Blog 2013

Three Rules for Living

My 8-year-old nephew starts the third grade in one week.  As we were out this morning, walking our dog, we discussed his malaise towards returning to school.  And he happened to ask why school had to be so awful.  I countered by saying “Would you like to know the three secrets to school?  The three things that you can do that will virtually guarantee you that you’ll succeed?”
Smiling like I was about to reveal the greatest secret in all of humanity, he nodded and said “Yeah!”
Rule #1 – Read thirty minutes every day
Rule #2 – Do all your homework
Rule #3 – Be friendly to everyone you meet
Needless to say, he was less than impressed.  Which is a shame because, in truth, those three rules do in fact all but guarantee complete success at school, almost regardless of how you define it.

If you consider school nothing but an academic institution where you go to learn, reading thirty minutes a day is a shoe-in for good grades.  Not even good grades; As and Bs mostly, if not As.  The effects of reading daily, especially for thirty minutes (though, ideally, an hour) is as well-documented as it is staggering.  It’s almost unfair how big a difference is made, grade-wise, between kids who read and those who don’t.

If you consider school to be nothing but a proving ground, where you produce the best results to get into a good college, then homework is the key.  In a typical classroom grading distribution, homework produces the best results for effort of any endeavor.  Homework often trumps quizzes and classwork in grade-point-value and can even trump tests in some classes.  And yet homework often requires the least overall time (though not always; we all had THAT teacher).

And if you consider school to be the domain of social acceptance, a place where kids go to socialize and make connections, then what better method is there than being friendly to everyone, but especially to new people as they enter their life?  In truth, just cultivating good manners and the skills of making a good first impression are invaluable in and of themselves.

The Three Rules extend beyond school, and definitely beyond third grade.  In diet and weight-loss, the three rules are:
Rule #1 – Drink enough water (64oz per day minimum)
Rule #2 – Eat enough protein (usually 1 gram per pound of bodyweight)
Rule #3 – Eat enough vegetables (one serving per meal minimum)
Most everything else is window-dressing.  Sure there are other rules that make a difference, but these key three make up the majority of what anyone needs to know or worry about.  Can you break these rules?  Of course you can…at your own risk.  And if you decide these rules are to be discarded, odds are it’s because you already know enough to know rules to replace them.  But a different set of Three Rules is still Three Rules.

Fitness has similar rules, too.
Rule #1 – Focus on one goal at a time
Rule #2 – Don’t exercise for more than 50 minutes at a time
Rule #3 – Don’t use the same program for more than 6 weeks at a time

You find these semi-magical Three Rules everywhere.  Want to know the Three Rules for living longer in the modern world?
Rule #1 – Don’t smoke
Rule #2 – Always wear your seatbelt
Rule #3 – Learn to take a fall

Want to know how to write female-friendly fiction? Consult the Bechdel Test.
Wanna write a punk song? Learn the C, F, and G chords.
These three rules inform a lot of the world.  Look at whatever you’re doing now and consider ‘what are the three REALLY core elements that make this successful?’  Whether it’s computer programming, surgery, or searching for adorable cat pictures online, almost every endeavor comes down to Three Rules.

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