The System Is Unforgiving: Play By the Rules and Win
by Allen F. Maxwell
A Story Inside Books

"Seek, identify, and appreciate your mentors. THey have been put in your life to push you to greatness."

Many people believe that all it takes to change one’s life is being in the right place at the right time, but there is an entire class of hard workers and go-getters in the world that know none of those opportunities matter if one lacks the hunger and the discipline to chase them. In this reflection on life, the author tells of growing up between the mean streets of Philadelphia and the turbulent racism of the rural South in the 1970s. Not content with either environment and determined to go and be something greater, he enlists in the Navy and enjoys a storied and fascinating career across several roles and locales. The temptation to stray from the path and take the easy way out is universal, but between a series of inspirational mentors and a self-adopted code created and followed by the author, disasters are avoided, and success tends to follow.

Over time and with enough reflection, a series of rules begins to take shape that provides clarity and logic in times when decision-making can be emotional or challenging. Recognizing that society is a series of systems with their own rules, levels of transparency, and power players seeking to either grab hold of or maintain their position, the author now understands the rules of this game and how or when to play. Armed with this knowledge, and paired with a sense of justice and right from wrong, Maxwell sees opportunities and avenues open up that must be put to the test to determine if they align with his vision for his life, for his family’s life, and for his personal values. Able to check any serious decisions against this rulebook affords incredible pathways, even if the road is never easy to walk.

Through very clever use of structure and narration, the author of this book is able to accomplish two simultaneous goals with the same amount of storytelling. With a largely chronological framework and first-person details and memories, each chapter functions as a memoir, allowing the author’s life story to unfold on the page, year after year, through victories and challenges. At the same time, the initial framework of the book—the 15 Rules of the System—includes lessons learned, incorporated, and called back to provide the reader the opportunity to take them in, see how they are applied, and find space for them in their own life. This allows these guideposts to not just serve as an outline but find use and reuse in various scenarios in the workplace, in personal life, and on the streets.

Many of the situations used as examples in this book pertain to the workplace, whether in the military, the government, or the private sector. However, the language on display here is universal, and there are numerous examples of how these same rules can help one get a promotion or a sense of financial security. They can also be used to keep one’s intentions honest and avoid troublesome scenarios or people in life. It is the flexibility of these guidelines in their application combined with the plain rigidity of their instructions that make them so useful and accessible. Through sheer clarity of speech and economy of verbiage, this book goes well past the boundaries of the subject of business or self-help and instead lays out simple, black-and-white instructions for empowering oneself without losing one’s identity in the process.

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