Society is circumscribed by laws, ordinances, codes, and rules that regulate what a person can and can’t do. The world and universe reveal an order that can be understood by scientific and mathematical laws, principles, and named effects — mostly named after legendary scientists. For example, every one is familiar with Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, especially the third one: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As important and accurate as these laws and principles are, they do not shed much light on how life really is and how humans behave in the real world. For that, we need to turn to the unwritten rules of life, mostly written by obscure people like Ed Murphy who formulated Murphy’s law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Parenthetically, it is difficult to determine who coined Murphy’s Law first, but the phrase is often attributed to Captain Ed Murphy, a development engineer at Wright Field Aircraft Lab during the late 1940s.
Below are some notable unwritten rules of life:
Ackley’s Axiom: The degree of technical competence is inversely proportional to the level of management.
Bressler’s Law: There is no crisis to which academics will not respond with a seminar.
Brian’s Law: The longer you wait to write a thank-you note, the longer it must be.
Brigg’s Law: A spilled drink flows in the direction of the most expensive object.
Lance’s Law: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Miller’s Law: The quality of food in restaurants is inversely proportional to the number of signed celebrity photos on the wall.
Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Revisionist Rule: The easiest way to change history is to become a historian.
Reynold’s Law: It’s just as easy to make a big mistake as a small one.
Rinser’s Law: Traffic increases in direct proportion to the urgency of your schedule.
The First Law of Travel: No matter how many rooms there are in a motel, the guest who starts up his car at 5:00 am is always parked under your window.
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For further reading: The Official Rules by Paul Dickson (2013)
Unwritten Laws: The Unofficial Rules of Life by Hugh Rawson (1997)