Why play by the rules?

Just watched the remake of “Going in Style,” a movie that focuses on loyal, longtime workers Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin getting screwed out of jobs and pensions by their employer who’s decided to offshore the entire workforce.

Having played by the rules only to become corporate casualties, the trio decides to rob a bank involved in diverting their pension funds. Unfortunately, the message behind all this is that playing by the rules, being honest, being transparent often doesn’t mean bupkus in today’s often corrupt and uncaring corporate arena. So, can you totally blame them for going outside the law to get justice?

Unfortunately, this mindset is infectious. People who try to do the right things are finding themselves penalized time and time again, while lying, deceitful misfits get away with murder—sometimes literally. Rule-followers in grocery express lanes watch as the abusers hold up the line. Honest, hardworking people committing minor legal offenses get the book thrown their way, while drivers with multiple DUI convictions merrily continue driving and imperiling the public.

And, of course, it’s “guilty until proven innocent” in the court of public opinion when minor mishaps tarnish upstanding folks and firms way out of proportion to the actual issues. Especially when such hot-button issues as race relations are involved, the rush to judgment and condemnation is swift and reminiscent of the Salem witch hunts centuries ago, and the McCarthy congressional communism branding of the 1950s.

With social media and the malevolent spread of “fake news,” allegations become fact without any semblance of due process or due diligence—while those defaming their targets often pay no price unless someone actually sues for damages. As we all know, the wheels of justice grind slowly, so people give up (sometime even commit suicide), businesses are shuttered, and great assets to society are silenced while the scofflaws merrily continue ruining other lives without consequences.

Even more infuriating is the societal framework that rewards those gaming the system, such as those getting gobs of free healthcare paid for by the rest of us who, once again, play by the rules.

So, is it any wonder why the best people in our society are livid, frustrated and stressed out beyond all reasonable measure? Is it really a stretch of the imagination to see why some of them stop playing by the rules?

No. Of course not. But, in the end, the best solution is to stay the course with strength. Don’t stoop to the level of the wrongdoers. Continue doing good works as best you can, and fight for what’s right. That said, it’s also critical to take bold and decisive action.

If someone besmirches your good character, dig deep and fight back.

Depending on circumstances, you can counter-punch with your own story in the public eye. This can range from a social media blitz to op-ed articles in the local media to a full-blown media campaign to air the facts. Obviously, this carries the risk of increasing awareness in the public eye. The flip side is that it can help reinforce the integrity of the besmirched party(ies) and even call out those spewing irresponsible allegations.

If you have a loyal and longtime following, enlist their support via testimonials and endorsements to tell your story convincingly from a third-party perspective. Put this on a public-facing website; be proactive about spreading the word. And, very important, be prepared to use this information as an effective counter-punch when attacked—in essence, letting the comments and accolades of others tell your story. It can extremely effective against those on the attack, while showing absolutely no defensiveness.

Legal help, although often expensive, frustrating and complex, is important when the stakes are high. In some cases, it may be possible to stop the flow of irresponsible allegations by threatening a defamation of character lawsuit. Just remember, threatening use of the club by itself may resolve the problem. But, be careful about bluffing—in most cases, you need to be prepared to follow through if needed.

Finally, dig deep to determine what message you might be receiving from the “universe.” Everything that occurs has a reason; more often than not there will be a positive outcome down the road because of it. Consider what you can do, and what you shouldn’t do—as in letting events unfold to get better perspective before taking action.

Why play by the rules? Because, ultimately, you will win much more often than you will lose—even when the short-term prospects look bleak and the frustration triggers blind rage. The Golden Rule, Karma…the verbiage differs but in the end we all get back what we put out.

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Mark Lusky, aka The Happy Curmudgeon, has voted for Democrats, Republicans and a Libertarian in presidential elections going back 30 years. As the owner of a 34-year-old, Denver-based marketing communications firm, he is a political malcontent who often quips support for “Thunder the Wonder Puppy” as a presidential candidate. (Too bad George Carlin is no longer among us to make a run—although he likely would have known better.)

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