Categories Menu

Posted by on Nov 11, 2013 in Motivation, Self Improvement, Socio Economics, Uncategorized | 8 comments

Unwritten Rules

While on a plane to attend the funeral of a loved one, I had the occasion to sit next to an insightful young lady who just happened to be a Vice president of a well known bank. During the course of our conversation she mentioned the unwritten rules of banking and financial management.

Now this was not the best flight I have ever taken. The wind turbulence was at time frightening. Fortunately for all concerned the plane landed safely at our mutual destination. My family and I laid our departed relative to her well earned rest and returned from whence we came. But to this day the conversation preoccupies me. I realized then as I do now that the unwritten rules apply not only to a singular profession, but to all aspects of life.

Admittedly, the written rules and regulations are inescapable. They provide order and context to everyday life. There are therefore rules managing behavior, appearance, customs, attitudes, institutions and employment. Politics, money, family, mating, even play and recreation are governed by decrees. As such, the world is awash with well documented or at least clearly stated, widely known and generally accepted rules.

However, as my traveling companion so correctly noted, there are a set of rules that are not documented. They are seldom articulated and not commonly known. You will never find them in a library or a magazine. You can’t “Google” them and they are never mentioned on social media. All but invisible few even admit their existence and fewer still openly discuss them. But their power and influence is unquestionable. 

What precisely are these unwritten rules? Naming them all here or anywhere else is nigh onto impossible. First, no one knows them all and some are so basic as to be hardly worth mentioning. For example, one of the ways the wealthy preserve their wealth is that they seldom pay retail for anything. Duh!

Yet another well known unwritten rule is that life never works out the way you plan. Baby boomers, regardless of race or ethnicity were repeatedly told that the key to life was to get a college education, land a good job, marry their soul mate and have a couple of children. This written rule, this unshakable truism was drilled into us from the date of our births to the time of our deaths. However, for many of us, life has shown otherwise.

A college education, while undoubtedly a good thing, is no guarantee of success or even a decent job. How many of those with doctoral degrees are driving a truck? How many law school graduates are not taking the bar but are instead tending bar? What percentage of college graduates are not only unemployed but are unemployable? 

Even those lucky enough to find work soon discover that a good job is ephemeral, ethereal, a cruel illusion. Employers hold no allegiance to their employees, even those who are loyal, work hard and produce. The only reward for doing good work is a demand to do more work and one can lose a job in the blink of an eye.

While others ring their hands in collective resignation, Blackare offers hope. Here are Blackacre’s six favorite unwritten rules.

1. The surest, quickest and most direct way of losing any contest in which you engage is to follow the rules. Said rules were never intended to create a level playing field and do not apply to everyone especially the hierarchy. They were instead written by those in power to control both the process and more importantly the powerless.

For example, take the written rules of propriety and personal behavior. The making and release of an “adult” video would ruin the life and career of the common man or woman. But the rich, the famous and the well connected play by a different set of rules. Not only can they survive such a scandal, they actual prosper from it. Their notoriety, cum income, increases with each outrage, every drug bust and all acts of immodesty.

2.  As soon as those who make the rules start losing, the minute they don’t get the results they want, they immediately demand that the rules be changed. This phenomenon is otherwise known as moving the goal post.

It is strange is it not that the time honored voting process of electing a President was fine as long as a Ronald Reagan was elected. But the minute a Barrack Obama is selected as President not only once but twice, the old rules are no longer good enough. How the election of a “real American” like Reagan is a study of democracy in action, but the same process is now irrefutable proof of election fraud that has placed an ineligible Communist, Socialist, Muslim, and Kenyan in the oval office. Why the process that has elected every President since George Washington must now be changed to require voter identification. Go figure.

3.  Those who are successful in life are aware of the unwritten rules know what they are and pass them on to important members of their group. Knowledge of the unwritten rules is empowering; liberating. It affords access to power, bestows knowledge, information and perspective, confers skills, changes attitudes and creates almost limitless possibilities. And being able to apply these unwritten rules to everyday situations all but guarantees success. 

4.  Those who are unsuccessful in life are not aware of the unwritten rules do not know what they are and consequently do not pass them on to important members of their group. There is however an important caveat. Personal initiative is required of the most important unwritten rules. It is the very process of discovery which empowers us. Ergo, each of us must ascertain some rules by our own guile and resourcefulness. It is axiomatic that those things which cost us little are of little value.  

5.  For every rule there is an exception and for every exception there is a rule. 

6.  Real winners seldom obey the rules. Winners know the rules, both written and unwritten. However, they do not necessarily follow them. If they did they would not be winners.  

Rather, winners go around, over, under, through and/or completely ignore the rules. They break rules so often and with such reckless abandon as to be admirable. More significantly, they enhance their odds of success by creating and following their own rules.

So be a winner and break some rules. Should you pay for doing so “shake them haters off” and put the experience in perspective. Consider it an exercise in courage; a lesson well learned. Dare to dream and to do so greatly. If your dreams don’t come true don’t despair. Try again. Perhaps the greatest unwritten rule of all is that winners are only losers who refuse to give up. And use the link below to share your own unwritten rules with Blackacre and the entire Blackacre community.

Submitted by Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO of the Blackacre Policy Forum, LLC,






  1. leaders lament; hits home and is very well written piece that describes the long standing fact “that it is lonely at the top”……it also reminds me of a great published dialog ….”Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could do something about it.” ………….” Well why don’t you ask him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”………..Anonymous

    • Wow! If God did ask you the same question, what would you say?

  2. Interesting article. Surely their are rules to be broken and rules to be obeyed. I think most of the written rules are to be obeyed, unless you are prepared to pay the legal consequences. But unwritten rules are often a trap that tries to bind us to strategies that were successful at time ago, but not any more. The notion you have to have a college degree is one of those, or that manufacturing is a dead end in this country.

    This article reminds me of the old alcoholics prayer:

    Lord, grant me the courage to make the changes I can make,
    the serenity to accept the things I can’t,
    and the wisdom to know the difference.

    • I know the Alcoholic’s Prayer as the Serenity Prayer

      Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
      The courage to change the things I can change
      And the wisdom to know the difference.

      In any case, it is something I desperately need to work on.

  3. leaders lament; hits home and is very well written piece that describes the long standing fact “that it is lonely at the top”……it also reminds me of a great published dialog ….”Sometimes I would like to ask God why he allows poverty, suffering and injustice when He could do something about it.”

    • Thanks Tom.

  4. What an outstanding post!! Exceptionally accurate and concise. I can only relay some of my own observations for review.

    I once asked Bank of America for a credit card for one of my companies. At the time, my credit score was in the 700’s and I had no revolving balances so I figured it would not be an issue to be the guarantor of the account. WRONG!! Absolutely denied. Two weeks later I reapplied for the same company. Same amount of cash assets for the company. Instead I used another employee as guarantor. She was Caucasian and actually had a lower score than mine and a shorter credit history. She also carried a couple of revolving balances. I was just curious about something….and BAM! approved. I have learned to remove my very black face from the public image of my businesses so that I can do more (with less). The banking industry may be pathetically biased, but it is also disgustingly predictable.

    Unspoken rules are the weapons of the weak to keep others from becoming strong. But to become strong a person must not only learn those unseen rules, but be able to navigate, circumvent, and often be more malicious and devious in overcoming them. So what would be the lesson here for us? One would say, “aren’t you just becoming what you despise?”. I say no, because of what I do with the results.

    For me, the lesson is that the more walls that are presented to you, the more expert a climber you become. All a person has to do is one simple thing….don’t ever ever quit. Your adversaries count on that attrition rate. Count on people to whine instead of being more strategic. They want you to go it alone and not develop a team. Believe me, those rules were not invented by an individual. They were created by a group of like minded individuals.

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *