When you first learn a craft, it’s useful to learn the rules. 

As you master the rules, it’s useful to break the rules.  

The difference between learning, mastering, and then breaking the rules comes from understanding why the rules exist.

Rules, rules of thumbs, or conventions exist around problems in a field that recur frequently.

These kinds of “rules” provide a reasonable solution to the problem at hand 80% to 90% of the time.

The rules have two shortcomings.

First, the “rule” gives a reasonable solution but not always the best solution for a specific situation.

Second, there’s a small percentage of the time when just blindly following the rule isn’t a good solution at all.

The only way you can tell when to use the rule or not is by developing an understanding of why the rule exists in the first place.

There are rules of thumb in photography, software development, and yes, even case interviews.

For example, the purpose of case frameworks isn’t to follow the framework verbatim. The purpose is to solve a highly complex business problem that initially seems overwhelming, and divide the problem into logical, smaller, and easier to address parts.

Once you grasp why frameworks exist, you can ignore off-the-shelf frameworks (including my own), provided you find another way to introduce logic and structure to the problem at hand.

In other words, you can afford to ignore the “standard” frameworks when you can address the underlying issues that the frameworks were designed to address, but do so in a different way.

In any and every field, the path from beginner to master is paved by asking the question “Why?”

“Why?” is hands down the best question to learn and develop insights about a particular field.

It is also the question that I’ve noticed is asked the least often.

If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’ve been taught to do, then you don’t really know your field.

Consider asking “Why?” more often.

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