Given that it was Valentine’s Day recently, I thought it would be appropriate to provide my notes on The Rules of Love – picked up from Costco. Richard, as some of you may know, is the international best selling author of The Rules series – he has The Rules of Work, The Rules of Life, The Rules to Break, The Rules of People, The Rules of Wealth and other rules books that I will probably read through.

Each of the books are ‘easy’ reads – I put quotes on easy because each of the rules covers about two pages in the book where Richard shares the rule and then some stories, anecdotes, studies or surveys that talk about how the rule applies. I sometimes wonder if authors should be making it easy for their readers to read their books or if authors should stick to their own style but I suppose that’s something to explore in a future post.

I would say that with The Rules of Love, I did not pick up too many tips that were mind-blowing or astounded me but it is always good to be humble and to remind yourself of the things that you always mean to do but for whatever reason, forget or do not do. Here are the rules that really hit home for me:

You can’t change people

As I was reading this rule, I was thinking about Gretchen Rubin – she says that you cannot change people, you can only change yourself which I always think about when I think about some of the relationships that I have (friends, work colleagues, etc.). In fact, I think that the way to change other people around you is to change yourself first (what does Ghandi say again?) but it’s certainly not guaranteed that other people around you will change though.

In relationships, it can often mean that even if you want your partner to change something about themselves, they may not which is why you have to look to change your own actions, behaviours, mindsets or attitude. Sometimes you compromise. Sometimes you do not feel you can change and have to deal with it another way.

Be nice

I have to say that I’m guilty of not following this rule sometimes. There are times when I’m stressed or frustrated over something or I have a one track mind when I’m writing, exercising, driving or a variety of other activities. It’s weird that someone like the mailman or a server at a restaurant gets the polite version of ourselves but we lash out and vent our frustrations at our loved ones by our side.

Recognize the signs

Let me ask you something – does your partner do romantic things for you? Richard shares a story about one couple where he asked the wife whether her husband does romantic things for her and she said “no, he doesn’t bring me flowers, he doesn’t buy me gifts, he doesn’t take me out to dates”. Richard then asked her “what about the times when he takes care of the children while you go shopping or when he wakes up to feed the baby? She said “no, I don’t count those as romantic things”. I think Richard’s point here is that there are probably a lot of things your partner does that you just don’t recognize as romantic but they don’t just do it for themselves, they do it for you. Recognize those and show your appreciation!

If you can say something nice, do it

I really like this rule and I try to follow it all the time with those around me. It’s a good rule to follow because you never know how a random comment can brighten someone’s day and make them feel better about themselves. A long time ago, I learned a secret tip to give the greatest compliment ever – it might have been from Leil Lowndes but here it is:

  • Randomly, ask your close friend or partner what it is that they want to be remembered for? If they could have anything written on their tombstone, what would it hypothetically be? For example, Bob was a great father and an even better husband or Charlotte gave everything she had to the charity and communities she belonged to.
  • Note down the traits or characteristics that they may have mentioned (either directly or indirectly) when they do the tombstone exercise
  • A few months or years later down the road, compliment them on that trait in a different way. For example, if Bob mentions that he wants to be remembered as a great father on his tombstone, mention how great his kids are and how incredible his parents must be to raise such great kids.

I’ve only tried this compliment a couple times (mostly because I forgot about it after I first learned it) but don’t be surprised if I ask you what you want on your tombstone.

Keep talking

I’m not a big talker – I prefer to listen, observe and pay attention to what other are saying with their body language. But that’s not always a good trait to have – sometimes the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease. Communication is, I believe, the cornerstone to any relationship, and if you do not communicate, you can’t tell someone what you love, what you don’t like, how you feel, or what you think.

Never be too busy for loved ones

With a demanding job like management consulting, it’s easy to brush aside commitments with your loved ones or your family so that you can meet that deadline or travel for that international client. I’ll be honest, this is another rule that I try to follow but feel like it is a challenge – as much as possible, I’m going to try to get both things done but I have to remember: near the end of your life, you aren’t going to be remembered for how hard you worked, you are going to be remembered by how great your relationships are with your family – that brings a lot of perspective and helps you to prioritize (hopefully) in life.

Never lend money unless you’re prepared to write it off

Once, when I was at a restaurant, one of my friends who I knew for a long time (think elementary school) asked to borrow $5 from me. I didn’t think anything of it so I lent him the $5 expecting him to pay me back. Several months passed and each time I saw him, I thought, where’s my $5? Part of it was because I’m generally quite good at returning money and things back in a timely manner and I expected others to be similar. The fact that I was missing the $5 bothered me so much that once when we were all out with a group of friends, I went up to my friend and asked for $5. My other friends around me asked if I needed to borrow some money and opened up their wallets and I said “no that’s okay” and I left. Yes, that’s how awkward I was – I was trying to get my money back so I pretended I needed money from that friend that had lent me $5 before.

Now I know better – if I’m not prepared to write off money that I lend, I won’t lend it in the first place.

People are more important than things

I had to learn this rule the hard way – one of the most important things in my life are books. Books are so important that once, I got angry with my friend for not treating a book well – I think my friend had not cleaned their hands, threw the book on the floor and as a result, I yelled, words were exchanged and my friend said “hey, it’s just a book”. Apparently, I didn’t think so at the time though I now recognize how weird I was about my books. At that point in my life, if one of my books was thrown into the ocean and my friend at the same time fell into the ocean, I would have had a seriously difficult decision to make in my life (yes I know). Nowadays, I’m more of the mindset that the things we own end up owning us and so I give away books all the time to make sure that I’m not as attached as I should be.

Okay, I’ve read the rules, what am I going to try to do differently in my life?

  • Be mindful – if I sense that I am getting frustrated or stressed, take a breath, a time out, go exercise, meditate or do something else before engaging with others
  • Look to myself for faults and change myself – I can’t ask others to change if I’m not willing to take responsibility for my own faults
  • Every day, think about the small things that your partner does that you somehow miss when only thinking about the grand gestures or big acts of love – all of those count as acts of love
  • Don’t lend money – I don’t think this is ever a good idea unless you’re lending money that you are willing to not get back
  • Spend time with loved ones – spend as much time as you can

About the author:

Wang is a management consultant, self-published author, Distinguished Toastmaster, co-host of a podcast, Udemy teacher, former Uber driver and all around hustler. He is also obsessed about books and he reads books so that you don’t have to. Want a list of Wang’s top ten formative books in his life and career? Interested in book summaries and recommendations every month? Subscribe to Wang’s e-mail newsletter!