My Rules For Life

Stephen J. James talked in his May 5 video about doing a show on “Luke Ford’s 12 Rules for Life.

So I started thinking about my rules for my life and my principles for decoding reality.

* Clean your room.

* “We treat other people the way we treat ourselves.” (Allen Berger)

* “We construct reality to make ourselves feel OK.” (Allen Berger)

* I am not responsible for other people’s behavior, but if they are in my life, I usually have some influence over them. If they make a choice, it is 100% on them, but if I make different choices, there’s a more than zero chance that they will behave differently.

* Knowing right from wrong is not of much use if you don’t have the power to choose the right. Most of us lack the power to do what is good more than we lack the knowledge.

* If you need people to vouch for you, you’ll behave better. If there’s nobody who’ll vouch for you, you have a serious problem.

* “My behavior tells me who I am. The feet never lie.” Your head and your heart are often delusional. How you behave is who you are. How you behave is what you believe. If you want to know the truth about your character, look at how you behave. (HerbK)

* At all times, preach what you believe. Occasionally, use words. (Francis of Assisi, according to legend) We’re always transmitting. Everything we do affects other people.

* If people consistently treat you with disrespect, it is because you are encouraging that (perhaps by being too vulnerable).

* The bigger your need for a hero, the bigger the hole in your soul. The stronger your parasocial relationships, the bigger the holes in your soul.

* Here are some of the ways that I see people becoming unhinged by the news: (1) They overestimate their ability to change the world. (2) They overestimate the importance of news. (3) They overestimate their ability to understand the news. (4) They are blind to the fictional reality of their hero system. (5) They are blind to their own limitations. (6) They rage against reality. When man and reality conflict, reality always wins. (7) They deepen their pathologies, such as feeling superior to or inferior to others, becoming hopeless and desperate, identifying too strongly with winners or losers in the news, getting their sense of importance from the news, and then feeling desperate to make the news (feeling as if they don’t count if they don’t get on TV). (8) They sell out who they are to gain respectability. (9) They damage what should be most precious to them by making impolitic reactions to the news. (10) They fail to wisely navigate between reactions #8 and #9. Feeling anxious, they either sell ourselves out to get along with others or they ignore the repercussions to their relationships by following their heart.

* To enter into a relationship is to start a countdown on feeling betrayed (meaning, you will inevitably be shocked that the other party has different priorities from what you expect, such as that you are not their top concern at all times).

* Don’t separate yourself from the community. When you watch Chimp Empire, you see the chimps who leave the herd have a hard time. At the same time, recognize that the stronger your in-group identity, the stronger will be your sense of your group’s victimhood. Ties bind and blind (Jonathan Haidt). So when you are with your in-group, think at times about how your side’s behavior and words look to disinterested outsiders.

* In some situations, you will be a concentration camp inmate, and in other situations, you will be a concentration camp guard. The situation will consistently shape you as much or more than your inherent characteristics. So if you want to stay faithful or sober, avoid situations that will endanger you.

* If you get your expectations right, you’ll feel happier and you’ll operate more effectively. One of the best ways to do this is to place people and institutions into their correct genre.

* Live as though everyone knows everything as opposed to trying to get away with as much as possible. (James Burnham) Act and speak as though your words and actions were accurately represented on the front page of the New York Times. This simple test is the best one I know for gauging proper behavior. It’s more powerful than asking what does God want from me (a question I also ask) because the New York Times is more real to me than the invisible non-physical God.

* As soon as you go online, you will feel a tug to be impulsive and to develop an inflated sense of your importance. You will feel tempted to ignore social proprieties (such as discussing dark topics that you would normally avoid in face-to-face interaction). These tendencies, if not successfully resisted, will damage your life. (Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality)

* The best protection is connection. The best way to survive a layoff or an earthquake or inflation is connection with others near you. The best way to develop conscientiousness (correlates with academic, personal and career success) is to connect. When you take your spouse, your friends, and your boss into your consideration, you make better choices.

* “Threatening a company’s sense of protection is the number one cause of job loss today.”

* “Even if you have the best skills in the company, you will have no security, none of your needs will be met, and no doors will be opened to you unless you gain the trust of those at the top. Trust is based on the company’s perception of you. Whatever that perception is at this moment is actively determining your job security and value.”

* “The closer you bring yourself into the appearance of alignment through your daily actions and choices, the more favorable the company’s opinions of you will be, and the more secure your job will be.”

* “Highly skilled employees, with seemingly great value to their organizations, are let go every day because they are perceived to be a potential risk and cannot be trusted.”

* “Companies look at your appearance as a sign of the way you think. Dated clothing translates into dated thinking. Don’t wear glasses from the ’70s or clothes from ten years ago. No matter how good you are at your job, a dated appearance will give you an image of someone behind the times, someone who might keep the company from moving forward.”

* “There’s no right to free speech in the workplace [or in your group].”

* “Look at your actions through the eyes of an owner. Do you outwardly act like someone who supports the company policies and interests, no matter what you think on the inside? Do you openly behave and speak like someone with ownership and passion, or someone looking for more money in your paycheck? Look at your actions through the lens of the company values. How close in alignment do your actions seem when viewed from the outside?”

* “Negativity is highly contagious.”

* “So who is this person with such tremendous power over your career? For better or worse, it is your boss. Without his or her support your career goes nowhere.

* When you think about how your selfishness hurts other people, you sober up and snap back into reality. When you think about people who’ve loved you, you sober up and snap back into reality. When you think about your failures, your transgressions, and your humiliations, you sober up and snap back into reality (though for some people, this will drag them down, so these would be bad things to dwell on).

* It is inevitable that we will constantly compare ourselves to others (and we will find ways to convince ourselves that we are superior to them). We need to do this comparison for information and connection. We need to believe we are more important than we are otherwise we would be crushed by our own insignificance.

* If you quickly and completely confess your wrongdoing, you can overcome most of your mistakes with people.

* “Virtue signalling is virtuous.”

* If you react to an angry person with empathy, they usually calm down.

* We’re driven to improve our social status, but the more extreme our drive, the more likely we are to step on the toes of other people and they will retaliate.

* A good way of judging one’s importance in a particular profession is how much income you legitimately, legally and ethically derive from it.

* If you bid for someone’s attention, and fail, perhaps try once more, but don’t go beyond that.

* If you must give someone unsolicited advice, do it only once. If you can’t help yourself and you do it again, forgive yourself for being a bloody fool.

* When I have a painful confrontation with someone, I look for where I was at fault.

* When someone criticizes me, I look for where I at fault.

* When someone important to me says something, I look for how they could be right.

* I carry around the people important to me in my heart, and they affect how I conduct myself. If I forget my client’s interests, I lose that client. If I forget my friends’ interests, I lose those friends. I want to live to simultaneously develop the relationships dearest to me, and to pursue what I believe to be right (and these are often in conflict and neither side of the spectrum is where I want to live). Freedom and community are in opposition and I will sacrifice some freedom for community and some community for freedom.

* Living by principles is usually a wonderful thing, but your well-being should also be a principle and sometimes it should be more important to you than abstract values. What other employees will tell you about your job is more likely to be accurate than the employee handbook. The law in effect for you is not the law on the books, it is the law that is enforced. If everyone around you is driving 80 mph in a 65 mph zone, drive 80 mph.

* Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you need to be angry about it. Just because I don’t like something does not mean it is not good for me.

* When you avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable, you put yourself in a prison of anxiety and depression.

* Happy successful people tend to be more willing than average to appropriately extend trust.

* If you are not living in reality, your visions will turn into straitjackets.

* We all need more internal power, and the best way to get more power, is to connect with others.

* Loser lose themselves in drama. Producers minimize drama.

* If you can’t get love, you’ll seek attention.

* “Humans belong to multiple hierarchies and tend to value the one in which they rank highest. Consider the mailroom clerk who is also the best player on the company’s softball team. The latter may be emphasized & become a source of considerable self-esteem.”

* We weren’t born yesterday. People did not evolve to be gullible about their welfare. Advertising and propaganda doesn’t change us unless we want to change.

* WSJ: “You’re extremely unlikely to change someone else’s bad behavior. And the more you call that person out, the more likely he is going to get defensive and double down on it.”

* When we encounter things we can’t handle, we will tend to react with fight, flight, freeze or fawn reflexes, which quickly translate into the emotions of anger (fight), fear (flight) or hiding (freeze).

* Humility means accepting reality. Insanity means denying the truth. Sanity means accepting the truth.

* Be who you need to be during the day (subordinate, assistant, cashier, janitor, clerk) but don’t forget who you are (your vision).

* Communication builds on itself just as hiding collapses on itself. Polish here and shine there (The Karate Kid).

* If you have a problem in one area of your life, you have this problem all over your life, you just can’t see it. If you habitually over-eat, you over-indulge in other areas of your life. If you habitually lie in dating, you lie in other areas of your life. If you are nasty with your spouse, you are likely nasty to others as well. If you lie about what you believe and what you practice with your religion, you likely do the same in other areas of your life. If you get panic attacks in elevators, you likely have this problem in other areas of life. If you hide in one area of your life, you hide in many areas of your life. If you can’t control your behavior on social media, you likely have unmanageability in many areas of your life. If you smoke too much or watch too much tv, you overdo other things. If you are vague with your exercise commitment, you likely will be vague in many areas of your life. If people tend to find you annoying in one aspect of your life, you are likely obnoxious in other areas of your life. If you have an instinctive suspicion or hatred of people in authority at work or in your religion, you likely have this baggage with authority elsewhere in your life. If you can’t get over loss in your love life, you will have similar problems elsewhere.

* When you’re losing at life (such as the loss of relationships, status, income, opportunities), you’ll likely retreat into depression (usually an adaptive response where you stop acting habitually, try to learn from your mistakes and plot productive ways forward) or you’ll become reckless and likely compound your problems because you can’t stand losing and you don’t feel you have much of a life to protect. When you’re winning at life, you’ll tend to be protect the precious things you have going, and you’ll make better decisions.

* In most circumstances, if you are aligned with God (Reality), you will feel content and serene. If you don’t feel content and serene, you are not aligned with God. If you are not serene and content, you will hurt other people. We are constantly transmitting who we are to others.

* When you text, you don’t just text words, you also text you. (Dennis Prager)

* If you yearn to help somebody, ask yourself your motivation. Is it coming from a good place or a bad place? If you want to tell a joke, ask yourself if it is because you want to transmit joy or just attention seek? If you are not sure about saying something, ask yourself if it is helpful, is it true, is it necessary, is it timely and am I the one to say it?

* How you do any one thing is likely to provide a window into how you do everything. For example, I could teach 100 valuable Alexander Technique lessons to the same pupil where all he dies is get in and out of a chair. That stimulus of folding and unfolding his limbs will reveal his tension patterns throughout his life.

* “If you love and serve men, you cannot by any hiding or stratagem escape the remuneration.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

* What does it mean to put first things first? For me, it means getting clean at the start of the day physically and spiritually. Then I do the most important items in my day in descending order of importance. Another approach to this question is to get clear on what is of secondary importance such as social media or playing video games and make sure I don’t get sidetracked in the first ten hours of my day with nonsense.

* Rushing and multi-tasking are signs to your nervous system that you are not OK. Happiness means loving what you have. Your nervous system’s omnipresent question is — am I safe? Intimacy and purpose are the first things to go when your nervous system gets corrupted [by cell phones, etc]. (Fred Luskin)

* “The action is the success; the results are out of our hands” (Jerrold Mundis).

* Our default emotional state is anxiety. Our protection against this anxiety is connection with people we love. Happiness is the ability to love and be loved. We are programmed for flight, fight or freeze. It’s only when we feel compassion (for ourselves and others) that we are in reality. If you want to get into reality, think about people you love and who have loved you, and feel your gratitude. (Fred Luskin)

* “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art)

* “Saying ‘have a nice day’ or ‘take care’ to a stranger is linked with greater subjective well-being…minimal social interactions with strangers contribute to subjective well-being in everyday life.”

* Transformation begins when we decide that continuing on as we are is intolerable. The pain of not changing outweighs the pain of changing.

* “I USED TO IMAGINE life divided into separate compartments, consisting, for example, of such dual abstractions as pleasure and pain, love and hate, friendship and enmity… As time goes on, these supposedly different worlds draw closer…so that, at last, diversity between them…seems to be almost imperceptible… [N]early all the inhabitants of these outwardly disconnected empires turn out to be tenaciously inter-related; love and hate, friendship and enmity, too…” (A Dance To The Music Of Time, Book Two)

* Fred Luskin: “I see time and again that when hurt people reconnect with their noblest goals they gain an immediate burst of power. Finding your positive intention reconnects you with your goals. The sad truth is, your grievances separated you from your most positive goals through your excessive focus on what went wrong… The biggest drawback to telling grievance stories is they keep us connected in a powerless way with people who have hurt us. When we mull over our past wounds and hurts, we remind ourselves of a part of our life that did not work. Reconnecting with our positive intention reminds us of our goals and enables us to move forward.”

* You can tell if you have processed something if you can talk about it without physiological reactions such as stuttering, voice cracking, flushing, etc. If you can’t talk about something without getting triggered, you haven’t processed it. If you can’t talk about your urges without getting triggered, you haven’t fully recovered. If you still have “triggers”, you haven’t processed and come to terms with you. The intensity of your triggers is inverse to your level of recovery. Triggers are signs you need to work your program. In blunter terms, triggers are bullshit. Step work reduces our unnecessary sensitivities. It make us more resilient.

* A sign of recovery is living an increasingly transparent life.

* “People feel more extroverted, more agreeable, more conscientious, when they are in other places, compared to when they are at home,” she said, while “people feel more disorganized and chaotic when they are at home.” When people spent time in social environments, they also felt more compassionate, open-minded and kind compared to when they were at home. (WSJ)

* You can’t be happy without friends.

* Almost every point of view has its time and place, including “lol nothing matters” which is incredibly fun and liberating when used appropriately.

* “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” (David Viscott)

* Anger is often adaptive in the moment in that it gives you the strength to deal with a problem. Anger outside of the moment rarely serves you.

* I like this advice:

Always assume five people will watch when you broadcast:

* Your best friend
* Your worst enemy
* Your boss
* Your mother
* A lawyer

* You’re likely to feel great when you wear great clothes.

* Annie Murphy Paul wrote in her 2021 book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain:

[P]eople who are more aware of their bodily sensations are better able to make use of their non-conscious knowledge. Mindfulness meditation is one way of enhancing such awareness. The practice has been found to increase sensitivity to internal signals, and even to alter the size and activity of that key brain structure, the insula.

* Even when I’m alone, most of my thinking is stimulated by the most important relationships in my life. Paul wrote:

A major factor in the grad students’ transformation, he concluded, was their experience of intense social engagement around a body of knowledge—the hours they spent advising, debating with, and recounting anecdotes to one another.

* I’m a life-long vegetarian and as a result, I’ve had terrible health. In July 2021, I started taking six beef organ capsules every morning from Ancestral Supplements and I feel great. We were built to eat meat.

* According to this podcast, the dark side of fame includes:

* Difficulty trusting people.
* Has been syndrome (the flame of celebrity always dims)
* Acquired situational narcissism
* The brain gets addicted to a high level of neurological stimulation and hungers for recognition
* People aren’t looking at you, they’re looking through you
* Temptation

Here are the positive sides of fame that I have experienced:

* Free travel;
* Easy money;
* I got more opportunities to do what I was good at;
* I sensed the world opening up to me, I got access to where I wanted access (such as interview subjects);
* I expanded my social circle (making up for the losses of people who turned their back on me because they despised my blogging);
* Successful people in my space treated me like a peer;
* I filled up with energy and I passed that energy on to others;
* My opportunities to do good expanded;
* I had new experiences which prompted me to have new thoughts and feelings that would not have been available otherwise;
* Preferential treatment.

I don’t feel like listing off the dark sides of fame for me. I prefer to focus on the good things in my life.

* Around 2012, I largely stopped regretting the past because I adopted the 12-step maxim of given who I was at the time, I couldn’t have acted differently. I did the best I could with the tools I had. For example, I never chose to be a love addict, a sex addict, a debtor, a co-dependent, and an under-earner. These compulsions were ways I learned to deal with pain, and now I have better techniques for living.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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