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Borelli’s Rules


Reposted by request

Most of my friends know that I’m an NCIS fan. Before that I was a freak for Walker: Texas Ranger. On NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is a former Marine (Gunnery Sergeant) Scout Sniper and he just so happens to have a rule for darn near everything. If you’re a fan of the show then you know why he developed those rules and you appreciate the humor when so many of them are cited. If you’re not familiar with “Gibbs’ Rules” I invite you to do a Google search and you’ll find several reference sites with them. In the Borelli household we have a set of rules as well, but never before had I tried to actually list them. I could cite them, but they weren’t numbered like Gibbs’. SO… it was suggested to me that I do precisely that. Here we go.

1) Just don’t quit. Easier said than done at times, but this is simple none-the-less. As I told both my oldest children when they enlisted in the service (and as I’ve repeated to my younger daughter as she contemplates a stint in the service), the only person in the world who can make you quit is the person in the mirror. There is no good reason for that person to give you permission to quit or to ask you to quit. Sure, you might fail sometimes, but if you view each “failure” as a learning experience then the next time around you’ll do better. As long as you keep trying then you haven’t quit – and you haven’t lost until you’ve quit. Life hasn’t beaten you until you give up.

2) You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. Anyone who’s ever been in the service is familiar with this one. Sometimes the orders you’re given just suck but that doesn’t excuse you from following them. Cleaning up behind your dog in the backyard isn’t fun. You don’t have to like it – you just have to do it. Often the thing you don’t like but have to do anyway is the next hurdle you clear in not quitting.  Sometimes you make a commitment and then find that fulfilling it is occasionally inconvenient or difficult.  It doesn’t matter.  You made the commitment.  You have to follow through.  Be as good as your word.

3) Focus on the mission; ignore the distractions. When I enlisted in the Army and entered Basic Training my father was, shall we say, less than supportive. He had plans for me that involved college and doors in law firms with my name on them. That outlook from him was expressed in his letters to me during Basic Training and Military Police School. Those feelings, on his part, were a distraction to me. They misdirected my attention and made me think about things that weren’t pertinent to my successful completion of my training. Successful completion of that training was my mission at the time. I had to learn to ignore the distractions and focus on the mission. The lesson applies throughout life.  Emotions, hunger, discomfort, missing home, etc.  They’re all distractions.

4) Always be charitable but never be a victim. My father once told me that if a person asked for my help I should always give it if I could. He also told me that if a person ever demanded something of me that I didn’t want to give then I should refuse it and fight to maintain my position. Later he “fine tuned” this message to be more specifically financial. “If a man asks you for a dollar and you can afford to give it, always give it. If the man demands a quarter and you either can’t afford to give it or don’t want to, fight to keep the quarter.” He went further to say, “Make that man be willing to die for the quarter, because you should be willing to fight to the death to keep what’s yours.”  All of my children have been taught to be compassionate, but also to never be victims.

5) Never leave the house without a knife, a gun and a lighter. These words came from my Uncle, Don Ingram, a USMC Vietnam Veteran. Of course he added all the proper caveats about only doing so legally. When I inquired as to why I needed these three items he explained that with them I could catch food, clean food and cook food (hunt it, skin it and make a fire to cook it over). It made sense to me and to this day I don’t leave my house without – at a minimum – a knife and a lighter. Usually there’s more than one knife and most of the time, there’s also a gun… legally. (My family has compared this to Gibbs’ Rule #9: Never go anywhere without a knife. It’s a rule we’ve observed for as far back as I can remember.)

6) Always have a flashlight. Yes it may seem a strange thing to take with you every day everywhere you go, BUT… especially with today’s LED technology and small batteries it’s all too easy to carry a compact light comfortably. I’ve been in more than one place when the power has gone out for whatever reason and I’ve pulled out my flashlight. It’s always entertaining to see the looks on people’s faces. The first expression is, “Why do you have a flashlight?” The second is, “Thank God you have a flashlight!” We humans are (usually) inherently afraid of the dark, so why put ourselves into it?

7) It’s always better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Doesn’t this apply across the spectrum of life? It’s an axiom I’ve heard throughout my life and I can’t sort an original source.  This is also one of my most basic arguments against any kind of gun control.

8) There’s no peace without justice. Just because there is no conflict where you are at that moment in time doesn’t mean everything is peaceful. Peace requires that no conflict exists AND that people live in a fair and just manner with respect to their rights and liberties. Many tyrannies have been peaceful because the dictator or tyrant was viscious in his discipline or “law enforcement”. The presence of justice requires fairness and impartiality in peace keeping and respect for every person’s rights and liberties.

9) Family should never fight alone. Neither should your partner. This is similar to Gibbs’ Rule #15: Always work as a team. I have six brothers and two sisters. Four of my brothers are US Marines (former). Two of them – out of the blue one day – told me to remember something: “We can fight amongst ourselves, but we’ll brook no one else fighting with any of us. We always stand together.” Right, wrong or indifferent, family should never fight alone.

10) Never miss a chance to tell your family you love them. My father died quite unexpectedly in relatively good health. It was a freak accident that occurred while my mother was in the bath. She never heard him. By the time he was found he had passed. My point is that the unexpected occurs all the time. I don’t espouse saying “I love you” just so someone can hear the words, but take a minute and think about it and really let your family know you love them when you have the chance. You may not get another one.

11) Always try to be the person your pets see when they look at you. My son read this one and looked at me with that “huh?” look on his face. Every time I came home, my dog came trotting over to the door to greet me (if only our family was always this delighted to see us?). Every time I walked by him he’d raise his head and wag his tail. Our pets know we care for them and give them love. Even when we’re grumpy or sour (and hopefully we don’t take it out on them) they still love and adore us. They view us through innocent eyes that see us only as the people who control their world. I hope that I’m always as good as the person they see when they look at me.

12) It’s always easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes but the lessons never sink in as far as learning from you own. I wish I could see every reader as they read this – because I’d enjoy watching each of you chuckle and nod your head. I WISH I could have learned from every mistake my father ever made. I tried to pay attention to the lessons he taught me. Still, sometimes you just have to find out some things for yourself and when you bear your own pain, penalty or punishment for screwing up you learn in a vastly more efficient fashion than you do listening to someone else tell you about their experience.

13) You can never tell just one lie. When we talk to the people in our lives, whether it’s family, friends or workmates, we inevitably answer questions about various things. If you lie to any one of those questions, you will have to lie to virtually every related follow on question that is asked. The ONLY safe lie you can ever tell is the answer you give when your wife asks how that dress makes her butt look… and you’d better be darned convincing then!

14) Work smarter; not harder. My son asked me about this one too. I tried to give him an example of a simple task that you could work hard at (digging a 10 foot square ditch five feet deep with a gardening spade) that you could complete more easily and quickly if you worked smarter (by getting a bigger shovel or a Bobcat). He was twelve at the time and he understood immediately. It’s not rocket science or brain surgery folks. If there’s two ways of accomplishing the same task in an equal fashion, choose the easier way. Why wouldn’t you?

15) Never assume; never take anything for granted. This combines Gibbs’ Rules #3: Don’t believe what you’re told; double check and #8: Never take anything for granted. This is one that, when we ignore it, has bitten us ALL in the butt. The most inocuous example is when we get an email that has some horrendous message in it and, without verifying the contents and veracity of the email info, we forward it on. Usually one of our friends WILL check out what we’ve sent and send us back a message that says, “Maybe next time you should check this kind of stuff out before forwarding it.” And we learn because we just made ourselves look a bit foolish. There are much larger examples of life experiences this can apply to and anyone over 21 will admit to them. Those under 21… well… they just won’t admit to it because they are often still too busy knowing it all. Not all of them, mind you, but a good number of them. Eventually, as we grow up (or grow old, one or the other) we learn this lesson all too well.

16) It’s easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission. This is Gibbs’ Rule #18. Of course, this applies to a lot of situations but never one that involves my children and their need to seek permission from their parents! Quite often this rule can be applied to situations wherein a person is trying to decide whether or not to take the initiative; to do something without first getting permission. In such situations, the only time forgiveness is needed afterward is when the effort fails or doesn’t produce as expected. Those are the “A for effort” situations we all have. We get past them. Take the initiative. Do the right thing.  A secondary phrase often heard and related to this is, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”  If you’ve ever had that thought or said that phrase, THIS rule is one you need to remember.

So, those are the Borelli Rules as we thought about, collected and noted them. I’d love to see any you all might see fit to add!!! Email them to me: frank@newamericantruth.com or post them below.


  1. Elizabeth Borelli

    March 26, 2010 at 13:22

    wow you added a few more rules dad….i like them! but some are more important than others. Sorry I couldn’t help you with this article

  2. admin

    March 26, 2010 at 14:08

    ‘S’Okay, Liz. Time and circumstance conspired against us – but you contributed quite a bit without any effort and completely without meaning to!

  3. Nick Borelli

    April 6, 2010 at 18:53

    I like rules 5 and 8, particularly in conjunction. They’re all good, but I like those best.

  4. Dave

    April 7, 2010 at 17:42

    I love all the rules. But I learned two rules when I was a young Sailor,
    1.If you ain’t cheatin you ain’t tryin.
    I have always taken this to mean think outside the box. Use your imagination, be better prepared than your adversary in all things.
    2.Good ole # 18 better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.

    They have always served me well.

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  7. John M. Wills

    January 31, 2013 at 08:36

    Good stuff, Frank. I keep flashlights, knife, binoculars in my truck. You just never know.

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