. Responding and seeking to understand and empathize.

10. No rule is absolute.

“Nature provides exceptions to every rule.”  – Margaret Fuller

“FREEDOM!” – ‘William Wallace’

This rule is really at the heart of this entire philosophical and spiritual bullshit that is my rules. All of my rules are useless without this one. In one simple line, it describes the freedom that all of my rules are actually about, while also giving a call to wisdom and a warning of responsibility. Every rule has an exception, and every rule has a time and place to be bent and broken.

11. Always maintain an adventure mindset.

“Funneling the intense energy of insanity and uniting it with the sound coolness of rational decision making creates a potent force in emergency scenarios. Condensing this potency can best be summed up in one simple statement: the clarion call ‘Party On!'” – Cody Lundin

“If you are scared, you will die.” – Richard Van Pham

This is another rule I consider absolutely important for survival. It builds on and provides a base for many of my other rules, and can be expanded in many ways. The essence here can be captured in Cody Lundin’s “Party On!” Other more common takes include keeping a positive attitude, being a survivor (see my rule 8), and similar thinking, all in the face of the terrible, unfortunate things that will continue to happen in whatever it is you are partaking.

12. Embrace the unknown.

“People don’t want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. Their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.” – Chuck Palahniuk

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There is this common thing I hear some times about people fearing the unknown. This rule calls to put such fears behind and embrace whatever that unknown is. By embracing it and heading into it with arms open to it, I allow it to unfold in its purest, most beautiful form.

13. Never give up on a dream.

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau

This is one of my rules that is remarkably simple. Dream. Dream often. Never stop dreaming. Grab onto the dreams you dream and chase them unceasingly. Unwavering and stubbornly. When your dreams seem to run away, you run faster. Never give them up.

14. Leave No Trace

“Once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be purchased at any price.” – Ansel Adams

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” – Edward Abbey

Any outdoors person is probably familiar with the Leave No Trace principles. “Take only memories, leave only footprints,” is a basic summary. While those principles are an important part of my daily life, I prefer to go beyond Leave No Trace, and apply it beyond the intentions of what the usual principles really ever intended to cover. From simple outdoor ethics to minimalism and constant learning, this rule is a cornerstone of my lifestyle.

15. It is always better to give things up.

“I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” – E. F. Schumacher

This rule is pretty obvious for someone living a minimalist lifestyle like my own. I often have to give things up, simply due to lack of space. Sometimes, the most difficult times to do such is when those items have sentimental value or mean something personal. This rule creates the challenge that freeing yourself of these things, even, is better than holding on needlessly. Similarly, it also challenges to “let go” of those people I grow to love and the places that steal my heart.

16. Self-expression is a necessity.
Simple, apparently: self-expression is not just a nice thing to have. It is necessary. It is a requirement for life. Maybe not so simple, actually. Where rule 15 says give things up, this rule says that self-expression is too important to just give up. As important as food and water, self-expression cannot be refused. This rule challenges me to always seek an air of self-expression in my life, in increasing amounts, and in an increasing number of ways.

17. Comfort is secondary at best.
This one is a challenge by several uses of that word, “challenge”. Comfort sounds nice. Physical comfort. Emotional comfort. Mental comfort. Spiritual comfort. It all sounds so nice. This rule urges me to only consider it when all else is already considered. Furthermore, it creates a precedent to step out of the comfort zone, as people like to say. In fact, it goes so far as to say that doing such is a necessity, and that nice sounding comfort may even be a negative in life.

18. Hardship only enhances adventure.
Where rule 11 challenges me to maintain an adventure mindset, this one takes it even further. Difficulty and bad things happening are not only part of adventure, but they enhance adventure.  They make adventure better! This rule calls for an active embrace of hardships in life; perhaps not actively seeking them out, but actively embracing them when they come on their own, as they so often do.

19. Don’t take anything for granted.
This one is probably one of the most cliche, with its meaning being quite summed up in the cliche understanding. Be grateful for what you have right now, don’t expect it to return again in the future, don’t underestimate the value of it, and also don’t take it as true without question. Some things and some people are of immeasurable value, and others may be taken for higher value than they are. This rule calls for an honest, grateful assessment of everything in life.

20. Knowledge without Experience is unreliable at best.
This has many many meanings! I am a big proponent of practicing survival skills. As many expert survivalists will tell you, knowing how to use a survival kit and having active experience with using a survival kit is the difference between life and death. Another meaning this has is an interesting pattern in my young life: other young people are quick to tell me their knowledge of how “I should live my life”, while much older people are quick to tell me the wisdom of their experiences. They often contradict each other sharply. This rule says the knowledge of the young is unreliable while the experience of the elderly is to be listened to. With those two perspectives on this rule, it can be expanded yet further into life.

21. Always be ready to move.
This is a big one in my life in its literal meaning. It is beneficial for me to always be ready to move to the next spot. Even in a more general but still literal sense, this is still an important rule: always be ready for what is going to come next, to the best of your ability (see rule 4!). This also calls back to rule 6, as well, with always be ready for the next personal, spiritual, etc. changes in life–always be ready to get up and start acting to make those changes.

22. Hesitate to make a promise.
Some may find this off-putting for different reasons. Myself, I have a difficult time accepting the openness to making a promise that this rule has; in fact, I first wrote it as “Don’t make a promise” before deciding this wording is of greater value. Others may find the “Hesitate” part off-putting to them, as they are more willing to accept and make promises. This rule challenges to make promises, but hesitate and think first–“Can the promise be made with complete knowledge that it will be kept?” for example.

23. Always fall in love.
This could be taken so many ways, and the rule is a challenge to them all. Love brings extreme joy on one end, and extreme pain on the other, along with so many other things. This rule challenges to feel it all with open arms, willingly. Fall in love with people–this rule could even be a challenge to fall in some sort of love with all people–and fall in love with nature, cities, plants, rocks, animals, streams, the sunsets, and so much more. Always fall in love, with all of it.

24. Make yourself vulnerable.
In line with rule 23, this is a challenge to be vulnerable to outside influences. Allow others to hurt me. Allow the world to tear me apart and spit me on the ground, cold and carelessly. This is a challenge to open myself to the worst that people and this world have to offer, and to face it bravely, head on, with no questions asked. In everything in life. This calls back to many other rules before it, expanding them further.

25. Everything is easier when it’s done.
Here we have a rule that challenges me to take on new challenges. Like rule 21 and 6, this is the rule that challenges me to stand when things seem to difficult. To tackle challenges that seem insurmountable. It is a reminder that staring at a mountain from below, thinking of climbing it, seems far more daunting than staring at the ground from atop a mountain when the climb has been completed.

26. Humbly give yourself credit
The wording on this one should have an air of self-contradiction. Such is the intent. It challenges humility, but also challenges self-confidence. For example, I accept the luck and great opportunities that have led me to the life I have today, but I know the amount of research and work I put into this to make it happen. This rule reminds me that I do deserve the credit for that work, while I should also admit the luck and work done outside of my own control to make me successful.

27. There is no bad, and there is no good
This is a rule with many deep meanings for me. Along with Rule 1, it embodies the meditation I like to practice (mindfulness). It challenges me not to judge anything, but instead, to simply take everything for what it is. A thought cannot be bad or good. An emotion cannot be bad or good. Actions cannot be bad or good. I can choose to say that I do not want to repeat an action, or to repeat it; I can choose to embrace a thought or emotion or seek to change it (see Rule 6). However, they simply are what they are. If I feel depressed, it is not bad. If I feel happy, it is not good. They are simply states of emotion, each worth embracing or allowing to pass in their time (see Rule 3). This then expands far beyond such examples, into everything.

28. Life is an open door
This rule feeds off of many of my other rules, yet takes them all further than they are otherwise. This is a challenge to always walk forward. This is a challenge to not only be ready to move, but to move. To survive the worst and walk on to the next thing. Additionally, this rule raises the challenge of creating of life what I would like, as opposed to letting life dictate its way with me. Life is open to create of it what I want, regardless of the illusion of something standing in my way. The door is open. It has always been open. It will always be open. Life, and on a deeper level, who I am as myself: these things are not written in stone; they are an open door, a blank page, for me to walk through, to fill with whatever words I want, in whatever medium I deem best fit.

29. Always seek to experience
This is another rule with a few hidden meanings. I truly believe that experience is more valuable than money or possessions any day, and this rule encourages such thinking; that is, it says to seek new experiences in everything, as the primary goal. However, it goes beyond that. This also touches on my love of mindfulness: this rule encourages mindfulness. Always seek to actively experience what you are doing, no matter how mundane and every day the activity is. Even if the activity is just sitting around. Truly, honestly, experience it in its fullness. Don’t let a moment go by on “autopilot”. Perhaps one of my more difficult rules to follow at times!

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