Escaping from The Prison Camp is not just about money (although money is a big part of it).
It’s also about learning to choose our own Path.
Like all institutions, The Prison Camp has many rules. If you are going to bust out, you will by definition be breaking The Rules… just by no-showing at the 9am roll call.
So The Rules of the Prison Camp are a bit like eggs…. when you make The Omelette of Financial Independence, some of them are gonna get broken.
This does not mean that we will be sacrificing ethics and integrity. The Rules are not the same thing as ethics. If anything, Financial Independence allows you the choice to be more ethical.
MMM did a great post on this which I’m not going to be able to beat. But I can add to it. So here are some ethical guidelines to help you think about The Rules:
1) There are no Rules, only guidelines
The Prison Camp tells you that Rules Are Rules and must always be obeyed.
The Escape Artist says, with only a touch of exaggeration:
There are no Rules, there are only ethical guidelines.
For example, the law says that I should not break into my neighbour’s house. But what if the house is on fire and there is a child or a kitten trapped in there that need rescuing?
For me, in the event of a conflict, Ethics beat Rules. The Escape Artist does not let Mr Tickles the kitten burn to death whilst explaining that: sorry, I’d love to help but “Rules are Rules”. Nor does The Escape Artist hide behind health and safety, the European Working Time Directive (sorry, I’ve clocked off) or political correctness.
No, like a superhero with his underpants on the inside of his trousers, The Escape Artist kicks down the door and gets Mr Tickles out safely.
2) The Rules are always changing
If you think about it, we humans have a long history of inventing and enforcing The Rules. Sometimes they are sensible, sometimes they aren’t.
Sometimes the rules say that only male, property owners are allowed to vote. Sometimes the Rules say white people and black people are not allowed to use the same buses and beaches. Sometimes drinking alcohol is prohibited, sometimes its compulsory (see point 4 below)
All through history, lots of The Rules have been wrong. After all, The Nazis followed The Rules. The problem was that they were the Wrong Rules.
3) The Rules are different in different places
Different Rules apply in different countries. In Germany there is a minimum speed on many of the motorways but no maximum. In the UK the speed limit is 70mph.
Why should it be that, by amazing co-incidence, all of The Rules currently in force in your country, town or social circle are The Right Rules and The Only Right Rules?
Or to put it another way, if The Rules are always right wherever they may be, how are we to explain Saudi Arabia?
4) The Rules are often arbitrary
Drinking alcohol is not only legal in the UK, its often actively encouraged. If you are Catholic and go to mass, they pour wine down your throat…its The Rules. If you played Rugby at my University, drinking was not optional…it was compulsory. They held you down and poured beer down you like a goose being force fed to make foie gras.
In corporate jobs that involve stress, selling and client entertaining, alcohol is actively encouraged for practical reasons: just try putting up with that shit for long without a drink or two inside you.
But, for reasons that are not entirely clear, The Rules forbid the use of drugs that are no more toxic than alcohol but just happened to be discovered more recently.
5) The Rules don’t always apply
No sooner than The Rules have been made up, then situations quickly become apparent when its obvious that The Rules don’t apply.
For example, if you are an employee of a low cost airline or bank, the usual unwritten Rule is to be as bossy as possible to all the customers. Unless the customer happens to be the CEO of the company. Or a mystery shopper. Or a celebrity.
Or take the example of finance. In most of the economy, if you pay more, you get more. But in finance, The Normal Rules don’t apply.
When you are buying a car (all other things being equal) the more you pay for it, the better it performs. When you are buying a fund (again all other things being equal) the more you pay for it, the worse it performs. Yes, really.
6) You don’t always know what the Rules are
One of the confusing things about being abroad is that The Rules are different. And you may not always know what they are.
I remember when the young Escape Artist was on a school exchange in Germany and walked across an empty road at a pedestrian crossing. This was the cue for an elderly German lady to start shrieking at me: DER ROTE MANN!, DER ROTE MANN!* Apparently, I had unwittingly committed the crime of jaywalking. Fortunately, I was able to make my escape before the Gestapo arrived or the old lady beat me to death with her umbrella.
Even in your own country, its not always clear what The Rules are. There are Written Rules and there are Unwritten Rules.
The problem with The Unwritten Rules is that they are…errr….unwritten. So no one is completely sure what they are. We just know there are lots of them. But The Unwritten Rules are often enforced with as much vigour as The Written Rules.
The Unwritten Rules state that its bad form to wear a T Shirt with your net worth printed on it. Which is fair enough. But apparently its OK at middle class dinner parties to drop hints about your wealth and success by talking about house prices / your new car / extension / ride on lawn mower. Even when its bought on hire purchase and the person bragging can’t really afford it. Go figure.
7) The Rules don’t apply to everyone equally
We are led to believe that The Rules apply equally to everyone. Hhhmmm….It may be comforting for us to hear that. And yes, in a democracy, everyone’s vote counts the same.
But even though Rupert Murdoch doesn’t have a vote in UK elections and The Escape Artist does, somehow I suspect Rupert might have a bit more influence on the outcome than me.
For the most part, I think we get equal treatment in the legal system. Unless you are a celebrity on trial in Los Angeles in which case, you don’t need to worry too much…even if you’ve obviously killed someone.
At work, I saw that The Rules don’t apply to everyone equally. I don’t claim to have been one of the top rainmakers at my firm…but I noticed those rainmakers could do pretty much whatever they wanted at work.
If you are a top sales performer for your firm, you may find that you don’t need to come into the office until lunchtime, that you don’t need to wear a tie and the rule that “No One Is Getting A Pay Rise This Year” magically doesn’t apply to you.
Please don’t shoot the messenger here. The Escape Artist did not make The Rules. And I’m not advocating inequality. But if you were under the impression that life is always fair, you may not have been paying attention.
8) Sometimes The Rules don’t work
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. For this reason, our laws are full of complexity and unintended consequences.
Every time there is an accident or tragedy, the Media sense an opportunity to shift newspapers and clickbait like piranhas sense blood in the water. The people get worked up, the media pour petrol on the fire and politicians promise that Something Shall Be Done.
So Something Gets Done and laws get passed, sometimes in a hurry. Often these laws work better as soundbites than as statute. This helps explain the Dangerous Dogs Act, health and safety zealotry as well as much of the retail financial services industry.
9) Some of The Rules only exist in our minds
Most people have more power than they know. But first we may have to unlearn what we have learned and get rid of limiting beliefs.
A limiting belief is something that you believe about yourself and the world that is not true. But even though it isn’t actually true, the fact that you think it is holds you back from trying and succeeding.
Most limiting beliefs are inherited from parents, teachers, friends or TV presenters or whoever we looked up to whilst growing up. Often these people never even told us the limiting belief explicitly, we simply assumed the belief based on their example.
This can hold back people who grew up without much money. For example, I had a coaching client (let’s call her Hannah) who felt that an ordinary girl from some small town Down Under (her words, not mine) didn’t deserve to be paid her current (above average) salary in London. This was just a limiting belief.
In my book, having come from that background, Hannah had earned her management position more than someone from a posh school in Surrey or Connecticut with Daddy’s cheque book and an outsized sense of entitlement behind them .
10) Its possible to change The Rules…or make your own
Unlike the 10 Commandments, The Rules were not handed down by God to us mortals on tablets of stone. No, The Rules were made by other people who were often just as imperfect as the rest of us.
People love to grumble about politicians. When I hear this it reminds me of teenagers grumbling about their parents…right up to the point where they ask for some more pocket money and a lift back from the party at midnight.
So if you are not happy with The Rules you are allowed to run for office yourself, get promoted at your company, go freelance or otherwise get yourself in a position where you can make your own Rules.
*THE RED MAN! THE RED MAN!