Ben Zander’s Rule Number 6: Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously

“Nothing in life is quite as important as you think it is while you’re thinking about it.” – Daniel Kahneman.


Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and author of Art of Possibility, has a simple yet powerful rule to deal with high-stress situation. He calls it Rule #6.

Zander leads into this rule with a story:

Two prime ministers sat in a room, discussing affairs. A man interrupts them with fury, shouting, and mayhem. “Peter,” the resident minister says, “Remember Rule Number Six.” This stops the furious man instantly and he is replaced with a calm version of himself. 

Upon returning to the conversation, the two are interrupted yet again. This time it is a hysterical woman. The resident minister repeats himself, “Remember Rule Number Six.” The woman coolly exits the room, apologizing. 

The scene is repeated a third time and the second minister is left confused. “I’ve seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. What is the secret of Rule Number Six?”

“Very simple. Rule Number Six: don’t take yourself so damn seriously.”

After pondering, the second minister agrees that it’s a fine rule and asks about Rules 1-5. The resident minister laughs and says, “there aren’t any.” 

Why do we take ourselves so seriously?

We take ourselves seriously because we want to appear in control, for others to see us in a serious manner. Though, taking ourselves too seriously can cause people to view us as self-righteous or miserable.

When we allow ourselves to drop the constant realm of seriousness, we appear human. We invite in humor, humility, and acceptance. In our quest to “Think Deeply. Speak Simply“, let’s not forget Ben Zander’s Rule #6!

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