Rules to guide us on a path to a good life Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Life is about rules. We learn that lesson young when a parent says, "Don't put that in your mouth."

As we age, the list of rules grows. Some rules, such as "Don't put that in your mouth," are obvious and compliance comes without a second thought. Others are more complicated.

We follow some rules, even when we disagree with them: We still wait for a traffic light to turn green at 3 a.m. even if there is no traffic to be seen.

Other rules we ignore, despite agreement. "Don't spend more money than you have," is an easy mantra, but monthly credit card bills prove our noncompliance.

Then there are personal rules. These are the guidelines we create for ourselves. They're only meant for the person we face daily in the mirror. Just because they're personal doesn't mean they're not important or valuable. If nothing else, they ensure we won't do anything to embarrass ourselves.

Sometimes, people share the rules they find helpful in hopes they will inspire others.

Sam Mendes, stage and film director, recently shared his rules. Mendes is an Academy Award winner and director of American Beauty.

When hearing his resume, most people could question why his personal rules could be important for others. However, it becomes obvious that regardless of career or income or upbringing, some rules are universal.

Take Mendes' first rule, for example, "Always choose good collaborators. It seems so obvious, but the best collaborators are the ones who disagree with you."

On the surface, it sounds like an awful rule. Who wants to be surrounded by people who are always arguing? But, think about your best friend. Think about the family member with whom you share your closest relationship. They may accept you unconditionally, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they're also the most likely to speak up if they think you're heading down the wrong path.

Those who challenge you do it so you can make a good decision. Whatever decision you make, you know they will be by your side.

Repay their faith by considering another of Mendes' rules. "Learn to say, 'I don't know the answer.'"

I would add: "Always admit when you make a mistake."

No one is perfect. If you don't know an answer or try to hide an error, you will eventually be caught. When you say, "I don't know" or "It's my fault," those who criticize have little to say. You've taken ammunition away.

"Confidence is essential, but ego is not," is another rule on Mendes' list that should be universal. So is, "Learn when to shut up," a rule that Mendes says he's still learning how to follow.

Borrowing rules from others also is important. Mendes said "Get on with it" is a rule inspired by poet Robert Frost, who suggested, "Tell everything a little faster."

In the end, our list of rules is endless. Whether they were taught before we could question or recently created, rules serve one goal: to help us lead a full and happy life that provides maximum satisfaction, hopefully without imposing on the happiness of others.

Despite our best efforts, rules will never be enough. We will always be challenged. We will always feel incomplete. In that case, Mendes' final rule is critically important.

"Never, ever, ever forget how lucky you are to do something you love."

Follow that, and everything else will fall into place.


Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service. Rommel may be reached at: Erick Rommel, c/o Catholic News Service, 3211 Fourth St. N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017.

 
 

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