The saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Sometimes, however, it's both. There are times in life when knowing the right person can give you knowledge that can change your outlook. Occasionally, we meet someone interesting who inadvertently gives us rules to live by that can change our lives. Here are seven rules for life I learned from a conversation with a former intelligence officer:


1. Question everything.

Never take anything for granted or at face value. I get it, this sounds paranoid. Think about it, though, how many times in life have you simply believed what someone told you only to find out later that it was complete and utter BS? How many times have you been hurt because you believed a lie? On the surface, it might sound paranoid, but it can save you a lot of trouble and heartache.

2. Never tell all you know. 

It's important to not show all your cards. By giving someone almost all you know, but not everything, you then protect yourself. Sometimes it's okay to hold back a little bit.

3. Never rely on one source. 

This is the same as when someone tells you not to settle on the first car you look at or the first house you view. You should shop around when it comes to major purchases. In the same way, you should do your own research on things. Never simply believe the word of one person. There are always three sides to a story: view one, view two and the truth that lies somewhere in the middle.

4. Constantly re-evaluate and revise. 

The validity and integrity of facts can change, so it is important to constantly re-evaluate a situation, and be ready to revise your stance. If you're truly paying attention at any given time, you will be able to see these changes and be prepared for them. Sometimes this can mean you have to re-evaluate everything you thought to be true.

5. Always remain objective. 

This is important in so many aspects in life. By remaining objective, your view on any given situation can't be clouded. If you train yourself to always be objective, then you can enter into any circumstance with a clear head.

6. Trust no one you’re not absolutely certain is trustworthy. 

There are few people in life we can be absolutely certain we can trust. When it comes to anyone else, you should approach everything with a questioning opinion, circling back to the "question everything" rule. Protect yourself by not just assuming everyone you meet is trustworthy.

7. Rely on your gut. 

This might be the most important rule on this list, at least in my opinion. Too often we second guess ourselves, and it's almost always a mistake. "Rely on your gut feeling, it's very rarely wrong." This is true when it comes to test taking. It's true when it comes to making decisions. It is especially true when it comes to your judgement of other people. If your gut is telling you something isn't right, 9 times out of 10, it isn't right. Trust your instincts, they won't steer you wrong.

Each of these is a rule that those in the intelligence world live by and swear by. They live out these rules both professionally and personally, they aren't something that can just be turned off. By implementing even part of these rules into your own life, you could quite possibly save yourself pain and heartache in the future. Always be objective. Always be alert. And always, always trust your gut.