Tyler Durden’s 8 Rules of Innovation

Tyler Durden

We all want to do remarkable things, and lead remarkable lives.

No one wants to spend the day engaged in mundane productivity in pursuit of a meaningless consumer existence. Certainly not you, right?

So why do we find it so hard to break out of our rut and do truly innovative things?

Because it’s hard. Because it often requires us to significantly alter our perspectives and step outside our comfort zones.

It’s almost like becoming another person.

I Know This Because Tyler Knows This…

If you haven’t seen the movie Fight Club (or read Chuck Palahniuk’s excellent novel), I won’t spoil the fantastic plot twist where we come to understand who Tyler Durden really is. The story isn’t for everyone, but if you think it’s about fighting, you’re on the wrong track.

At its core, Fight Club is about living the life you truly want to live, and the hard path to getting there. Tyler helps the story’s nameless hero (usually referred to as Jack) down that path to enlightenment, so maybe what Tyler says can help the rest of us as well.

Luckily, Tyler says a lot of things that apply directly to innovative action. Here are his 8 rules for creative people to live by.

Tyler’s First Rule of Innovation:

“No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”

This is the most important lesson, and it’s the one people struggle with and resist. Tim Ferriss advocates the 80/20 rule of productivity, where you focus relentlessly on the 20% of the actions that lead to 80% of the return. People see this as nice in theory, but not practical.

But believe it or not, this is how I’ve been running my businesses for the last 10 years. I used to actually feel guilty because I wasn’t constantly “getting things done” at a maniacal pace, even though I was enjoying increasingly significant success each year. It’s only been in the last few years I’ve realized that this approach is essential for entrepreneurs and creative professionals of all stripes.

The 80/20 rule of productivity requires radical elimination, or letting that which does not matter to creative moves truly slide. Use that newfound time for creative thinking that leads to innovative action, and you will succeed, guaranteed.

Tyler’s Second Rule of Innovation:

“No fear! No distractions! The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide!”

Seriously. Don’t break the first two rules.

Tyler’s Third Rule of Innovation:

“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

Let’s face it, when we break Tyler’s first two rules of innovation and distract ourselves with foolish productivity, it’s often because we’re afraid (which also violates Tyler’s first two rules). We’re afraid of failure, ridicule, risk, mediocrity, and perhaps even success itself.

If you’re going to evolve and grow as a creative person, you’re going to make mistakes. In fact, you should start making twice as many mistakes as soon as possible if you want to have an innovative breakthrough.

Make mistakes and let the chips fall where they may. You might like the landing.

Tyler’s Fourth Rule of Innovation:

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Oh, yeah… don’t be afraid to make big mistakes. More importantly, don’t worry about everything going according to plan. In fact, if everything’s going according to plan, there’s a good chance nothing remarkable is getting done.

They say life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Innovation is what happens when you recognize when to change the plan and perhaps the entire game. Maybe your initial plan falls apart, or maybe you simply need to throw the current plan away.

Don’t let the plan restrict the freedom to have a game-changing idea, and act on it, at any time. Losing everything may be the best thing that ever happens to you.

Tyler’s Fifth Rule of Innovation:

“You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.”

When we talk about fear, risk, mistakes, and losing it all, what are we really afraid of? Are we defined by the stuff we own, or would we prefer to be defined by what we accomplish and create for the world?

I’m not saying give all your stuff away or take foolish risks that harm your family or yourself. I’m saying don’t let the stuff you own start to own you to the point that you can’t live the life you want to live and do the things you want to do.

Tyler’s Sixth Rule of Innovation:

“People do it everyday, they talk to themselves… they see themselves as they’d like to be, they don’t have the courage you have, to just run with it.”

I bet you’ve got a great idea right now, bouncing around in your head. What are you going to do with it?

Be what you’d like to be, and do what you’d like to do… it really is that simple. Having the courage to just run with it is the difference between a fulfilling life and a life full of regret.

Tyler’s Seventh Rule of Innovation:

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”

On the other hand, wearing black hipster clothing and hanging in cafes smoking Gaulloises cigarettes does not make you creative. Buying a MacBook Pro and an iPhone doesn’t get it done either.

Creativity and innovation are mainly about hard work. It’s about constantly coming up with ideas and thinking through problems instead of vegging out. And it’s about taking action, plain and simple.

Tyler’s Eighth Rule of Innovation:

“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

First, you have to know, not fear, know that someday you are going to die. Until you know that, you have no sense of urgency. You think you have all the time in the world to do amazing things, but you may not live to see that particular someday.

So quit reading articles for a bit and go do what really needs to be done today.

About the Author: Brian Clark is a new media entrepreneur and co-founder of Lateral Action. Subscribe today to get free updates by email or RSS.

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Responses to this Post


  1. Paul Tanner says:

    This use of this character and his message is obscene. I’ll go further – it’s FUCKING obscene. To quote another character from another seminal 90s movie, “How can you be so obtuse? Is it deliberate?” Tyler Durden wanted you and everyone like you dead. To him, you were dead already. And spreading deadness and dullness and insipidity like a contagion. And here you’ve managed (or attempted) to co-opt a character whose entire appeal was that he fucking HATED you and HATED the kind of stupid, evil, inhuman shit that’s the basis behind idiotic articles like this. Words cannot do justice to the depths of your stupidity, or to the odiousness of your being.

    • You stupid fuck, do you even know what you’re talking about? These are some great rules from the movie. Just because Tyler Durden HATED everyone doesnt mean that his rules dont count.
      I like this article not because the character HATES me, its because both mine and the character’s interests are similar

  2. i just found this last night and am confused and excited.

    confused because i originally saw this movie back in 1999, and thought it was about revolting against the man.

    excited because your post has revealed to me that it is more about revolting against your self imposed limits.

    i subscribed to your blog because you seem intelligent, and i need to read more good stuff like this.

  3. I absolutely love this article especially the first two rules. *smiles*
    The movie was great also.

  4. Hi! My name is Tone, and I am a filmstudent at University of Southampton. I am currently writing my dissertation on ‘Fight Club’ and I was wondering if I could get permission to use your blog as part of my research? I am having a closer look at the reception of the film. Your name will not be used at all in the dissertation, I will be referring to my subjects by using character A,B,C etc. Your blog will be useful for me in analyzing the reception of the film, and I would really appreciate it.

    Kind Regards,

  5. I love this article. Bookmarked it over a year ago and still read it from time to time. Gives me some encouragement that I am doing what’s right for me, regardless of the ups and downs. Gotta keep at it!

  6. Marcelo Conrado says:

    Tyler’s words are wisdom. Thanks for the article.

  7. I try to in a sense live by the ideals of Tyler, and after I started my business is doing better. I’m not really thanking the website, but the book and movie YES

  8. The idea that more minds are more innovative than one goes back to the how-many-ways-can-you-use-a-paper-clip exercise in 7th grade language arts. A team always produces more ideas than each of its members.

  9. Fuck it. I’m gonna do what makes me risk happiness. Everything I want lays outside my comfort zone. I’ve always known there was a reason other than anarchy I loved this movie. It’s because it was speaking to my subconscious mind. Truth is I’ve been seeking to be comfortable and loved. I need to forget everything I think I know about life and love and just let go!

  10. Hey. I’ve seen the movie like 100000 times. (Starting in high school)
    I graduated denstistry, I worked as a dentist for 6 years and I dropped it to be who I really am and live my life – this is freedom and I love it.

    (I think I commented it few days ago, but I read it again and decided to write something more. I love the movie and the soundtrack, so that’s why my “name” and “website” are like this).

    I’ve checked a lot of these rules – believe me. This path is not easy, but it’s worth every drop of sweat.

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