Three Rules of Work

Bill Abbate

If one of the most intelligent and respected people to ever live gave you advice on working, would you take it? Let’s look at the wisdom of such an individual by looking at his “Three Rules of Work.”

Three rules of work

Who comes to mind when you think of some of the most intelligent people of all time? For many, the iconic, wild-haired physicist Albert Einstein is near or at the top. Einstein left great wisdom in his writings, covering many topics, including work.

Let’s examine Einstein’s “Three Rules of Work.”

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Rule 1 — Out of clutter find simplicity

How can you find simplicity from clutter? You will find two types of people in the work world: those who live a clutter-free life and those with clutter everywhere.

Jane, my wife, is a perfect example of a clutter-free person. Her desk is always clean and well-organized. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Then there are those like me, with “stuff” everywhere! When I clean it, it winds up cluttered again soon after.

It is well-known that clutter wastes time by reducing your ability to focus. I can attest to this. When I write, rather than clean my desk, I take my laptop to my comfortable, uncluttered recliner and write away. I do my final editing at my desk and admit the clutter is annoying. This is especially true when I need to scan something and must uncover the scanner to do so!

Once in a while, I take time to clean and organize everything. Why can’t I keep my desk clutter-free? This is where Jane and I are very different.

Jane touches things once, throws them away, or files them if they are essential. I am completely different in this respect, although I have improved over the years.

Rather than throw things away or immediately file them, I lay them aside. Depending on the amount of clutter, I think I will get to it later, meaning I am only procrastinating. The truth is I would be better off not cluttering up my desk in the first place.

Why can’t I throw things away like Jane? I am working on that!

Jane and I have different working styles as well. She can wait until the last minute to do something and will do it precisely and accurately, whereas I have difficulty working that way. It produces too much stress in me.

I rarely wait until the eleventh hour unless forced to do so. I prefer spreading a project over time without rushing to complete it all at once. There appears to be a connection here to the clutter I create.

I am moving toward Jane’s clean desk and office style, which greatly simplifies things. Simplicity through removing clutter brings clarity, improving your thinking and the outcomes you produce.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann (1880–1966)

Rule 2 — From discord find harmony

What a great feeling it is when work goes smoothly. The feeling of being productive and accomplishing more than usual is fantastic. Have you ever worked in a workplace like that? Harmony can create that at your place of work or in a relationship.

Rather than being at odds with others, especially those you work with, why not find common ground on difficult issues to achieve peace and harmony? Everything is better when everyone at work focuses on the same outcomes without the extraneous nonsense.

If you lean toward the negative, try shutting your mouth instead of poisoning the workplace with negativity. There is never a reason for a mature adult to say anything hurtful to someone at work or anywhere else. Avoid creating or involving yourself in strife whenever you can.

You will find room in any disagreement to discover something that works for each of you. All it requires is being mature and looking for areas of agreement with an open mind. Keep the win-lose attitude out of the workplace, especially with colleagues. When you seek harmony in the workplace and life, you will find it. Everyone’s life will be better for it!

A gentleman, once the wealthiest person in the world, said the following about getting along with other people.

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937)

Rockefeller’s wisdom in this statement shows how he valued people who dealt well with others in his organization. This ability naturally translates to greater unity and harmony in the workforce.

Rule 3 — In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity

Life is full of opportunities. Why? Because life is full of difficulties! So long as you live and breathe, you will face challenges in life. This fact of life always has been and always will be true.

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” J. Sidlow Baxter (1903–1999)

Think about it for a moment. Can you name one modern invention or convenience not created because of some difficulty? If you know of one, please leave it in the comments below, as I have not found one yet.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill (1874–1964)

Final thoughts

The great thing about Einstein’s Three Rules of Work is their simplicity. In the clutter of suggestions made by others, little compares to his three rules. Imagine what the focus on harmony could bring into our lives. I don’t know about you, but I could always use more of that! And what could be more truthful than the reality we all face difficulties and how they provide a source of endless opportunity?

If you can live out Einstein’s Three Rules of Work, you will find far more enjoyment in your work and life.

Always remember, everything good in life starts with you! What action can you begin taking immediately on Einstein’s three rules of work?

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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