Breaking All the Rules: The Key to Success?

I always wanted to be the blue zebra. I always wanted to break all the rules, stand out, get the attention and adulation of everyone everywhere for the unique presence I could maintain, and for music.

For those of you who have been kind enough to follow my story, you know--I just didn't fit in. I never did. I gave up on that, pretty early on in my life. I broke all the rules unintentionally, at first. I didn't even know the rules I was breaking just by existing, and being the way I was, and looking the way I did. I was breaking the rules by wearing the clothes my parents pressed me into wearing. I was breaking the rules just by having an extremely unconventional family background.

In the beginning, I was breaking the rules just by coming from my family, rather than a more conventional one. I had no choice: I had no input in the situation. It was where I came from and who I was, before I was able to be self-determined.

It made me feel lost and lonely, early on. I liked people and I was hungry for friends. I found my friends among the people who didn't fit in very well, either, and found some real treasures there, that the black and white zebras missed.

I've found blue zebras amongst artists, writers, musicians, and poets, while I pursued a more conventional career path. I envied them their talents. I envied them their courage--to chase the rose, to follow their dreams, wherever their dreams took them. I envied their ability to disregard the conventions. I envied them their abilities to break the rules, with panache and grace, in pursuit of their art.

I had an ingrained fear of disorder, chaos, a loose lifestyle; I had an obsession with money, and material gain, and the respect of my fellow colleagues in business settings. I had an ingrained fear of the legal repercussions of the kind of lifestyle my most admired friends pursued. What am I talking about? To be more specific--sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

Basically, I was too chicken to really be a blue zebra. I was, and perhaps am still, a wanna-be blue zebra.

Some of my favorite success stories are the good ole rock-n-rollers.

Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones fame came from a middle-class family, a post-war middle class family in Britain. His dad was a phys. ed teacher, I believe. Mick had a conventional upbringing.

Somehow most of his music conveyed to me and to all the world, his sense of not fitting in, his wish to push the boundaries past conventional limits, his longing for freedom. The last thing Mr. Jagger wanted to do was to be like his dad.

He and his band ripped loose. They came up behind the Beatles, who were these sweet, charming young men from Liverpool with the most delightful British accents to the ears of all the teenage girls in the USA. The Rolling Stones gave British rock 'n' roll a new, darker glamour that it never had before. The Rolling Stones pushed the envelope all right--the cover art for one of their albums was a pre-pubescent, naked girl in the foreground with Mick Jagger lounging, smirking satanically, in the background. The album cover, though not the music itself, was banned in the USA for six weeks until the courts found they couldn't sustain a case--it wasn't explicit enough to be called pornographic.

Another album cover featured Mick Jagger, in his jeans, and the fly of the jeans in his cover photo was a zipper, a real zipper that you could unzip if you felt like, in the privacy of your own home. Only to expose a bit of white. His tighty whiteys, perhaps? What a gimmick. My hat was off to the man. A marketing genius came up with that one.

They made it to the big time. They ended up filthy rich. I don't think Mick had the drug problems his lead guitarist, Keith Richards, had, though there were media storms of the ways in which all the Rolling Stones defied every convention of their times.

I know they worked for that, for their music, for their self-expression, for their freedom from the nine-to-five. I know it wasn't all one big party, though the media made it look like that, with Mick Jagger holding a joint, an open bottle of champagne between them, in the back of the limousine after his marriage to Bianca.

But Mick Jagger did it his way. He broke all the rules. And he, God bless him, lived every minute of his life to the hilt, performing to huge crowds, travelling, seeing everything, tasting every sensation, and putting in music, putting it in words.

There are many artists, writers, poets, actors, and dancers, whose success lay in their willingness to forgo conformity, stand out from the crowd, and do the things in life they feel are important for them to do, regardless of whether these pursuits make the cash register go cha-ching, or not.

These people, so admired, so relentlessly pursued by the media, are heroes to us all, just because they had the guts. Just because they took their lives into their own hands, and said, "The hell with it. I'm gonna be me, and find out who that person is, and what that person has to uniquely offer." They closed one door on themselves, deliberately. The door to a conventional lifestyle, a "real" job. They threw a lot of different kinds of security to the four winds, in order to make this unique contribution to music, to the arts, to films, to poetry, to writing and books, and stories and legends.

It paid off for them when they weren't looking, I'm sure. It paid off materially when they had long since gone past the time when that's what they cared about.

My hat's off to all the people who have that kind of courage, no matter what level of material or worldly success they find. My hat's off to all the people who have the guts to stand away from the crowd, the dailiness of daily life, and follow their dreams.

And I don't care if they broke the rules. It seems to me, they needed to.

Me, myself, am really a mostly decent, law-abiding, respectable citizen. I stayed away from drugs, and it's one reason I got out of the band I was in. Pot and beer turned to opium-laced hashish once we started to hit the big time. We got a gig backing Supertramp on the road for the last half of a US tour, and that was a real eye-opener. There wasn't too much sobriety going on, any given time of the day. The bass player had whiskey for breakfast while a lot of people lit up whatever was in the pipes they were smoking.

That tiny chapter in my life is a whole 'nother story, and one that won't be told here. Suffice it to say, that even though when my ears were tested it was found I was gifted with perfect pitch, and always had that special feeling and affinity for music; and suffice it to say, that music, though I wanted that career so bad I could taste it at one time in my life, was not for me.

Why? I was easygoing enough to accept whatever was going on, as far as whatever people wanted to indulge in. But for me, well, I think sometimes, somehow, my soul was too small. I was too chicken to back out entirely from the nine-to-five, living in one place, settled-home kind of life that the other half of me craved just as deeply as being in a band.

I was torn, that was the thing. I couldn't quite bring myself to be whole-heartedly committed to that roving, rootless, unconventional lifestyle. I found, for me, I couldn't throw all the rules out the window when it was necessary to do that. I was torn, and I was scared, and deep down, I really had no faith in my own talents.

I think the people who do succeed, those writers and artists and poets and novelists and actors and dancers and all the beautiful people who contribute their wonderful gifts to us, do because they follow their dreams with a whole heart, and are not torn. They may be scared: they may wonder at times what's going to happen to them, but they are committed.

So bless those folk, I do with all my admiring eyes, heart, and soul. And keep them from the conventions; help to make them successful in their lives, happy and free.

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Comments 26 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you so much for the lovely comment. I agree. I'm sort of a top of the head blue zebra.


kidscrafts profile image

kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

I can totally understand that you want to be a blue zebra. I think we all want to be a zebra of some sort of colours but we are afraid to paint ourselves something else than black and white. Society is not easy to fit in to start with... so imagine if we are of different stripes or colours? A few years ago, I decided to take some kind of a plunge and I painted just some extremities ...my hands and my feet ;-) But I think the rest is still black and white! You can be an artist without going to the extremes.

I love your choice of pictures and especially the one at the top!

Thank you for sharing this beautiful and interesting hub!

Have a great week!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

The blue zebra is such an awesome concept, and I like how you laid out the story. Great hub, Paradise7. Voted up and more.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks again for stopping by.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Great attempts and great successes to thanks for the insightful Hub, I am glad I stopped by


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 3 years ago

A blue zebra is a true zebra. Happiness and success is in the eye of the beholder and as long as you are being faithful to yourself, you will succeed. I don't view that as breaking the rules of conformity, I view it as having enough self confidence to do it your way. This was a wonderful article and I appreciate you writing it.


Torys Ten profile image

Torys Ten 4 years ago from Central Utah

Blue zebras are often the same color as the rest. Anyone who refuses to give up what they believe in even when it is not what their friends believe in is a blue zebra. For example, a young man who chooses not to have sex outside of marriage even though he is called a fool, a hypocrite, and many other things is a blue zebra. Yes, there are the blue zebras who are famous for one thing or another, but it is the everyday people who have high standards and are true to them who are the blue zebras I admire most.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

That really wasn't my point, but every point of view has it's own validity based on experience.


anoy 7 years ago

The easiest way to succeed is calling someone white trash, stupid spic, stupid afro, stupid idiot..Just break all the rule then the company must protect it's reputation. Watch and see how one will move up the corporate ladder very quickly.. Simply bc the company's interests is to protect it's reputation. You will be protected if you harass someone. Guaranteed.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, vanderhaven. I liked your very insightful comment. You're lucky to have a single mind. Me, I've been torn in two opposite directions for a good part of my life!


vanderhaven profile image

vanderhaven 7 years ago

Catchy title and I love your pics in the hub that fit in with the article -- especially like the little PEEPS one with the one white PEEP. :)

I have always been one to sit in the little box of life and make sure everything lined up right and straight and orderly. I would be very uncomfortable if everyone was supposedly "Required" to wear a white t-shirt and suddenly someone came in with a Blue one on. However -- I finally grew up and matured enough and became open minded enough to at least TRY to accept those blue t-shirt wearing people. LOL. So--I guess I'm saying that I do indeed admire those people who have a dream and a plan and pursue them wholeheartedly and then success comes to them and they become happy doing what they were born to do. God plants a tiny seed inside us and it directs us in life to fulfill our purpose so the "Drive" they have to wear that shirt or be a blue zebra, etc. is not unknown to the maker of the Universe. He probably put it there. :) But, whether he did or did not, irregardless- I am finally okay to just be myself and wear my white t-shirt and let God direct my steps without me worrying about how He decides to direct others.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, Health Tip.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, lancelonie! Me, too.


lancelonie profile image

lancelonie 7 years ago

This is a good hub! Hope will success easily hit us everyday! :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, Duchess, so much, for your heartening comment. I think you might be right, too. I might be trying to hard to be someone else. It's ok, life's a journey, and I gues I've got more travelling to do.


Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

Paradise, is it possible you are trying too hard to be something other than what you are? You are a wonderful person and all those roads you have travelled to get where you are have had a hand in making you that person. I like you just the way you are, I hope you do too.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, ralwus, I will.


ralwus 7 years ago

If I can be the walrus, you can be the blue one. Reach for the stars and be liberated like me. I may not be rich or famous, but I ain't got no boundaries either 'cept no harming anyone and stop at all RR crossings.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you so much, ripplemaker, for your comment.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Reading your hub made me reflect about myself. I used to want to be different because I wanted to be special. And then I began to feel odd being different. I felt so torn in between. In the journey, I discovered that it was okay to be different in my own unique way and then got to see the similarities in all of us. I agree with Catherine, if being a blue zebra defines who you are, I encourage you to be a blue zebra. Blessings to you my friend! :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, creative one, and thank you, Catherine, for your kind words. Not too late? I can still be the blue zebra? Maybe...maybe. You give me hope.


Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

Another great hub my friend. I can't help thinking that it is not too late for you to be the blue zebra!


creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank yo for a very good and truthful hub Paridse7, I enjoyed reading it. thanks for sharing. creativeone59


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, scarytaff and Veronica for your comments. This subject is one I've not sorted out myself. I know you can detect my amblivalence. So every comment, every take on this subject from every viewpoint is so much more than welcome. I sense you're ambivalent, too, Veronica. I don't know if either way works--being good, following all the rules, and chugging along the well-marked path; or breaking all the rules and doing your own thing, unless you're fully committed to one path or the other.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

You've raised a valid question here Paradise7. Often we are told that if we follow all the rules we will be successful (or turn out okay in life). However, when you see those who do just the opposite become a success - and there is no denying that they are successful; materially at least - I do ask myself what did they have to sacrifice to break those rules? And in the end - was it really worth it? Another great hub - Looking forward to more.


scarytaff profile image

scarytaff 7 years ago from South Wales

Great hub no. 7 I wish you well.

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