“Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: ‘Peter,’ he says, ‘kindly remember Rule Number 6,’ whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: ‘Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.’ Complete calm descends one more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister address his colleague: ‘My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?’ ‘Very simple,’ replies the resident prime minister. ‘Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously.’’ ‘Ah,’ says his visitor, ‘that is a fine rule.’ After a moment of pondering he inquires, ‘And what, may I ask, are the other rules?’
‘There aren’t any.’”
I read The Art of Possibility years ago for work with a client, and have reminded myself, and re-reminded myself, about Rule Number 6 often.
It is so easy to take myself and my life seriously. Astoundingly seriously. My daughter described me as incredibly stubborn and ridiculously hard working. One can’t be both those things without at least sometimes taking themselves seriously. Probably too seriously.
But I’m working on stopping. Or, to be less serious, I’m playing with stopping. I’m remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around me. That I don’t have to be so serious about things. That I can, and should, laugh at myself and my situation. That when I feel like getting all fired up – shouting and stamping and banging my fists – I can remember Rule Number 6. I can calm down. I can breathe. I can move on.
I am working to give up my “rules” in so many ways, but this one I’m keeping. There don’t have to be any other rules. There aren’t any other rules. Rule Number 6 is enough for me.