The Ground Rules

Before every boxing match, legendary boxing referee, Kenny Bayless, would establish the ground rules:

Keep the fight clean at all times, protect yourself at all times, and what I say you must obey.

Bayless was the third man” for many of boxing’s biggest fights: Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury, Canelo vs GGG, and Pacquiao vs Mayweather to name a few. He says the same thing before each match with the last line, What I say you must obey,” being his signature catchphrase.

Even though both fighters understand the rules of the fight, establishing the ground rules sets the tone for the rest of the bout. Starting three weeks ago, I applied this idea to the Olive Tree Writing Club weekly sessions. At the start of each session, we state the ground rules:

  1. This is a writing session not a co-working session.
  2. No talking.
  3. No phones.

In past sessions, people would treat the meetups as general working sessions like writing emails or working on their day jobs. This would hurt the integrity of the session and signal to others that this isn’t a serious writing club. Additionally, people sometimes would talk to their friends or constantly check their phones, which I found distracting.

Introducing ground rules has dramatically changed the dynamic of the weekly meetups. Writing sessions feel more focused and less distracting. It’s a small change but it’s made a big difference.

November 9, 2023

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