Project Practitioners > Rules to Live By [And Manage By]

Rules to Live By [And Manage By]

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


With the new year approaching and everyone doing a 2017 year in review, I wanted to bring attention to some rules to live, and manage, by. The goal is to become the best person, and project manager one can be. No one wants to perform poorly, cause stress, and be unemployed.

While, at times, it may seem like people have a vendetta against you, most individuals want to help. Whether it is creating a schedule, monitoring a process, or taking notes during a meeting, someone is always willing to step up.

I came across these rules in a book titled Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead written by Neil Strauss. Strauss, a New York Times bestselling author and contributing editor for Rolling Stone, compiled interviews that never saw the light of day.

These interviews took place for cover stories of Rolling Stone magazine. Interviewees include Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, Cher, and a variety of other artists and cultural idols. At the end of the book, he details the commonalities throughout each of the interviews.

As a result, here are a few instructions for living compiled from the common experiences in these interviews:


  1. Let go of the past.

Strauss points out that legends of their industries are so hung up on “previous scandals, injustices, and regrets” that they fail to recognize their accomplishments. Their fans do not remember these artists for the negativity. Instead, they are remembered for their contributions.

As a project manager, there will always be something that could have been done differently. Whether it is conflict resolution, critical path, human resources, and so on, a change here or there can make a big difference. However, what is done is done. You cannot rewind the tape and change the course of time. Make your accomplishments speak for themselves.


  1. Fame won’t make you feel any better about yourself.

Celebrities feel that fame and money “will resolve their feelings of insignificance, insecurity, worthlessness, and disconnection.” In reality, these flaws become magnified with celebrity.

I remember wanting to be recognized in the worst way. I worked for a large corporation and everyone was a number. I went to every higher up I could get in front of and asked them for more work. At every chance, I asked for a raise or some other perk. In the end, none of what I received made working there any better. I got everything I asked for, yet felt empty. The recognition and reward did not make up for the fact I had issues working there.


  1. The secret to happiness is balance.

“Almost everyone who reaches a plateau where he or she is happy and comfortable says it’s because of finding balance, creating boundaries, and dedicating each week to a mix of work, relaxation, exercise, socializing, and family – plus some alone time to do something contemplative, creative, or educational.”

The work-life balance rears its head again. I state this because balance is so important. The phrase ‘It’s lonely at the top’ comes to mind. If you become too focused on titles, money, and recognition while laying waste to the people around you, what is there to enjoy when you reach your goal?


  1. Fix your issues now, because the older you get, the worse they become.

The team dynamic is so important. Everyone must fill a role and perform their tasks for the project to be successful. The second you realize something is off, apply action and fix the issue. This situation is like brakes on a vehicle. You can change the brake pads when suggested or end up needing new rotors along with brake pads. One is relatively cheap while the other can triple your cost.

Nip any issue in the bud. Don’t turn a molehill into a mountain. These phrases exist to give caution to anyone just turning a blind eye and hoping the problem goes away. A great project manager is proactive, not reactive.


  1. Derive your self-esteem from within, not from others’ opinions.

People who talk behind others’ backs do not want you to look bad. Instead, they want to make themselves feel good. In the process, you may think you look bad and want to act outwardly. However, if your self-esteem is not determined by others, their effect is nonexistent.

In a workplace, there is always jealousy. Like crabs in a bucket, people are trying to pull you back down to their level so you cannot escape. Knowing you put forth your best effort trying to accomplish personal and professional goals should reward your self-esteem.


  1. Say yes to new things.

When I was starting out, I said ‘yes’ to everything. As a matter of fact, I continue to do this. New brings life to any situation. If you continue to run similar projects over the course of years, you will start to make mistakes because the process is mundane. When something switches, even a little bit, it will throw a wrench into the system and cause havoc.

If you do not estimate, start to ask questions and learn. If you do not sell the product, make some calls to the salespeople to learn what customers are saying. If you only work out of the office, begin your day in the field. Mix up your routine to not only learn more but also remain enthused.


  1. Live in truth.

The cover-up is always worse than the crime. If you tell the truth, you do not have to remember the lies. In project management, sugar coating is prevalent. Everyone wants to deliver a premium product ahead of schedule and cheap. In actuality, this process takes time and money.

When you cannot perform the work, be honest. Your goal should be to deliver the best product or service for your client. Bringing in a subcontractor could end up costing more money, but deliver a better product.


  1. Never say never.

“Most of the time when we vehemently detest something in another person’s behavior, it’s either because we recognize a part of it in ourselves or we’re secretly envious.” Life takes many twists and turns. I never thought I would write a book. I never thought I would live 1600 miles from home. If, at a young age, I wrote off each of these experiences, they may have never presented themselves.

Projects have guidelines to follow. Specifications are amongst those guidelines. Never create a product out of spec, except in this or that case. In construction, there are always situations when your best judgment comes into play. It is not how the plan has it drawn. It is not how you normally perform the task. In this case, you go outside of the box and make it work.


  1. Be happy with what you have.

Strauss points to musicians who are making a living doing what they love. Instead of focusing on the positive, each artist would always talk about getting ripped off or not having this or that. What they had was never good enough.

Your job may be easier if you could afford to buy a program or hire a new person, but it is not possible. The resources to do so are not available. You have to be grateful for what you have and work with it. Creativity enters the equation. Mindset shifts occur. Instead of being down and out because you did not get the raise or the new job, be happy with your current situation. Things can always be worse.


  1. Everyone loves you when you’re dead.

“Because when you’re dead, your happiness and accomplishments are no longer a threat to their belief system and self-esteem. You’ve been appropriately punished.”

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