The life of a rule breaker

Women in Leadership Part Ten

Yesterday my good friend and Gravity’s wonderful Director of Sales Rosita talked about denying expectations and knowing yourself. Well, today I am taking it a step further. Don’t just deny the expectations, deny everything else. If life is about anything, it’s about following your path regardless of the rules or following convention because things have always been done that way. Rules are for suckers.

That might sound cliché, but let me deconstruct that a bit before you hop on that high horse. Rules are designed by people who want to control you. Maybe they don’t want you to do something outside of their set parameters for fear you might find a better way. Maybe they are simply scared of things they don’t know. Either way, if you follow their rules blindly, then you my friend are a sucker, and you’re going to miss out on something in life. Don’t buy the rulebook, don’t read it. If by chance someone forces a rulebook, on you my suggestion would be to grace it with an ample dose of gasoline coupled with a Zippo flame engulfed to the max. (Zippo design of your choosing. Obviously.)

There are certain rules for women. Rules of what our place is in society. It changes from time to time, but it follows along variations of the same rulebook that we did not write. Written by thousands of years of societal norms and conventions being every ingrained in us. Rules dictated by tradition. In the 50’s, the rule was we stayed home and in the kitchen. Women broke the rule and decided they wanted to work. Then in the 80’s there was the glass ceiling. That was shattered and women are still breaking rules and blazing trails every day.

If you think rulebooks are not all around you, then you’re not looking for them correctly. Don’t think of it as the Employee Handbook corporate HR trainers hand out to aid in your indoctrination into their brand of culture. If you forgot about that handbook already don’t feel bad, so did everyone else. What I’m talking about are the rulebooks that invade our lives from first to last breath, the so called, unwritten rules, the dos and don’ts of life.

Here are a few examples when I threw caution to the wind and burned a rulebook. Some of these might not seem consequential when examining them one by one in a real macro environment. But when you look at the scope of my life and how its lead me to be successful in the capacity that I am, the consequence is absolute.

I don’t remember the exact age, so for sake of the story let’s just say I was six. So here I am, little six-year-old Maria and I am about to go camping with my family. We’d venture off in the car to some far off land full of fantasy.

Once we arrived I’d jump out of the car and take in the fresh mountain air. The sun would just barely manage to pierce a few beams through the towering Douglas Firs. There we would be, my family and I. A cooler, tent, sleeping bags, all the fixings for s’mores, and all the other accoutrements for a great woodland adventure. But there was one problem. The rules were trying to ruin the trip before it even started.

Before we left, we had a half-day at school. I remember being so excited for my trip that I had to tell everyone. I packed my bag that morning so everything could be loaded up. I put on my camping outfit, one of my favorite jumpers, some sneakers and the pièce de résistance, my prized pink tutu. See you already thought in your head while reading, a tutu camping? Maria, you can’t do that.

Well, you and my teacher love to follow the same rules for no damn good reason because that is exactly what he said to me. I remember being totally confused. My mother was always supportive of my rule breaker lifestyle. (Well, there was age between 15-17 whereas most teenagers I might have done things she didn’t support so much. But you know what I mean.) So why was this teacher telling me I couldn’t wear a tutu over a jumper while camping? Was there some law enforced by the Park Service forbidding tutus being within 50 feet of any trailheads? No? Great, then I am wearing the tutu and if you don’t think I can, prepare to have your minds blown. (Rule annihilated)

That might have been my first realization that if a rule doesn’t make sense, then it probably doesn’t have to be followed. So I started down a path. When I was in school I wanted to play basketball. Everyone told me I couldn’t because I was too short. You can’t see me and that picture above doesn’t do it justice because I look like a towering titan, but trust me I am short. Well do you think that stopped me? Nope. I got on the team. Sure I mainly played the bench, but I was on the team.

I grabbed a Bachelor’s in consumer science, and I decided I wanted to head off to grad school to gain my MBA. Trouble was the school I wanted to apply to had a requirement of minimum amount of work experience. Well I didn’t have that experience but I was experienced in rule breaking. So I did, applied and what do you know, they accepted me. Breaking that rule enabled me to become a more effective leader for my team. The knowledge I obtained help me ensure my performance at Gravity is as effective as possible. Who knows where I would be if I hadn’t broken that rule. Maybe I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work in such a wonderful place helping bring fairness and simplicity to the credit card processing industry.

Pause for a second, that got me thinking. If you are a small business owner, let our team help you out for crying out loud. Credit Card processing is a notoriously shady and hard to deal with industry. That’s where we come in. Real people helping real people. No BS, no schemes. Just transparency and trust.

If I didn’t break that rule, I wouldn’t have been able to put in that little plug. You might think it’s against the rules to plug our company in the middle of a thought provoking, funny and widely sarcastic blog like this one. But whatever, I’m Maria and I do what I want.

Malala Yousafzai broke the rules. She was shot in the head by men who objected to the education of females. She survived and now works to educate girls across the world. Rule Breaker! Rosa Parks sat on the bus and broke the rules. Anna Julia Cooper was born a slave on a plantation in South Carolina, but she earned a PhD anyway. Rule Breaker! Becky Hammon became the first full-time female NBA coach in history. Rule Breaker! Our COO, CTO, and CIO Tammi Kroll has always worked in male dominant fields and never even gave it a second thought. Rule Breaker!

Rule breakers change the course of history; rule followers are forgotten by its relentless pursuit of the future. Be a rule breaker.

-Maria Harley Director of Revenue at Gravity Payments

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