8 Rules to Live By

Key Takeaways

  • Our country lost a great statesman and professional soldier when Colin Powell passed away in October 2021.
  • He wrote an autobiography, My American Journey, published in 1995.
  • His memoir included some rules to live by, and this wisdom is worth passing along.

On October 18th, 2021, at the age of 84, we lost a great statesman and professional soldier in Colin Powell. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1958, got commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, and rose very quickly through the ranks to become a four-star general within 30 years. He became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and led the U.S. through the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He was also the first African American to be appointed U.S. secretary of state, a position from which he retired in 2005.

Colin Powell’s extraordinary life was documented in his 1995 autobiography, My American Journey. He was an accomplished individual and had many noteworthy achievements throughout his life. His memoir included 13 rules to live by; we’ll review eight of them here.

Number one, check the small things. Back in the 1980s, the band Van Halen was one of the first groups to use huge platform stages and gigantic lights on tour. Their 300-page contract had a stipulation buried in it, requiring that there be a bowl of M&Ms with absolutely no brown M&Ms mixed in. It may seem like an odd request, but there was a very important reason for it: if they saw brown M&Ms, they knew their contract hadn’t been read, which could result in dangerous conditions for the band and their crew. Those small things can become big things.

Number two, share credit. Things in the world happen because others support you. Although you may be the person in charge, you don’t work in a vacuum, so share the credit with those around you.

Number three, remain calm and be kind. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we remembered this in difficult situations? Think about this when you’re dealing with a stressful issue. Having someone react calmly and with kindness can make all the difference.

Number four, get mad and then get over it. Just get over it and move on. Sure, anger might be your first response – you’re human after all – but don’t dwell. It’s important to move on.

Number five, perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Optimism makes a huge difference in life. This doesn’t mean looking at everything with rose-colored glasses. This is rational optimism – identifying where you can move forward, looking at the positive aspects of a situation, and not letting the negatives block your progress.

Number six, don’t let others make decisions for you. If others are telling you what you should do, that’s called being “shoulded” on. Everyone does things for their own reasons. Let others make their own choices and remember that there’s no reason for you to do anything someone else believes you should do.

Number seven, don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. It’s easy to fall into what you’re fearing in the present and take counsel in those fears. It’s much more difficult to stay in the middle ground and take counsel in what you know in your gut is the right thing to do at any given time.

Number eight, it can be done. Saying “can” is very important as it gives you the outlook to make things happen. You have to believe you can accomplish what you set out to do.

We certainly lost a great leader with Colin Powell’s passing. His rules to live by are words of wisdom we can all benefit from. Until next time, enjoy.


If you’d like to read more on this topic, here are a few of our past Coyle Blog posts that you might enjoy:

Timeless Habits That Can Apply Anywhere in Your Life

7 Things To Say to Yourself Daily



Gary Klaben serves as a Financial Advisor, and visionary for Coyle Financial Counsel. He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

Learn more about The Coyle Process, approach designed to get your arms around the big picture, so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about The Coyle Process and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.
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