Salary Survey Extra: My most important rule for living, Part 1
Posted on
October 7, 2021

Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Everyone has at least one favorite rule for living. We asked Salary Survey respondents which ones are they hold dear.

Everyone has her or his own life rules, and most of us at least occasionally share them with others. Sometimes we see someone grappling with a thorny situation and offer our own perspective. Think of the moment in Star Wars when Han Solo tslls Luke Skywalker, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Sometimes people start with a rule for living and build it out into an entire philosophy. Journalist James clear has built a personal brand and a large media presence out of his observations about incremental change, or the long-established life rule of starting with small adjustments to eventually bring about large-scale changes.

Whatever the latest rule for living to stick in your head is, and however you share or apply a rule for living that you find appealing, everyone has a favorite or favorites. At the end of our 2021 Salary Survey, in the part of the survey where we ask those Not So Serious questions, we asked survey respondents to tell us what their most important rule for living is.

To simplify the process, we offered a handful of popular aphorisms to choose from. But we didn’t limit the scope of responses to our own spur-of-the-moment imagination. We also included an option for survey respondents to contribute their own ideas. So first we’ll see what participants thought of the advice that we had to offer, and then we’ll tell you what they shared with us.

Here’s what we learned:

Q: My most important rule for living is …

Never say yes to the first offer. — 14 percent
Never draw to an inside straight. — 2.7 percent
Never get involved in a land war in Asia. — 6.2 percent
Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. — 7.5 percent
There’s no sense crying over spilled milk. — 21.3 percent
Isn’t that supposed to be “spilt” milk? — 3.9 percent
To thine own self be true. — 17.6 percent
Neither a borrower nor a lender be. — 5.9 percent
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy. — 2.0 percent
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel; but do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. — 1.1 percent
Hey! Now you’re just cribbing from Laertes’ dad in Hamlet.” — 2.2 percent

So out of the options that we offered, three stand out: The most popular of all is social history’s most classic nugget of wisdom about being tortured by events that have already occurred and can’t be undone: We’ll never get that milk back in the bottle (or glass, or pitcher, or wherever it came from), so let’s move on.

Also, Polonius (a.k.a. Laerte’s dad in Hamlet) is still winning the hearts and guiding the actions of many with his thoughts about sticking to your core beliefs and motivations., while dads the world over are nodding in agreement with their offspring who paid attention to the first piece of advice everyone gets about buying or selling cars and homes.

OK, now it’s time for things to get real. Here are almost all (fragments and nonsense omitted) of the gems that we didn’t list that you all shared with us. (Incidentally, we wrote our intro to this topic before taking a look at what was turned in to us. Looks like George Lucas, by way of everyone’s favorite space cowboy, is still wining hearts and minds.)


“All good things come to those who wait.”

“All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

“All the time improve yourself.”

“Always look on the bright side of life.”

“Always do what’s right.”

“Always keep God first .”

“Always leave some meat on the bone.”

“Ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

“Any job worth doing is worth doing well.”

“Avoid conflict.”

“Avoid debt.”

“Balance in all things.”

“Be good and do good.”

“Be careful what you wish for. It may come true.”

“Be humble.”

“Be kind.”

“Be the best you can be.”

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

“Be very wary of any organized religion.”

“Behavior = Truth.”

“Believe it or not Twinkies have an expiration date.”

“Can’t get a job, buy a job.”

“Change is the only constant.”

“Stay positive and test negative.”

“Do it right the first time.”

“Do not drink too deeply from the well of knowledge, lest you learn something you did not wish to know.”

“Do or do not; there is no try.”

“Do what you can to make money, but do as much as possible to enjoy what you enjoy.”

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“Do your best, expect the worst.”

“Do your best and give God the rest.”

“Don’t be a (male organ).”

“Don’t (rhymes with duck) up.”

“Don’t lie to me and don’t waste my time.”

“Don’t take yourself too damn seriously!”

“Don’t worry about things you can’t control.”

“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.”

“Either be a mentor or a mentee at all times.”

“Enjoy life.”

“Every effort has a reward.”

“Every force you create have an echo, your own bad energy will be your undoing.”

“Expect the unexpected.”

“Family first.”

“Give thanks for life.”

“The glass is always half empty.’

“Go hard or go home!”

“Go with the flow.”

“Go with the flow, be agile, and put your family first.”

“God and family first.”

“God rules all.”

“Grow beyond who you were yesterday.”

“Hakuna matata.”

“Have courage and embrace change.”

“Have a positive mindset.”

“Health is priceless.”

“Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

“Honesty, integrity, accountability. Contribute for the betterment of the world as a whole.”

“Hope for the best, be prepared for the worst.”

“Hope is denial of reality.”

“I am not a number.”

“I am a man of simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

“I believe in unicorns.”

“I can do it!”


“I love IT!”

“I never drive faster than I can see, and besides … it’s all in the reflexes.”

“I once thought I was wrong, but I was merely mistaken.”

“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

“If you achieve it once you can definitely achieve it twice.”

“If you can’t afford it in cash, don’t buy it.”

“If you keep arguing with nuts, you will just get tired ’cause nuts will still be nuts.”

“If you want whipped cream you need to shake the cows.”

“Improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

“In God alone I put my trust.”

“In the end I am nothing.”

“It is always later than expected.”

“It is what it is.”

“It’s always about the points.”

“It’s not what knocks you down, but how you get back up.”

“Jesus is Lord.”

“Just be kind.”

“Just do it.”

“Just don’t give a (rhymes with duck).”

“KISS! Keep it simple, stupid.”

“Keep fit. Live healthy. Be happy.”

“Keep living.”

“Keep moving forward.”

“Keep smiling.”

“Know what brings you forward and what holds you back.”

“Know your worth.”

“Knowledge is power.”

“Knowledge will get you started, action will take you farther, but attitude will carry you all the way.”

“Knowledge without the will to act is impotent. Will to act without knowledge is blind and reckless. Anyone with neither need be dismissed.”

“Know your own limitations.”

“Laertes’ Dad? Call him Polonius, dolt!”

“Learn from your mistakes.”

“Lemon curry?!”

“Lend your dog, not your tools. The dog will come back”

“Let the truth be your ally”

“Life always requires you to learn something.”

“Life eventually ends, work never does.”

“Life is a marathon.”

“Life is defined by the challenges overcome”

“Life is good.”

“Life is too short, enjoy your time off.”

“Life itself is a blessing.”

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

“Lifetime learning and development.”

“Listen to your heart, but use your brain.”

“Live a life of excellence!”

Editor’s Note: Thank you for all of your ideas. We’ll take a pause here and round up the rest of the submissions received with a “Part 2″ next week.

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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