Ice cream for breakfast
When you are growing up, you get told what to do and what not to do. Learning to navigate the world takes time and it is useful to know what the constraints are. Constraints help you find focus but then, you don't know that yet. You grow up a bit more, you start questioning some rules. "You cannot have ice cream for breakfast", for example. What kinda stupid rule is that?!?! It starts coz it stops you from doing something awesome and fun. And a child has a great sense of clarity on what they'd like to do before adults saddle them with real-world stuff.
Asking why was a life-changing moment for me. As I am sure it was for you. Until my first 'why?', I did what my elders said. But as the constant "Don't do this" started to cramp my style, I erupted.
"Don't play in the afternoon" was probably the first why. I get it, today. Spending a few hours under the sun drains me but as a kid, we were invincible. But the adult mentality cramps the kid and enforces a rule (yes yes, heat and all that. Shut up, oldie!).
Sitting in the house beyond a point got too boring. I loved to read. I had a computer to play games on (a big deal in the early 90s). But nothing could beat playing outside. And so, out popped my first why.
I questioned everything. I rebelled against anything I can think of. Out of a combination of laziness, sheer obstinacy, and not wanting to do anything I did not want to do.
Unfortunately, the power got to me. I rebelled too much. I didn't understand anything. But asking why and being a dick got me out of going to the temple (time spent away from playing), from eating vegetables (uggghhh), from bathing (time spent away from playing, plus I am gonna get dirty within minutes). It also made me a poor student as I lost sight of learning vs the game of school where you score marks.
You could've gotten me to do anything by applying a bit of reverse psychology. You tell me not to do something and sure as hell, that's what I would do.
When I shifted schools in 6th standard. One of the high school teachers told my sister (who was unfortunately made to shift schools along with me) that her kid brother needs to avoid two specific kids like the plague. Well, guess who I became friends with, and still friends with today.
Rebelling and breaking the rules, it seems, brought only good things. Plus, words like "thinking out of the box" get thrown about which further massage the ego.
Of course, there was another part of me that was a scared, stupid kid. Who tried to conform as much as possible to stay invisible. This was rather tiring - to rebel and yet to not stand out. But that's another story.
No constraints, no rules
Unfortunately, I started to pay the price only after I got a bit older. I had not grasped the rules of the game to keep breaking them. Being disrespectful to the game is very different from breaking/bending the rules after understanding them. To quote someone who says this a lot better here's Jordan Peterson
... the careless demolition of tradition is the invitation to the (re)emergence of chaos. When ignorance destroys culture, monsters will emerge.
Ignorance - check. Careless - check. I bulldozed my way across many things without paying heed to them. Without constraints, I had no map. When everything is an option, nothing is an option.
But hey, if it meant I could get to do whatever short-sighted bauble I had in my sights, it was great.
I saw the error of my ways. And I veered quite a bit to the other side. Not that I had ever completely gone away from it. There was a part of me that was all for rules. And a part of me that kept trying to get out of or break all of them.
For example, in the world of strength & conditioning, I am the guy who follows the textbook. To the letter. The hardest part, which I got right, was to identify people and philosophies that touched something deep in me. After that, an even smarter thing I did was to follow the words, even if I did not understand them.
For example, it took me three attempts following Coach Dan John's Easy Strength programme to get it more or less right. Three attempts at the 10,000 swing challenge as well. Pavel's training plans are a tad easier to follow - they have a lot more of "Do This!" where I try to do just that.
Along the way, by not trying to outsmart what's written down, by not following any shortcuts, by putting in the effort while navigating through life - that's when the lightbulbs started going off.
Even today, there are quite a few things that I re-learn when I re-read my favourite authors. The golden rule I have which serves me well is to "do now, understand later."
follow the rules until you are capable of being a shining exemplar of what they represent, but break them when those very rules now constitute the most dire impediment to the embodiment of their central virtues.
And after about 10 years of this, I have started to think about breaking a rule here or there. But then, this assumes I've understood the rules.
An exercise for you
What rules do you follow which you should contemplate breaking?
What rules are you breaking without understanding them?