Rules By Which To (Continue To) Live

A reader shared with me some Rules to live by.   It reminded me of a moment in the newest James Bond movie (lots of action in Rome this time).  This film’s “Bond Girl” asks 007 why he chose to be an assassin.  He replies, “Well, it was either that or the priesthood.”

Yes, it’s a dilemma, this life.

And, no, I can’t talk about the SVVAS. And, no, I don’t have a Walther PPK… yet.

Many of you vets, on this Veteran’s Day, might recognize some of the principles involved.

So, perhaps, will seminarians.  Rules for Seminary Survival.

Rule 0: Always double-tap
Rule 1: Always have an escape plan. (see the 3 Plans at the end)
Rule 2: Be aware of your surroundings.
Rule 3: Assumption is the mother of all eff-ups.
Rule 4: Always have a backup plan.
Rule 5: Never get caught.
Rule 6: Keep your mouth shut.
Rule 7: KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.
Rule 8: 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance
Rule 9: A simple plan with a flexible blueprint will survive real world contact far better than a complex and rule-bound plan.
Rule 10: Plan, execute and vanish.
Rule 11: You don’t have to like it-you just have to do it.
Rule 12: Always invest in good quality stuff.
Rule 13: Trust your gut.
Rule 14: Always carry a knife.
Rule 15: Do one thing at a time.
Rule 16: Pick your battles…
Rule 17: Simple and light equals freedom, agility and mobility.
Rule 18: Target dictates the weapon and the weapon dictates the movement. (“Mack” Machowicz)
Rule 19: Use ACTE: assess the situation; create a simple plan; take action and evaluate your progress. (“Mack” Machowicz)
Rule 20: Understand. Anticipate. Adapt. (Red Team Journal)
Rule 21: Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.
Rule 22: Hide in plain sight. Blend in.
Rule 23: Think like a man of action, act like a man of thought.
Rule 24: Find a way to succeed.
Rule 25: Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash. (Patton)
Rule 26: A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. (Patton)
Rule 27: Swift, Silent, Deadly. The only way to go about doing your business.
Rule 28: The more sophisticated the technology the more vulnerable it is to primitive attacks. People often overlook the obvious.
Rule 29: If you’re happy with your security, so are the bad guys.
Rule 30: If you have a secret, the best thing is to keep it to yourself. The second-best is to tell one other person if you must. There is no third best.
Rule 31: “Bad guys attack, and good guys react” is not a viable security strategy.
Rule 32: An adversary is most vulnerable to detection and disruption just prior to an attack.
Rule 33: Low-tech attacks work (even against high-tech devices and systems).
Rule 34: Never mess with a man’s coffee if you want to live.
Rule 35: When overwhelmed divide the tasks in smaller subtasks, simplify.
Rule 36: Always be ready to go at any moment’s notice. Learn to be light and move fast.
Rule 37: Don’t spend time trying to move your opponent, just move yourself.
Rule 38: The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead! (Patton)
Rule 39: The quality of your friends always matters more than the quantity.
Rule 40: Always be surrounded by the right people.
Rule 41: Always provide correction in private and praise in public.
Rule 42: He who angers you conquers you.
Rule 43: Do nothing which is of no use. (Miyamoto Musashi)
Rule 44: Be content with what you have.
Rule 45: Opening the door for a lady is not optional.
Rule 46: Sensible defaults can reduce friction and provide simplicity anywhere one can think to apply them. (Patrick Rhone)
Rule 47: There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.
Rule 48: Personal notes should always be handwritten, however be prepare to destroy them at a moment’s notice.
Rule 49: Diplomas and certifications are OK, but trust experience over a diploma any time.
Rule 50: The greater the level of calmness of our mind, the greater our peace of mind, the greater our ability to enjoy life.
Rule 51: Find something you are willing to die for.
Rule 52: Don’t go into debt.
Rule 53: The only kind of marketing you need is an amazing product. (Leo Babauta)
Rule 54: Do not publish your life online, keep your life private. [No, I can’t talk about the SVVAS.]
Rule 55: Disconnect completely once in a while.
Rule 56: Live simply.
Rule 57: The GORUCK Rule – Under promise and over deliver.
Rule 58: When in doubt, C4. (Jamie Hyneman, Mythbusters) [It works.  Trust me.]
Rule 59: Progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere. (Morihei Ueshiba)
Rule 60: Courage is a special kind of knowledge: the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared. (David Ben-Gurion)
Rule 61: Don’t ever write a check with your mouth you can’t cash with your ass. (Wiseman). See Rule 6.
Rule 62: Some people just need a high-five. In the face. With a chair. (Carrie Adams)
Rule 63: You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain. (Miyamoto Musashi)
Rule 64: To know ten thousand things, know one well. (Musashi)
Rule 65: You are what you do when it counts.
Rule 66: If you think it was too easy, it was a trap. Look for jumping guards coming from the sides. [NB!]
Rule 67: The bad guys don’t obey our security policies.
Rule 68: Situational Awareness – Determine actions prior. Act decisions out at first sign of crisis. Decreased Exposure = Increased Survivability. MOVE! (Escape the Wolf)
Rule 69: If there’s a question about if it’s necessary, remove it. Less is more and more is lazy. (Jason McCarthy, GORUCK founder)
Rule 70: Never count on anything except surprise and unpredictability and danger. (Jack Reacher Rules)
Rule 71: Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action. [“Topicality is always suspect.” – George Smiley.  Thanks DW.]
Rule 72: Never do the same thing twice.
Rule 73: Confusion and unpredictability are what you should expect. (Jack Reacher Rules)
Rule 74: First you check, then you double-check. Finally you commit.
Rule 75: Always take care of your and your teams’ food and sleeping arragements. Create a schedule, however eat every time you can and sleep every time you can.
Rule 76: Notice every possible exit. Select one as your main exfil and another one as a backup.
Rule 77: Check the crowd: who is staring at you, who is all the sudden silent when you enter. [More important than you might think.]
Rule 78: Always sit with your back to the wall, even when there are mirrors you can use.
Rule 79: Think about everything you’ve seen, heard or felt. Work the clues, make connections. However, be wary of false positives.
Rule 80: Never take the elevator.
Rule 81: It is more complicated than you think.
Rule 82: The solution is in the problem.
Rule 83: Fail to Red Team and everything will go according to plan—right up to the point it doesn’t. (Red Team Journal)
Rule 84: If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid.
Rule 85: Don’t play by the rules.
Rule 86: Beware the wrath of a patient adversary. (John C. Calhoun) [Something my opponents should consider.]
Rule 87: Don’t become predictable.


Rule 88: Say the Black – Do the Red.

These seem to be a massive expansion on The Rules at Red Team.

And don’t forget The Fat Man’s Laws of the House of God.


Perhaps a bit more practical.


  • Rule 1: Always have an escape plan
  • Rule 2: Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Rule 3: Assumption is the mother of all eff-ups.
  • Rule 4: Always have a backup plan.
  • Rule 5: Never get caught.
  • Rule 6: Keep your mouth shut.
  • Rule 7: KISS: Keep it simple, stupid.
  • Rule 8: Simple and light equals freedom, agility and mobility.
  • Rule 9: Plan, execute and vanish.
  • Rule 10: You don’t have to like it-you just have to do it.
  • Rule 11: Always invest in good quality stuff.
  • Rule 12: Trust your gut.

And don’t forget the Evil Overlord List.  I want all readers of the Fishwrap to know that I will use these Rules when my Legions of Terror (aka my readership, Zed-Heads, whatever) are finally victorious and shut down the NSR!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Lighter fare and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Rule 77, when Fr. Z walks into the room. Silence. Why? Because “Tantum ergo sacerdotem veneremur cernui.”

  2. Adaquano says:

    #33 made me laugh out loud… I quickly learned this was true of my wife after we got married.

  3. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Rule 89: lists of rules need to be short enough to be remembered.

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    If you’re going to do more than pay lip service to numbers 7 and 9, running the list up to about 88 items is a bad idea.

  5. Bos Mutissimus says:

    Agree on (9) & ~88 rules. Not that the others aren’t important – just a consistency check.

    In the meantime, there is some overlap with this list:


    1. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns.
    2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap*; your Life is far more valuable. (*this is an older list)
    3. Only hits count. The only thing worse than a miss is a near miss.
    4. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably neither moving fast enough nor using cover correctly.
    5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral & diagonal movement are preferred.)
    6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun.
    7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
    8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.
    9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun. 9.5 Use a gun that works EVERY TIME.
    10. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but he should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
    11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
    13. Have a Back-Up Plan, because the Plan won’t work.
    14. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
    15. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
    17. Always tactical load and threat scan 360 degrees.
    18. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see ’em.)
    19. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH.
    20. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.
    21. Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
    22. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
    23. Your #1 Option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.
    24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun the caliber of which does not start with a “.4”

    1. Go to Sea. 2. Send in the Marines. 3. Drink Coffee.

  6. lmgilbert says:

    A monk friend of mine rendered KISS ( rule 7 of the original 12 rules) more kindly as, “Keep It Super Simple.

    Regarding Rule 30 (If you have a secret, the best thing is to keep it to yourself. The second-best is to tell one other person if you must. . . ) a wise Cardinal once remarked with a smile, “A secret is something that is told to one person at a time.” In other words, if you can’t keep your secret don’t expect anyone else to. Scripture renders this as, “Open your heart to no man and banish not your happiness.”

    All the above rules to the contrary notwithstanding, though, when one carefully puts all this and more into action he eventually discovers the transcendental fact that no one is allowed to be his own savior. From Compline for Sunday:

    Psalm 91

    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    and abides in the shade of the Almighty
    says to the Lord: “My refuge,
    my stronghold, my God in whom I trust”

    It is he who will free you from the snare
    of the fowler who seeks to destroy you;
    he will conceal you with his pinions
    and under his wings you will find refuge.

    You will not fear the terror of the night
    Nor the arrow that flies by day,
    Nor the plague that prowls in the darkness
    Nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.

    A thousand may fall at your side,
    Ten thousand fall at your right,
    you, it will never approach;
    his faithfulness is buckler and shield.

    Your eyes have only to look
    to see how the wicked are repaid,
    you who have said: “Lord, my refuge!”
    and have made the Most High you dwelling.

    Upon you no evil shall fall,
    no plague approach where you dwell.
    For you has he commanded his angels,
    to keep you in all your ways.

    They shall bear you upon their hands
    lest you strike you foot against a stone.
    On the lion and the viper you will tread
    and trample the young lion and the dragon.

    Since he clings to me in love, I will free him;
    protect him for he knows my name.
    When he calls I shall answer: “I am with you.”
    I will save him in distress and give him glory.

    With length of life I will content him;
    I shall let him see my saving power.

  7. benedetta says:

    These are excellent, Father, really handy and useful. And important. Thinking about executing a variety of these, I am reminded with some nostalgia of various approaches to surviving secular college in the 80s. “Fear is useless”. Also, always be like Patton and read your adversaries’ material. Read it, learn it. Then, live it. Then you can admire their magnificence from a safe distance one day. It’s always helpful, as the inimitable Jeeves would say, it is well to “know what tunes the Devil is playing.”

  8. CMartin says:

    FR Z! Please re-read Rule #3 in “The Original 12 Rules” section at the end! Oh the scandal!

    [Which I see you are eager to point out so that nobody misses it.]

  9. Cantor says:

    Life was much easier at SAC where we had just one rule, that called on divine intervention:

    Nuke ’em all. Let God sort ’em out.

  10. #11 is one of my favorites and these days is higher on my list. People today seem to have this notion that they have to like everything they do. Every day I do lots of things I hate, starting with getting up in the morning (though it beats the alternative). My father likes to quote Jack LaLanne, who said that he hated exercise, but he liked the results. Kids think that they have to enjoy everything. When I was in high school, I figured that as soon as I got that diploma, man, that would be it. I would never have to do anything I didn’t like ever again. Then I grew up and found out that it gets worse as one ages.

  11. fan312 says:

    Rule 3 makes me think of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Anyone else?
    Rule 34 I know from experience.
    Rule 11 in the original list: does this apply for priests who use low-quality vestments?

  12. GregoryS says:

    88. Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

    89. Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

    ^ Some classic blunders to avoid.

  13. steve51b31 says:

    Rule 3. An addition, “Assume nothing, Presume Nothing!!
    Rule 71. A corollary: Don’t believe in coincidence, Ever !!
    Rule 77. This one is unbelievably true!! Practice these observations as surreptitiously as possible. Never let on that you are aware.

    If possible, take a course on police interrogation techniques and reading body language. Valuable!!

  14. Kerry says:

    It was in Nate Fick’s book, One Bullet Away, (I believe), that Sgt. Major Marine said, “It’s war. Shoot to kill, fight to win”.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    Comment on USMC Rules for Gunfighting #6:

    6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun.

    I would rather bring a tactical laser. Hard to outrun a beam traveling at the speed of light.

    I misread Rule #16 as either:

    Rule 16: Pickle your battles…


    Rule 16: Pick your batteries

    Then, of course, they stole Rule 65 from the Buddha

    Rule 65: You are what you do when it counts.

    which was, originally:

    Rule 65: Be careful what you pretend to be, because you ARE what you pretend to be.

    This is the single best reason to avoid lame-brained pastoral solutions that don’t change doctrine, by the way. It is sad that the Synod on the Family should have to be taught by a pagan.

    For those of you who are into math, this rule set is an example of a hyperset, a type of set that contains itself, in violation of Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Types. These are called non-well-founded sets. The reason that these rules form a hyperset is because of Rule 85:

    Rule 85: Don’t play by the rules.

    So, obviously, here is a set of Rules one should not play by!

    Welcome to the Liar’s Paradox.

    The Chicken

  16. Bill F says:

    Love it, Father. And don’t forget the Ron Swanson Corollary to Rule #15:
    “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” :)

  17. Amateur Scholastic says:

    I learnt all these the hard way:

    – Life is very, very difficult. Once you realise that, it becomes easier. (M Scott Peck)
    – Kant was wrong: good intentions really aren’t enough. There is no virtue in doing something stupid. An action is good only insofar as it is prudent. (Josef Pieper)
    – Making good decisions is not like punching stuff into a calculator, where all you have to do to get the right answer is find the right method and the right input. Reality ain’t a machine, and neither is your mind. On the contrary, ‘prudence takes account of singulars’ (St Thomas).
    – Words and other symbols can only describe universals. To deal with singulars requires experience. Experience is therefore necessary to live well.
    – Some people have more than others, and that’s ok.

  18. chantgirl says:

    I have to add:
    Never negotiate with terrorists (or toddlers, or liturgy committees).
    Always expect a date night to be interrupted by a two-year-old.
    Always put waterproof pants on a baby underneath their baptismal gown.

  19. Zephyrinus says:

    ” It reminded me of a moment in the newest James Bond movie (lots of action in Rome this time). This film’s “Bond Girl” asks 007 why he chose to be an assassin. He replies, “Well, it was either that or the priesthood.”

    This reminds me, Fr Z, of the answer I received from a Monk, when I asked him why he chose to become a Monk.

    H e replied: “Well. It was either that or get a job”.

    I kid you not.

    in Domino

    [That’s awful. I hope he was joking.]

  20. Zephyrinus says:

    Dear Fr Z.

    He wasn’t.

    BUT . . .

    . . . he’s now a wonderful Monk.

    in Domino

  21. MAJ Tony says:

    105. Friendly artillery rounds always impact short of the target, and more than three seconds after TOT (“Time-on-Target.”)

  22. Chuck3030 says:

    You seem to also have a number of NCIS Agent Gibbs’ rules, albeit with wrong numbers:
    Rule 3: Never believe what you’re told, double check
    Rule 4: The best way to keep a secret is to keep it to yourself. If absolutely necessary, tell one person. There is no third best.
    Rule 8: Never Assume
    Rule 9: Always carry a knife
    Rule 15: if the other guy has the upper hand, break it.
    Rule 23: never mess with a marine’s coffee, if you want to live…
    There are however, some rather good ones you left out:
    Rule 1: Never screw over your partner.
    Rule 3: Never be unreachable. (yes, I notice that there are two rule 3’s. There are also 2 rule 1’s)
    Rule 39: There are no such things as coincidences
    Rule 39a: There is, however, bad luck
    Rule 40: If it feels like someone is out to get you, they are
    Rule 42: never accept an apology from someone who just sucker-punched you
    Rule 44: First things first, hide the women and children
    Rule 45: take care of your own mess
    Rule 51: Sometimes, you’re wrong
    For the rest of the Gibbs rules,'s_Rules

  23. stephen c says:

    I would like to second LMGilbert’s comment; while lists like the soldier’s list which Father Z so compassionately provided are important to all of us in the Church Militant, there is an unmistakeable overlap, as LMGilbert explained, with the wisdom in the Psalms between any list of soldier’s rules and the Psalms. Anyway, the older I get the more I think that we are not asked to do much more than any other front line soldier. God is merciful and does not expect all of us to be platoon leaders, maybe he has a special place in his heart for people like me who will never be sergeants. Maybe we are not even asked to follow the wisdom of all the Psalms, but merely memorize and figure out just one of the Psalms, and live as best we can according to that Psalm (the one LMGilbert chose to quote is pretty good!). While we are asked of course to imitate all the saints at their best whenever we have the opportunity, maybe it is enough to choose one saint and try to get to heaven with no more than that saint’s prayers as the biggest non-divine part of our ticket to the best means of the only kind of transportation that matters. Back when I used to read French novels, I read one by Bernanos where the main character was a priest who said, among many other wonderful things – but this is the wonderful thing that I remember best – each of us is given the chance to be lucky enough to live our lives in the service of reconstituting on earth a single moment in the life of Jesus. If we truly understood it – if we looked at it from centuries before our lives, or centuries after our lives – we would realize, as did the blessed priest in the Bernanos novel, towards the end of his messy and outwardly dreary and borderline tragic career, that our real blessing was to live our life as a loving tribute to a single moment in the life of Jesus. In his case, it was the Agony in the Garden (it was a cheerful novel in many respects – the ending was magnificent, with a quote about grace from St. Zelie’s daughter – we can call her that now – that could hardly be bettered – but the poor fictional priest really did suffer, in real companionship with our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane); anyway, I would wish for my children that they might have no greater burden than living their life in tribute to better and happier and less difficult moments in the life of the Savior than the Agony in the Garden – but then I am a sinner, and nowhere near the bravest of Christians.

  24. ljc says:

    Rule 88: Do not talk about fight club

  25. Anthony says:

    It is usually easier to seek forgiveness than ask for permission…

    Also, let’s not forget Gibb’s rules…'s_Rules
    (there’s some overlap here… Fr Z’s Rule 14 = Gibbs’ Rule 9)

  26. Anthony says:

    Rule 89: What’s said in the confessional stays in the confessional

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