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Dan Sullivan: How to create your own rules for success and play the game you want.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s a totally unrealistic and unhealthy notion out in the world that people become entrepreneurs because they can’t stand rules.

I’ve known entrepreneurs who have this attitude themselves, and they’re constantly frustrated. It’s like they’re running on a treadmill, never making progress because they’re using up all their energy breaking everybody’s rules – including their own!

Yes, being an entrepreneur is about having the confidence to go out into the marketplace and escape from other people’s rules. But if you want to be a rule-breaker, you also have to be a rule-maker – because if you don’t have your own set of rules, you’re going to be controlled by other people’s rules.

The literal meaning of the word “autonomy” comes from Greek and is made up of two parts: auto, meaning “self” and nomos, which means “law” or “rules.” So a person who’s autonomous is someone who can create their own rules. What a great skill!

Rules serve an important purpose.

To be successful in life, you have to follow some rules. Rules point out the most direct route to the best possible performance and results. “Do this, don’t do that. Focus on this, not that.” Keep doing these things and you’ll consistently get better for your entire entrepreneurial career.

So I don’t dislike rules at all – as long as they’re mine. The Strategic Coach Program is all rules, but they’re self-created by each person for their situation.

Every day, I’m exploring new territory, so the first thing I always do is tell myself what the rules are going to be for my performance: “Why am I doing this new thing? What are my success criteria, so I can recognize whether I’ve achieved it or not?” I’m making myself autonomous in a new area of bigger and better results.

Staying disciplined only to my rules.

People ask me, “But how do you stay disciplined to your rules?” There’s no other choice! I have to stay disciplined to my rules, or I’ll be disciplined to somebody else’s.

You can relieve yourself of an enormous amount of personal stress, anxiety, and frustration if you just accept the reality that, wherever you are, the percentage of rules is going to be 100 percent. What percentage of that is going to be other people’s rules, and what percentage is going to be yours? What I’ve tried to do, year after year, is make a higher percentage of the rules be my own.

If you want to keep growing for the rest of your life, the ability to create your own rules is perhaps the greatest new habit, skill, and attitude you can have.

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