Breaking the Rules for Fun, Fame and Fortune

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

What rules are you breaking?

What boundaries are you pushing?

Which group of people are you pestering?

What twitch, switch or tremor do you seek to tweak in YOUR niche, marketplace or online playground?

If you’re not doing that a little bit at least…..

You need to break some rules.

Have some more fun.

Become a provocateur…..if ONLY to step up, stand out and unleash your own creative marketing muse.

I am SO sick of the rules that everyone thinks they’ve got to follow to get ahead.

The only people who want you to believe there are rules are those making them……. and have something invested in you following along.

The middle is not where the magic is.

It’s in the margins – the outer edges – and the places that most people won’t go.

Push the envelop.

Dance dangerously on the edges of your audiences expectations…….and you’ll often be amazed at what happens.

When it comes to being creative with your CONTENT and your character…….and make NO mistake – regardless of what those stuffy, fluffy and good for nothing gurus want you to believe…….this IS a business driven by creativity, the only TRUTH is this:

Rules CRUSH your creative energy.

They blow your flow.

And sap your spirit.

And rob you of the JOY and the juice of doing this work.

I read about 10 different “popular” online marketing blogs this morning……

It felt like a colonoscopy, only without the small talk and the awkward handshake at the end.

All the cool kids wants you to believe is that there are RULES.

The cool kids are clueless.

And they ain’t so cool.

Here is my ONLY rule:

Sticking to the rules is what keeps everyone lumped in the middle

If you want to stand out – you’ve got to be memorable.

And if you want to be memorable – you’ve got to say something different.

Outside of the lines.

And on top of the box.

Let me give you an example from my own business – just this week.

I wrote this blog post here:

After a bit I noticed no one had left a comment.

I thought the blog post deserved a comment.

So I decided to leave my own:

It said: (or I said)

Okay – I’d like to be the first one to comment on yet another magnificent post. I’d also like to say BRAVO, for doing such great work, and raising the bar for the rest of us, it’s truly inspiring.

So – keep up the excellent work. And don’t forget tomorrow morning is garbage day. (you got to get that milk out this week… way that can sit in the fridge until next tuesday)

Try to get out of the house tomorrow, too – all of this computer time is starting to mess with your head. And no more Boyz in the Hood re-runs tonight on HBO classic either – if it comes on again – get up and change the channel – it’s a short walk, and you already know the dialog for the last 15 minutes by heart. (spoiler alert – Ice Cube gets capped)

I actually giggled like a 12 year old immediately thereafter.

I thought it was funny.

I read it a few times, and it made me smile.


And as a rule, that’s a good thing.


I think there is a pretty firm unwritten rule that you are not supposed to comment on your own blog posts in this business.

It sort of looks odd.

People don’t expect it…..and scratch their heads a bit, I guess when you do.

And i tried to stifle the urge…….I just really, really had something else to say.

I couldn’t help myself.

So I said – fuck it.

Why not?

Who cares?

It’s my blog and I wanted to give myself a little enthusiastic thumbs up for all my hard work.

So I did.

An hour later……..

Some guy who had recently signed up for my list in just the past 3 days…..suddenly unsubscribes and fills out the little aweber “reason why” form with a note about how “lame” it is that “this pathetic joker” comments on his own blog.

Now – my first instinct was to do the obvious:

(Pay someone over-seas 2 dollars an hour to do nothing but post male enhancement questions on yahoo answers in this guys real name while screaming “you want a piece of this” and refreshing my screen while cackling like a loon until i fall alseep in my chair)

But the truth is, when you break rules……some people don’t like it.

They shake their heads and go away.

But interestingly………more people DO.

If for no other reason other than you are different.

And odd.

And interesting.

Even inspiring.

(even if they still think you are a bit weird)

Your challenge is this:

Look at your niche, or your marketplace or your industry and figure out which rules you can break, bend or budge to step up and stand out

Who can you tweak, poke or tickle to get attention?

Find some interesting way to say something your audience DOESN’T expect.

Change your game.

Confront an injustice and point it out.

Name names.

Be controversial…..if ONLY to experiment with how it feels. (it feels pretty good)

The only sin is to be boring.

Be someone different…..if only for a moment and change the way you play the game.

And stop getting small minded marketing advice from people who want you to follow rules.



  1. Yheah, you come across as a real person. Boy! is that refreshing. I can believe you truly are earning oodles online. Who wouldn’t be with your brand of creativity. Love it!

  2. Talk about being in tune. Your blog is now my official go-to blog. I’m kind of new online and decided to break all the rules I got from the guru’s. I’ve been posting ads and just decided to be myself and create my own headlines for my classified ads. No more suggested headlines for me. I’,m having fun and seeing results already. Love the way you commented on your own post. Great blog!

  3. Ian, you have actually stirred me from my Sunday afternoon hypnotic haze, I read your post and became actually ‘animated’ (no, I did not change into Homer Simpson)You are 100% on the ball… we are so used to thinking in that ‘trained’ manner-like the rational good obedient citizens that we are. To make an impression, to break through the trance, you have to use shock tactics, and you have to tap into the ‘real stuff’ lying dormant in your psyche. I sensed a simpatico with your post. Good one.

  4. Thanks Gail!

    Woofmang – the male enhancement yahoo answers punishment is usually reserved for repeat offenders – but occassionally, for especially egregious offences – you have to go to the heavy weapons early!

    Thanks, Nancy and Mike – they can spell my name wrong as long as they say something nice..:-)

  5. Wasn’t it the actress Olivia Da Haviland (NO idea how to spell her name), who was married something like 5 times, who said, “I don’t care what you write about me, as long as you spell my name right!”

    Unfortunately, interesting people are an endangered species.

  6. Refreshing and timely. Made me realize that I, myself, have been a stickler for the rules for and have become boring and predictable. Time to have some fun. Right on.

  7. I find it very easy to write this way . . . when I’m writing about something I LOVE! When I’m writing about things I just like in a general way or that I’m lukewarm about, well, that’s much tougher to do. That tells me that parlaying passion into profit will only work for me if I focus on the things I love. But I already knew that, and you’ve already said that.

    That should make it easier, except I love things that few others do. Oh well, I’ll figure it out somehow, some way.

    Pollyanna, I agree about language. I refuse to talk down to anybody since I feel it’s a sign of disrespect, and I hate to be talked down to since it feels like my intelligence is being insulted when someone does it.

  8. LOL…I love this!!! I am still laughing at: “(Pay someone over-seas 2 dollars an hour to do nothing but post male enhancement questions on yahoo answers in this guys real name while screaming “you want a piece of this” and refreshing my screen while cackling like a loon until i fall alseep in my chair)”

    Priceless! This is once again, great advice. You rock. This is why i consistently read your blog and subscribe to your newsletter. You give quality content over and over again. I have learned so much so far. Look forward to more. Thanks Ian

  9. Hello Ian – I like this. You reminded me about the “Are Beards Heroic?” post that I did, that lost me two Twitter followers. I have taken my partner’s (and your) advice and write more and more of what I want to write, which is often kooky.

    Also I loved what you said the other day about talking to the target audience. I’ve stopped trying to write for everyone and dumbing down my speech (which is what all the other guru types tell you to do “keep the language to high school level”). I hate doing that. I love writing for an audience with an appreciation for the language. So thanks for that liberating idea also! You rock.

    Sometimes I feel uncomfortable, but who cares, I love doing it. I’ve lost a few, but more readers are consistently there. Now I would like some conversions!!! Haven’t quite nailed that yet.

    1. Thanks, Pollyanna! (Thanks to FB – I check out your blog updates when i see them – and kooky or not – it’s very, very entertaining – so whatever you are doing – keep doing it..:-)!

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