I feel like today, Harry Potter is a household name. When just the name comes up, you naturally think of spells, enchantment, Harry protecting and safeguarding Hogwarts from evil like Dementors, three-headed dogs, and he who must not be named (Voldemort… I’m a muggle so I can say it… I think?)
But one of the secondary characters that always caught my focus was Hermione Granger.
Yes, Harry was the hero; he wore the cape and got credit when the wickedness was all said and done. But Hermione, in my opinion, was always the one with the strongest morals, the one who never wavered from what she believed in. The one I looked up to.
She was consistently and insufferably honest (even when the truth wasn’t what people wanted to hear.) She always stood up for the little guy (half-bloods, elves, muggles.) She was the queen of tough love, repeatedly doing what was best for those close to her, even if it hurt.
I always thought, “why can’t more people just be like her?”
And then it came to me. We all want to change the world, but we never want to change ourselves.
That’s why ever since the second and best Harry Potter (Chamber of Secrets) came out, I started collecting a list of Golden Rules to live by moving forward in the hope that changing myself would enact the change I wish to see.
Outside of the original Golden Rule of treating others how you want to be treated, there are three that have been unassailable for me over the years.
Never Assume (Anything)
This one comes from Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements. Every single time I have been wrong in my life, it has been because I had falsely assumed one thing or more about a person, an event, or a belief.
As humans, we tend to make assumptions just about everything. We almost need to make assumptions to survive, though, right?
We assume that the roof over our heads (if we are lucky enough to have one) will be there through the night as we sleep, and we won’t be woken up covered in the rain. We assume that our car will start in the morning so we won’t be late to work, so we don’t take it to the auto-shop each night to make sure. We assume that there won’t be a dragon on our lunchtime walk, so we don’t pack a sword to fend one-off.
We even make assumptions about how others think or feel towards ourselves based on small input like a smile or a text.
But there’s one problem with assumptions. We only believe they are the truth, but that does not make them the truth. When we make assumptions, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. We are setting ourselves up for future problems.
Not making assumptions goes directly against habits ingrained in our DNA, but once you can drop them, your entire life opens up. See things how they are, not how you want to see them.
Tell The Truth, Or, At Least Don’t Lie
One of my favorite ideas was instilled by clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Most people would consider themselves honest; we’re good people, right?
But what definition of a lie are we using?
If we define it as to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication, then I think almost every last person on earth is guilty every now and then.
Even telling white lies, like when your friend asks if she looks overweight in that dress (and she does), or when you’re giving feedback at work when your employee has been a little less than perfect.
Even telling small lies leads to breaking down trust in any relationship. If it’s your friend that you’re telling a white lie to, are you protecting their feelings or enabling them to feel worse about themselves? If it’s your employee, are you preserving your work relationship, or are you masking something that could make them better?
Be Like Family To Your Friends, And Like Friends To Strangers
The final rule came from Naval Ravikant, one of the greatest minds of our time, in my opinion, and I think this rule most closely resembles the original golden rule, just with a twist.
To me, family means a ride or die. It means even if we have animosity, I will march to the end of the earth with you. And the moment I started injecting this attitude towards all friendships, I got the same in return, which has led to some of the best relationships I have experienced.
The next point, treating strangers like friends. This ties in with the first rule mentioned of never making assumptions. That homeless man on the bus, that girl smiling on the walk to work in the morning, the person you always see in the elevator in your apartment building but never talk to, they all are going through something that you can’t possibly know.
They could be having the best day of their life because they just got a massive promotion at work that they’ve been working towards for the last five years. Or they could be having one of the worst days of their life because someone close to them passed away. Both deserve empathy and compassion like a friend would.
Now those are my golden rules, but the cool part about this list is that it will always be changing, and yours may look different. But having a setlist like this can make a significant difference in one’s life, and I couldn’t recommend making one for yourself more.