All Rules Are Wrong. Except This One

Rules don’t work. Their intent is to require or control behaviour., but they don’t.

Some financial advisors, many parents and nearly all politicians are over-involved in the lives and development of their charges.  The helicopter variety. 

The condition has three beginnings.  They care about the well-being of their client, child, or citizen, they are fearful of harm coming to them, and they like control.

The two well meaning conditions eventually support the need for control. The rules that follow create dependency and future problems. Infantilization instead of learning from experience.  Experience is what builds capable, confident adults.  Denying the experiences is harmful.  Just not immediately.

If the first cheeseburger made you fat, no one would ever eat one.  If the first cigarette killed you, it would be the end of tobacco products.  The problem with real life is that cause and effect are not so closely tied. So rules.

I must protect you or I know more than you.  Fear and arrogance are poor guides. They lead to too many rules and too little personal authority.

Philip Cross wrote an article recently in the Financial Post that claimed, by actual count, Ontario has more than 380,000 regulations.  Madness!  It can end one of two ways.  People believe everything is safe because the government is protecting us and do nothing for themselves, or people ignore most or all of regulation because the government makes stupid rules. 

Philip found, by a small survey, that the stupidest regulation was the newly passed “ladder law.”

“This requires anyone working with a ladder to take an online government course — at a $29 fee. The first lesson? Be sure to face the front of the ladder.”

Politicians, must be seen to be doing something. So trivia is likely better for us than substance.  Our humor break in the day. They cannot do much harm with ladder laws.  I worry about their involvement in climate change and income distribution ideas though.

Fearful parents cause problems.  What circumstances do you permit that might teach a child something by experience?  For many the answer is none.  A dense rule set is destructive.  Have fewer rules. They will learn more and your life will be easier. Children have more energy to defy you than you have to enforce rules. 

  • Avoid things that will harm you physically or disrupt your future. If you are not sure ask.
  • Try not to bring shame on yourself or the family.
  • Have friends that share your ideals and be a good friend.
  • Be honest and empathetic

Wearing unmatched socks to school is not the same things as avoiding drug dealers and cheating on tests.

People think rules and control influence outcomes even thought they do not.  Financial advisors should not take authority for outcomes. Politicians avoid accountability.  Parents too, to some extent. Advisors tend to be accountable and new regulation will add to that burden. Financial planning must be a team effort and the client is the leader.

No rule will provide a certain outcome. Give up the arrogance of specialized knowledge or position.  Help clients become confident, capable and objective.   For now, there is little hope for politicians going that route, but advisors and parents need not continue on a failing path.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  866-285-7772

One Comment on “All Rules Are Wrong. Except This One

  1. Very well said. I enjoyed it and it is so relevant to how our Financial Regulators view Advisors and the relationships they have with clients today. If you keep making rules, they think that eventually everything will turn out right.

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