Rules for a Knight

“You are always in the right place at exactly the right time, and you always have been.”

- Rules for a Knight, page 11

Rules for a Knight was written by Ethan Hawke. Along with being a writer, Ethan Hawke is a four-time Academy Award nominee (twice for writing and twice for acting). You may have seen him in the following movies: Dead Poets Society, Training Day, Reality Bites and Gattaca.  Hawke has also authored several novels.

Rules for a Knight takes the form of a parable, written as a letter, with lineage back to the 1400’s. The letter was “originally authored” by Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke, before the Battle of Slaughter Bridge, where he and 323 others were killed.  The letter was written to his children and was titled as Grandfather’s list of “Rules” to help them to learn life’s lessons, if he does not make it.  

Those rules are: Solitude, Humility, Gratitude, Pride, Cooperation, Friendship, Forgiveness, Honesty, Grace, Patience, Justice, Generosity, Discipline, Dedication, Speed, Faith, Equality, Love, Death.

Through the stories and lessons of this well-respected knight, these 20 rules provide us with a guide to live by. The list is as relevant today as it would have been a few hundred years ago.  Through simple, powerful stories, these lessons can easily be applied to business and our personal lives.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book


"One fact is clear: things are not always as they seem."
- Rules for a Knight, page 81

The lesson of patience really stood out to me. It’s not just patience that resonated, it’s being able to let whatever happens to you play out over the course of time. Whether we come across success or failure, we don’t know the long-term impact that those fleeting events will have on the rest of our lives.

To illustrate this point, Sir Thomas tells a simple, yet powerful, story where a series of good and bad events happen to him. As a result of those events, people in his community come up and either congratulate him or send him their apologies… each time his response is “we shall see”.  We truly have no way of knowing how things will play out. He says, “Remember, it is possible that it is not the sun that goes down; perhaps it is the earth that turns. No one is really sure, but one fact is clear: things are not always as they seem” (page 81).

We can’t predict the future, good or bad, but learning to let go and let things play out can be extremely valuable throughout the course of our lives.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life


"In the field of battle, as in all things, you will perform as you practice, so practice hard. With practice, you build the road to accomplish your goals. Excellence lives in attention to detail."
- Rules for a Knight, page 95

A rule that was discussed throughout the letters, and is a staple of the simple principles that knights live by, is discipline. “Oddly, with discipline, structure, and order, you will find there is freedom” (page 96). This is a powerful insight, and at the surface might sound like a contradictory statement. When you dive deeper, it makes a lot of sense. The more disciplined we are in our planning, our preparation, and our routines/habits, the more flexible and adaptable we can be in the moment. Being disciplined is hard and often doesn’t produce the results that we need right away. In the long run though, it can really pay off. Think about exercise as an example: it takes discipline to get into shape, but once you have achieved a level of fitness, you have the freedom to accept invitations to challenging hikes, 5k runs, or other activities that require physical aptitude. Few people can think ahead enough to understand that discipline creates freedom down the road.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life


"Ordinary effort, ordinary result."
- Rules for a Knight, Page 103

Sir Thomas writes, “Everyone wants to be a knight; wanting is no great accomplishment. How hard you work is the difference between good and great, promising and masterful, squire and knight” (Page 104). This mindset is a simple reminder that hard work is a key ingredient to success. No matter what our job is, or what our goals are, the effort that we put into what we do is critical in achieving standout results.  

The most important component to this is being prepared and having a plan. Hard work alone is not enough to achieve lasting results. Ensuring that we have a laid out and designed a plan is critical before action. As the author writes, “Remember, Noah had to build the ark before the flood; likewise, you must not wait for the inevitable storms of life before you ready your mind.  Thought precedes action” (page 105).

It’s amazing that so many of these principles of success haven’t changed over the last few hundred years. The twenty Rules for a Knight can very easily be applied and used as a guide for us to have success in business, leadership and our personal lives.

Solitude, Humility, Gratitude, Pride, Cooperation, Friendship, Forgiveness, Honesty, Grace, Patience, Justice, Generosity, Discipline, Dedication, Speed, Faith, Equality, Love, Death—which rule do you need to spend more time improving?  

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Justin Gasbarre

ABOUT Justin Gasbarre

I am a Sales Professional who's passionate about helping and serving others. I currently work as an Enterprise Client Partner with FranklinCovey and consult with executives, business unit leaders, and human resources professionals to help them build their organizational talent...
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