My place, my rules

One summer, back when I was a teenager, I visited my oldest brother who lived in another city. We were at his place hanging out and, out of nowhere, he said "Lets play hockey." We used to do this a lot when we were kids, living under one roof (Please don't tell my parents).

"Where?" I asked.

"Here," he said - as he grabbed a couple of hockey sticks from his coat closet, moved all the living room furniture to the side, set up some nets with pillows, and tossed a tennis ball on the floor.

"Are you...allowed to do this?" I asked.

He looked at me incredulously. "What do you mean? Why would I not be allowed. It's my place..."

It's a memory that also reminds me of a joke by Mitch Hedberg: "I just bought a 2-bedroom house, but I think I get to decide how many bedrooms there are, don't you?"

There are a lot of unspoken rules we follow - and end up inhibiting ourselves as a result. Conversations we avoid, extra work we do, opportunities we miss, or overhead we create. The rules may not be written, yet they're followed verbatim.

But this isn't about bending or breaking rules though. It's about what you can pull off when you operate on your own turf.

One of the best compliments I'd ever received was from someone who'd interviewed me for a job over the phone. Years later, after we'd become good friends, he'd shared: "I was really impressed with your interview..."

"Really? Why? I don't remember it being that remarkable..."

I wasn't being humble. I didn't hit any questions out of the park, I didn't give myself chills with impeccably well crafted responses. I actually remembered very little of the interview.

Turns out the fact that it was so unremarkable was what made me stand out: "I remember you told me the call may cut out for a moment because you were stepping out of the building, to go for a walk while we spoke - I just remembered thinking 'How is he not sitting in a quiet space, at a desk, with a notes?' The interview was standard - but because you were so casually strolling around - it was disarming."

Almost every phone interview I've ever given has always had me (unobnoxiously) doing something else - driving, walking, sitting at a park. Subtly disrupting the rigid formality of an interview by moving it to "my place" where outside rules don't apply has helped me be myself.

But that's my approach. If things were on own turf, how might you do things differently? And why aren't you already?

(By the way, the photo above isn't from my teens, but from 11 years ago - shortly after getting my own place. Had to play hockey in there. Please don't tell my wife).


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