We Are All Subject to Universal Laws, Rules and Principles

A hiker overlooks the sunset. Text "Not all classrooms have four walls" appears on the graphic.

It’s a universal principle that you get more of

what you think about, talk about, and feel strongly about.

- Jack Canfield

Charlie Brown once stated in one of his Peanuts cartoons, “Ever notice that the number of people watching is directly proportional to the stupidity of your actions?” Unknowingly to him, he had stated one of life’s irrefutable laws, ‘The Law of Probability.’

Another of life’s irrefutable laws is, 'If you’re ever lost in the woods, start playing solitaire with a deck of cards. Someone will eventually show up and tell you to put the red jack on the black queen.' These laws are never written in stone, they just are.

If the universe could write you a letter, it would probably say, ‘I have a plan, do you trust me?’

Vince Lombardi, a famous football coach, once wrote, “Keep in mind that there are laws independent of man’s consent, ruling over reality, over nature, over man too, whether his is willing to recognize them or not…to which we must bow, unless we think we can rule ourselves, independent of the rest of nature.” I believe he often shared the following learning with his teams, “Never give up because great things take time.”

Why do things happen the way they do? When they do? Why always to me? Am I wearing a target on my back? Why does the wrong thing happen at just the worst moment? Read on as we explore answers to these questions and many others.

A school child asks his teacher, “Is it true that the law of gravity keeps us on earth?” The teacher says, “Yes.” The child replies, “What kept us before the law was passed?”

You can’t change the facts by denying they exist, but you can certainly hurt yourself by trying.

Do you believe in the law of gravity?

George deeply resented the fact that there was such a thing as the law of gravity and that his life was so affected by it. He despised the restrictions it imposed upon him. He decided he was just going to ignore its existence. “I’m not going to let this gravity thing ruin my life,” he announced.

From that day forward George pretended gravity wasn’t there. If he held a piece of his fine china in his hand, he let go of it and ignored the fact that it fell and broke. Before long his entire set of china dishes had been destroyed.

Then one day, George was at work, looking out the windows of his office, which was on the fourth floor. He decided he’d go for a stroll. This was an older building, so he was able to open the window, step out and fell 4 stories and broke every bone in his body.

The moral of this little story is that you can’t change the facts by denying they exist, but you can certainly hurt yourself by trying. In other words, you don’t have to like this gravity thing, but it is what it is. A very popular song when I was in my teens was ‘I Fought the Law’ by The Bobby Fuller Four. The message was always summed up by the same two verses, “I fought the law and the law won, I fought the law and the law won.” I guess there is a place for laws, rules and guiding principles in our lives.

Todd Duncan, in his book The Power to be Your Best, writes: “Where you are today is a function of what you did or did not do yesterday. Every result you enjoy or hate is happening because of your choices. It is the same for all of us, no exceptions. Simply put, it’s the immutable ‘Law of Sowing and Reaping,’ also often referred to as the Law of the Farm. You don’t have to like it any more than you appreciate the law of gravity, but you would be wise to accept its truth at face value. The behaviour of sowing and reaping says: 'If you want to enjoy a bountiful harvest tomorrow, in any area of your life, you must plant good seeds today.' Sounds reasonable, but there’s more. The time between those two events, sowing and reaping, must be long enough to allow your seed to germinate and grow. You must water it, fertilize it, weed around it, spray it, and do a host of other things so that when the time to harvest comes, your seed will have matured into an ear of corn, wheat, barley, oats, financial success, or a better relationship with yourself, your loved ones, or with God. Then and only then will you reap the reward of an abundant harvest.” The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.

I remember in elementary school, we had an experiment in science glass, called seed germination. We filled a jar with wet paper towels, rung out so there was no excess water in the jar. Then we placed seeds in the jar, near the bottom half of the jar. After a couple of days, they started to sprout. After a week, they really started to grow. Every day, I would run to check out the seeds and how their growth was progressing. I remember our teacher telling us, you just have to ‘trust the process.’

David G. Allen writes: “Patience is the calm acceptance that things happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”

Growth is a process.

Actress Goldie Hawn sharing thoughts about life and career in an interview, compared life to the Lotus flower, “The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. Similarly, for us, in order to grow and gain wisdom, you must have the mud, the obstacles of life and its suffering. The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are able to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, hope, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one.”

Once upon a time, a man found a butterfly that was starting to hatch from its cocoon. He sat down and watched the butterfly for hours as it struggled to force its way through a tiny hole. Then, it suddenly stopped making progress and looked like it was stuck.

The man decided to help the butterfly out. He took a pair of scissors and cut off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily, although it had a swollen body and small, shrivelled wings.

The man thought nothing of it, and sat there waiting for the wings to enlarge to support the butterfly. However, that never happened. The butterfly spent the rest of its life unable to fly, crawling around with small wings and a swollen body.

Despite the man’s kind heart, he didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon and the struggle needed by the butterfly to get itself through the small hole was nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings to prepare itself for flying once it was free. C.S Lewis writes: “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Growth is a process. You do not just wake up and become the butterfly.

It’s nothing personal. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you do not take things personally.

Sometimes struggles in life help to develop strengths. Without struggles, we never grow and get stronger, so it’s important for us to tackle challenges on our own and not rely on help from others all the time. Sometimes help is essential. It can be very difficult also, to watch others struggle, but it’s a fine line between helping others and assisting them to the point that we encourage enabling. Struggling at certain times in our lives, is a universal principle.

On a lighter note, in my research, I found dozens of irrefutable laws that reflect life in the real world. Here are a few that I’m sure you have experienced:

Law of Mechanical Repair: After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch.

Law of Variation: If you change lines in the supermarket, the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are in now.

Law of the Closet: If you hang something in the closet for a while, it shrinks two sizes.

Law of Laundry: If you throw ten socks in the laundry, only nine will come out.

Law of Hydrodynamics: When the body is immersed in water, the telephone rings.

Apparently, these laws happen every day, to someone, somewhere; probably multiple people on any given day. Again, they are irrefutable. My feeling is these laws occur on some kind of random order. You woke up this morning and the universe picked you. You might question, ‘Why me?” but the universe would most likely reply, “Why not you?” It’s nothing personal. There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you do not take things personally. Joel Goodman (The Humor Project) taught me this perspective many years ago: “Someday we’re going to laugh about this. Why wait?”

Perhaps of all the laws we will review, Murphy’s Law is the one you are most likely to have heard of. It’s the simple rule that, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Murphy’s Famous Laws were introduced in 1949 at Edwards Air Force Base, by Edward Murphy, an aerospace engineer, and the story behind the law is actually more positive then you might expect. Murphy was working to develop new devices for testing human tolerance of gravitational force and several errors nearly led to someone being seriously injured. But the team had assumed that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong, and also had back-up and safety measures in place. Assuming that everything would go wrong had avoided the worst consequences of it doing so.

Murphy’s Main Laws:

  • If anything can go wrong it will.

  • Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

  • Everything takes longer than you expect, and, left to themselves, things always go from bad to worse.

I have been facilitating time management and self-development workshops for well over 40 years. Common themes abide: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. We must understand and implement what I call ‘The Law of Contingency Planning’ which states, “Most problems whether small inconveniences or full-blown emergencies or crises, are caused by a lack of effective planning. If you are to be successful, this law is non-negotiable. We must get into the habit of building in some extra time (float time, time cushion) when establishing deadlines to allow for the inevitable interruptions or delays that may arise, in other words, plan for the unexpected or the unanticipated.”

Since Murphy’s leap into immortality, others have surfaced to add to the human condition.

British historian C. Northcote Parkinson created Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Parkinson’s law means that if you give yourself a week to complete a task, even if it was a simple task to begin with, the said task will increase its complexity so that you’ll end up having to use the entire week in order to complete it. Parkinson’s law doesn’t just apply to time management. His law of storage and space states that your belongings will expand in order to fill the storage space that you have available. Example: you move into a bigger house, apartment or office and at first you have lots of space available. However, within a short amount of time, every nook and cranny are occupied by furniture, knick-knacks, and miscellaneous stuff. The end result is usually being surrounded by clutter, a subject to be addressed in a future lesson.

Another fundamental theory to be considered is The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) which simply states that it’s often the case that 80 percent of the output in a particular situation comes from the 20% of the input. Example: 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your success. In a typical business setting, 20% of the clients will produce 80% of the sales. Most people only wear 20% of their wardrobe on a regular basis. It’s obviously not the case that this is true in every situation, but it’s applicable to a remarkable number all the same, and bearing it in mind can be invaluable.

For one of her workshops several years ago, Cherie Carter Scott, a corporate trainer and consultant, composed a list of basic truths about life, which she named “The Ten Rules for being Human.” These rules are universal truths that will lead us to understanding, success and are keys to living a satisfying life. These rules were later published in her landmark publication, “If Life Is A Game, These Are the Rules.” Some of these key truths are:

  • You will be presented with lessons.

  • There are no mistakes, only lessons.

  • Lessons are repeated until learned.

  • Learning does not end.

  • What you make of your life is up to you.

Dr. Phil McGraw, is an American television personality, author, psychologist, and the host of the television show, Dr. Phil. He wrote in Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, about 10 Life Laws. He states: “Life Laws are the rules of the game. No one is going to ask you if you feel, or if you think they exist. Like the law of gravity, they simply are. You don’t get a vote. You can ignore them and stumble along, wondering why you never seem to succeed, or you can learn them, adapt to them, mould your choices and behaviour to them, and live effectively.” Some of his key laws are:

  • You create your own experience.

  • You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

  • Life rewards action.

  • We teach people how to treat us.

  • There is power in forgiveness.

I have been using both of these publications when working as a personal coach with clients. They really are a must read. These rules and laws will all be covered in some detail in future lessons.

I have been a long-time subscriber to a publication entitled, Bits and Pieces. In January of 2001, Rod Gilbert, the editor published a list of what he considered to be the First Rules of life.

He wrote: “Imagine playing cards, chess or Monopoly without knowing the rules. You wouldn’t be any good and it wouldn’t be any fun. It’s the same with sports. They would be frustrating to play or watch if you didn’t know the rules. And the same is true with life. If you want to win at the game of life, you have to know the rules. Especially the First Rules. The good news is that you already know a lot of the First Rules. Let me prove it to you. What’s the First Rule of Crossing the Street? “Look both ways.” The great news is that you have a lot more of these rules right here. I hope that as you read these rules, you’ll say to yourself, ‘That’s true.’ or ‘That’s useful.’ Here are a few of these rules:

The First Rule of Arguments: Disagree without being disagreeable.

The First Rule of Caring: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

The First Two Rules of Self-Improvement: It will be difficult. It will be worth it.

The First Rule of Comfort Zones: If you don’t stretch your limits, you’ll set your limits.

The First Rule of Achievement: You don’t have to feel good to do good.

The First Rule of Time Management: Make the time because you’ll never find the time.

The First Rule of Being a Great Teacher: Keep being a student.

The First Rule of Being a Great Student: Ask questions

The First Rule of the Boy Scouts: Be prepared.

The First Rule of Communication: Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.

The First Rule of Happiness: Don’t seek happiness - create it.

The First Rule of Laughter: Be able to laugh at yourself.

The First Rule of Matrimonial Bliss: Don’t go to bed mad.

The First Rule of Preparation: Dig the well before you are thirsty.

The First Rule of Tinkering: It’s much easier to take something apart than to put it back together again.

The ‘Last’ First Rule: Reading these rule isn’t enough. You have to use them.

Perhaps the best known and most referenced First Rule is: The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You undoubtedly learned about the golden rule when you were little. Your mother or father, or perhaps a teacher may have introduced it to you. It’s a great rule and one you should consider living your life by. If everyone lived based on the rule, the world would be a happier place. But it does have some limitations.

Over my career in leading workshops, I have had the following discussion with thousands of students while facilitating workshops: Golden Rule or the Platinum Rule…or both!

The Golden Rule, is based on a view starting with the self. I will treat you as I wish to be treated. As great as it is, the Golden Rule has limitation, since all people are different. You’ll end up really disappointed if you think all people will do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you.

What would it be like to treat others as they wish to be treated?

This is the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they wish you do unto them. Or, treat others the way they want to be treated. The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others. You simply have to understand what motivates them that may be different from what motivates you.

Dale Carnegie told the following story in his landmark book, How to Win Friends and Influence People which illustrates the Platinum Rule: "Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some reason, fish prefer worms. So, when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm in front of the fish and said, 'Wouldn’t you like to have that?'"

Most discussions ended with the idea of a combination of the two rules being applied. Definitely some food for thought!

Let’s close this lesson on a lighter note: In my research, I came across The Rules of Chocolate (I believe these same rules could be adapted to ice cream). I just learned from a special friend, Sharon, that recently there was a National Day for Vanilla ice cream (might partially explain my body shape). Sharon says that ice cream is its own food group. She is very wise. She also likes cookies. So, to my chocoholic friends and readers, here they are:

  • There is no such thing as “Chocoholics Anonymous.” No one wants to quit.

  • Chocolate is the answer and the question is irrelevant.

  • If at first you don’t succeed, have a little chocolate.

  • Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look young.

  • Put ‘eat chocolate’ at the top of your daily things to do. That way, you get at least one thing done.

  • Chocolate almonds, raisins and strawberries count as fruit.

  • Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree. That makes it a plant. Chocolate is salad.

Food for Thought

Do you believe that the universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time we need it in our lives?

Review all The First Rules from the article by Rod Gilbert. Really spend some time on these. If you were writing a personal credo, which 10 of these would you adopt as core foundational principles for your success.

Time to re-visit the exercise on Stop Complaining. At least one day each week, see how long you can go without complaining. Do this exercise with a friend or colleague.

Choose one quote every day or perhaps one or two every week if you like. How do these quotes speak to you? What applications do you see in your life? Share your chosen quotes with a family member, a friend, a business colleague. Create a ‘quote of the day’ club at work.

A patient man will eat ripe fruit.

- African Proverb

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

- Audrey Hepburn

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.

- Og Mandino

The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

- Mark Twain

You may not control all the events that happen to you. But you can decide not to be reduced by them.

- Maya Angelou

A day without laughter is a day wasted.

- Charlie Chaplan

Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.

- Joyce Meyer

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

- Vincent van Gogh

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

- C.S. Lewis

May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.

- Nelson Mandala

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.

- Anthony Robbins

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.

- Dalai Lama XIV

He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.

- Henry Ford

Live your life s though your every act were to become a universal law.

- Immanuel Kent

You create your own universe as you go along.

- Winston Churchill

You create your thoughts, your thoughts create your intentions and your intentions create your reality.

- Wayne Dyer

One of the most positive transitions you can make is from viewing your work as a job to viewing it as a calling.

- Marianne Williamson

Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.

- Alan Watts

If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zones.

- John Maxwell

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.

- May Sarton.

Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Next Lesson: Character Is Everything

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