Two Prime ministers were sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and baning his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: “Peter,” he says, “kindly remember Rule Number 6,” whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: “Marie, please remember Rule Number 6.” Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: “My dear friend, I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of this Rule Number 6?” “Very simple,” replies the resident prime minister. “Rule Number 6 is ‘Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.'” “Ah,” says his visitor, “that is a fine rule.” After a moment of pondering, he inquires, “And what, may I ask, are the other rules?” … “There aren’t any.”Benjamin Zander, symphony conductor, teacher, and motivational speaker told the Rule Number 6 story to a group of executives at a company in Europe. Several months later, when he returned to that city, he stopped by their headquarters and was invited into the presidents office. There, on the desk was a plaque facing towards the president’s chair, inscribed were the words, Remember Rule Number 6. A similar plaque now stands on the desk of every manager in the company, with the inscription facing both ways. The president explained to Zander that a transforming climate of cooperation in the company has resulted from this one simple act.
A simple shift in the way we think can help us distinguish the part of ourselves that is forced to live in the competitive business world obsessed with measurement. When we practice Rule Number 6, we help our “calculating self” to lighten up. By doing so, we break its hold on us.
You can read more about Rule Number 6 in Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility: