The 5 Rules

Wouldn’t it be great if you could lock in on some simple life rules for success that you and your circle could easily understand and follow?

Even better if everyone knew that those were the same rules you follow?

AND – what if those rules could actually be applied in your home?

In the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at some annual business conferences as well as internal company meetings. This has consistently been my most requested topic. I love getting follow-up emails about how different people from those companies have integrated these rules into their work and home lives and the difference its made almost immediately.

I’ve also recently been excited about these keys being put up in a local Junior High in Houma Louisiana and it’s now making a difference in that school. Read the amazing details here: click here to read about it….


So….after forty-five plus years in the business, crossing my sixty-third birthday last summer, being married forty-five years, helping raise three children and six grandchildren and experiencing many of life’s lessons learned and relearned along the way – here are my 5 Rules to make tomorrow a brighter day!

– Steve Black

#1: Do Your Job

This rule is so simple that everyone thinks they understand it without explanation. But sometimes, it takes an actual event to refer back to this key to truly understand it. The really cool part about this is that you can emphasize any one of the three words and it takes on a whole new meaning. DO your job, do YOUR job or do your JOB. I think the “do YOUR job” is the most used variation of the key.

In our retail stores, we are a “for profit” business and since we pay people to do their jobs, we simply ask they hold up their end of the agreement. We also challenge our team members to be IMPACT players. Those are players that change the outcome of the game. Not once, but every time. When you’re an impact player – you make the whole team better.

That is what Magic Johnson learned early in his basketball career. He was so successful as an individual player, but quickly realized that his job was to actually make the whole team better. And he did. Every game. Every season. Every level he played at.

In our school systems today, doing your job certainly could mean to pay attention to the teacher, contribute to the civility of the classroom and take care of the building that’s been purchased to create an environment for you to learn in.

On the home front, I need to do my job there as well. I often joke that it’s my job to pay the mortgage and take out the trash! But seriously, it’s my job to HAVE a job, to make sure my family is taken care of and feels secure. When our children were growing up, it was also my job to coach, train and encourage them to be productive adults. It’s my job at home to be the same kind of leader there as I am at work. Obviously not exactly the same way, but to make sure the outcome is the same. And that’s simply to help everyone feels safe and secure. It’s imperative that I have a consistent mood, and am happy, present and fun to be around.

#2: Be Kind

Kind or nice doesn’t mean a pushover. It doesn’t mean that you don’t hold people accountable to do their job. It means you don’t demean people with your tone, word choices or actions.

Kind to everyone, even if they can’t do anything for you. One of my favorite sayings is:

“I can tell you everything I need to know about you, by the way they treat the person that can do nothing for you.”

It’s easy to be nice to your boss, the principal, or superintendent, the president of the bank and your best friend. Not so much for the slow drivers, incompetent cashiers or waitresses, or the fellow coworker or student that is difficult to work with or be around.

Being kind isn’t always easy. But it’s always right.

Clearly one of my greatest challenges. Not all the time, but certainly some of the time. We also can’t allow being busy to be an excuse for not being kind. Ever notice people trying to leave on vacation seem to be a little on the cranky side? You’re never too busy to be kind.

And remember as a boss, don’t expect a pass card on this for those closest to you. You’re their boss. Be kind.

As a student, don’t expect a pass card on this key for those closest to you either. You never really know what someone is going through – be kind to everyone!

Over my career, I’ve had to determine to let some people go, not because they were incompetent in their job, but because they simply couldn’t be kind. Not kind to our customers and not kind to our other team members. (Trust me on this one, the receiving team members of a corporate bully will thank you for purging the bully from the team, they might even enjoy watching it happen). I remind my teams often that all our paychecks come out of the same bank account and we have the same logo on our shirts and should act like we are on the same team. And we certainly should never shoot our own wounded. Kind sometimes means that struggling team members just need a little extra grace.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this example that I watched a few years ago put together by Chick-Fil-A – if we could all remember that every life has a story – we’d all be much kinder to those we meet:

Click here to watch…

Being kind at home after the end of a long hard work day is also a challenge. That’s our safe haven and if we’re not careful, our family takes the brunt of our “bad day.” I’ll cover that a little more under rule #4.

#3: No Surprises

This is by far my most quoted key from my team. It’s not unusual to see this on the subject line of an email or the opening line when someone walks in my office.

Put another way, this would just be communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate. In every area of our lives we could all get along better, solve problems quicker and make progress faster if we’d just make sure that the people that can actually help, know that there is a problem.

It’s also important to not over communicate. Sometimes, less is more. Learn the art of letting people know what they need to know and don’t weigh them down with unnecessary information. When the milk is running off the table, nobody needs a speech, they just need a towel.

I can’t tell you how many times over my career, we had a raging fire that had to be put out immediately, if someone would have just came to me quicker, it would have never gotten to that point. We need to learn more about fire prevention, and less about fire fighting.

At school, anything going on in a student’s life is important to the administration and teacher, communicate that to them. They care about you and want to help you.

#4: No Drama

This rule is always a crowd favorite because everyone can identify.

It’s important that you fully understand what drama is and what it is not.

First – drama is not a family member dealing with an illness or the inability to pay your electric bill. Those are life realities. We should all be concerned about those and help as much as possible so people can get through those valleys.

Second – drama is unnecessary fear and anguish, brought on by exaggerated facts or feelings and continually talking about it. To the point that your driving those around you nuts.

Here is the image you need to have when you pull in or out of your garage each day or walk in your home:

There is a DRAMA Towel hanging on the wall. It’s the towel you wipe your hands on when you come home and when you leave your home for work the next day.

Walk up to your DramaTowel when you arrive home for the day and wipe all your work drama on that towel, and enter your home fully dedicated to the people that are there and be fully engaged in your role. Be present. Fully present. Trust me, your three year old could care less about your job pressures. They just want you to color with them or watch Frozen II for the billionth time.

As you leave for work/school the next morning, stop and wipe all your home drama on the DramaTowel and enter your work/school place fully engaged and present. Then simply apply rule #1. Do your job.

The biggest reason you shouldn’t bring your work/school drama home? Your spouse, parents or significant other will want to fix it. They can’t. So leave it at work or school. For sure, you should bring home the exciting details and accomplishments of your job or accomplishments in the classroom and share those. Just not the drama.

Everyone get’s asked two questions at the end of the day. Whether it’s a call on the way home or an email or text. Question one is usually: “What’s for dinner?” Question two is usually, “How was your day?

I always challenge my leadership team to give your people something positive to say when asked about their day. In fact, you should determine at breakfast that you’ll intentionally make the rounds and make sure that your team knows that you appreciate the hard work they’ve done or are doing. Let them know how important they are to the success of the company. Good leaders ask great questions, so take the time to engage them in the ‘how’ of what you do and let them be a part of improving your workplace.

I would also challenge all school administration, teachers and staff to make that same determination. That you’ll give your students something good to say at the end of their day when asked that 2nd question.

#5: Protect the Brand

Formerly this was called, “Protect the Mother Ship”. It’s important that all stores understand that if they don’t follow the proper safe handling laws, OSHA laws, and employment laws, they risk taking the mother ship down.

My new take on this after going public with my former company, is in all you do, whether at work, home, shopping, at a restaurant, sporting or social event – you represent the brand. Everything you say, everything you do is now at risk of tarnishing the brand. The brand isn’t the logo or the building that the business is in. It’s the thousands of people that work for the company.

This goes for all schools as well. The name of your school and the people that run the school and the students that attend the school. There have been so many school shootings in the last few years that may or may not have been able to be prevented if this key could become part of the culture of America. Protect the Brand in this key would mean to protect yourself and your fellow students and faculty.

If you see something, say something.

My favorite object lesson of protecting the brand comes from a red serving plate. In 2002, we had a house fire and lost everything we owned. We emerged from that event with about five boxes of charred, smoke damaged items that we just couldn’t throw away. One of those items was a red plate that was a gift from our Aunt Fanny. It had been in an antique oak cabinet that had also been in the family for four generations. This plate, smoke damaged and all, did survive the fire. Every time we see it today, we are reminded of how special that gift was and that it was able to survive a fire that destroyed our home and all of its contents. In a way, it represents the heart of our family.

In that same way, this plate could also stand for the heart of a company, the heart of the brand. Just like that cabinet surrounded and protected that plate, we should all surround and protect our team, our owners and our families. At the water cooler, in the break room, in our work cubes, as we travel, at the office and in our homes.

In our schools, this plate could also stand for the heart of the student body and the learning that should be free to take place there. Be bold to stand up and protect it. In the locker room, in the classroom, in the hallways and dining areas.

Protect the brand in everything we say, the way we act and everything we do.

Good choices = Good consequences Bad choices = Bad consequences

I want to challenge you to live these 5 simple rules in every area of your life. It’s then that you’ll gain the respect of your peers. And at the end of the day, that’s really what all of us want, to be respected.

Spread the word……


THE WORD IS SPREADING…..Sept 2022 update….

The 5 Rules are now alive and well at Shottenkirk Chevy in Wakee, Iowa