As I reflect on the many ups-and-downs over my business career, it’s clear when I followed the expected rules, very few positive results ensued.

In other words, a status quo approach to life yields, well, status quo outcomes.

Breaking the Rules

Of course, what I’m prescribing here is not to engage in illegal or fraudulent activities. The advice I’m sharing relates to doing things in a creative and innovative way with the intent of differentiating yourself from others.

I officiated men’s collegiate basketball for 25 years, and we learned to call the game within the spirit and intent of the rules.

What does this mean?

The point is fans do not go to games to hear referees blow the whistle. Instead, everyone wants to watch a game with good flow where the players can display their agility, speed, strength, and accuracy.

Therefore, referees at this level are taught to call fouls and violations where one player clearly gains an advantage, such as with a double dribble or hitting a player on the arm while he is attempting a shot. As you can imagine, there are many situations where contact is subtle and has little impact on the opponent. In these cases, we can hold on the whistle and let the players continue.

Controlled Chaos

I shared the basketball example to make a point about the value of controlled chaos. In other words, we have many opportunities to operate beyond the norm, which is where we can gain a competitive advantage.

I have a business colleague who is a terrific salesperson, and I recently had a conversation that went something like this:

ME: “Hey, Samantha! How’s it going with your work?”

SAMANTHA: It’s going great! I’m trying new techniques to promote our training services to major companies.”

ME: “What’s one technique you would consider bold?”

 SAMANTHA: “So there is one big prospect in Chicago, and I decided to try the ‘neighborhood approach.’ I live in Dallas, and I tell this potential client I’m going to be in the neighborhood for other business. The other business just so happens to be meeting this potential client. I find they often will agree to meet with me when they know I’m traveling to their hometown. I’ve used this approach before, and it has backfired when the person canceled on me, but these are chances I’m willing to take.’”

As you can see with this example, my colleague is open to operating in an unpredictable and chaotic business state. She is aware failure is a real option, but the rewards are also significant. 

If you mentioned to someone that you are flying from Dallas to Chicago for a meeting which might be canceled at the last minute, most people would say you are crazy. This means very few people are willing to take chances, which leaves the big opportunities for those who are bold.

Take it in Stride

My recommendation is to start operating outside the normal rules. You can do this by applying for a job where you lack some of the requirements but go into the interview with confidence and a willingness to learn.

Even when you fall short, the lessons learned will help you feel comfortable operating in the controlled chaos state where opportunities are boundless.