Colin Powell’s Rules

Colin Powell's autobiography

As I come to the end of Colin Powell’s autobiography, I find myself even more impressed with the man than I had been before reading his story. The son of immigrant parents of modest means, Powell worked his way up to the highest rank in the US military, eventually becoming the first African-American to serve as Secretary of State in the US.

My American Journey by Colin PowellThe first to admit that I do not agree with all of his decisions or all of his politics, I still find myself looking to the man as an example of how to work hard, think clearly and act decisively. I can learn a lot from his example.

I’d like to share General Powell’s Rules which he developed over this 35 years of active military service and which are included as an appendix to his autobiography.

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your positions falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Powell’s rules strike me a relevant for running a small business as well. I especially like the emphasis of perpetual optimism: I try to attack each day with a glass half-full approach. Knowing that such an approach helped Powell reach the pinnacle of professional success goes a long towards convincing me of the value of that approach.