Red stop light in the sky

Here are a bunch of rules to live by from other people I love

Short, sweet, meaningful rules to live by are a delight.

Last year I shared my own, inspired by the book, and it became a talking point among friends and family for much of the year. I love hearing anyone’s rules; even if I don’t agree with them, they’re telling of that person and a worldview. They make me think.

So, without naming any names, below I share a few sets of rules I heard from others because I just think these are so much fun. I’d love to hear yours too.

In conversations, I got lots of one-off ideas I found clever, like “Never sit next to the person you came with to the dinner party.” Another from a friend I’ve thought of often is a question that he uses as an abiding philosophy: “do I want to win the argument or do I want to win?”

These are a few full sets I thought were memorable.

  1. Always go to the thrift store first.
  2. Always have something other than small talk to start a conversation with.
  3. Tell them you love them.
  4. You’ll never regret wearing pants but you will shorts.
  5. TMI is better than WTF.
  6. String white lights always make outdoors look better.
  7. Always add the song to a playlist.
  8. Don’t cheat a sleep.
  9. Always start with the obvious tourist stop first.
  10. Everything’s best quality is also its worst.
  11. Fall asleep thinking why you’re better today than yesterday.
  12. Never own a swimming pool but always have a friend with one.
  1. Always do the dishes before you eat.
  2. Only buy shoes you can bicycle in.
  3. Never own a dog.
  4. Always offer to cleanup at the party.
  5. Put timers on everything.
  6. Never buy store brand cleaning products.
  7. Always pet the street cat.
  8. Never be an early adopter on a health or beauty trend.
  9. Always wear layers.
  10. Never swim in natural bodies of waters.
  11. Never buy a new car.
  12. Never name something after someone until they’re dead.


  1. Never pay retail.
  2. Never pass up a bathroom.
  3. There is always a second deer (while driving in rural places).
  4. Remember that half the people are better off than you and the other half are worse off.
  5. Never walk barefoot.
  6. A garage sale is never worth it.
  7. Make friends with the secretary.
  8. Always have cash.
  9. Never leave the lights on when you leave the room.
  10. Know what you want before you open the fridge
  11. Always write a caption on the back of the photograph.
  12. Never buy next to an empty property.


  1. Never hang something heavy over your bed
  2. Never keep a balance on a credit card if you can help it.
  3. Always keep a reusable bag in your purse/work bag/car; always have a reusable set of silverware, plate and cup at your desk if you work in an office without those
  4. Always have a pet that makes you happy.
  5. Never let your car’s gas gauge get to the near-empty mark.
  6. Always live within an hour of an ocean or another very large body of water and within walking distance of at least one good bar and restaurant
  7. Always vote in every election (after doing your own research!)
  8. Always donate whatever you can to organizations important to you
  9. Never get on a plane without at least half a book to read
  10. Always take the time to remember preferences of your friends and family – favorite drink, favorite snack, hated ingredient
  11. Always check your work calendar the night before; Always check you can open the attachment/can login to the system/have a phone number to call or a link to click in an invite when you receive a message…even if you’re not going to do the work or have the meeting now.
  12. Always send a thank you message as soon as you receive a package/gift

(Stop light by Tom Gouw)

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