Exceptions to the Rule

always exceptions to the rule

One way to judge the state of an organization is by how they handle edge cases. If an organization fails to handle edge cases, it’s no longer respectable. It’s a bureaucracy. 

Bureaucracy is expected when dealing with government. When dealing with a private enterprise, there’s no excuse. It’s incompetence for a company to be run by a set of rules that cannot be bypassed even when it’s completely obvious they should be ignored. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.


Our website was blocked on Facebook. We couldn’t message our website name on FB or DM it on instagram. It was blocked for an unknown reason. When messaging ender.com, it didn’t send. This was annoying as it delayed the launch of our blog.

When chatting with people who work at FB, they said that it makes no sense that our site was blocked. They said the only way to unblock it is to go through the official channels. By that, they mean by going on the FB website to report the issue. We reported the issue numerous times. It took us a year to get unblocked by going through friends high up. There are employees at FB who looked into it and said “this is stupid and wrong, but FB will continue to do it for an unknown reason. Maybe a mess up in the algorithm, but definitely some sort of mess up. Sorry there’s no way to fix this.”

Our only recourse was telling friends to login to FB, go to this site. Type in ender.com. Click the “let us know” link. Then send a report saying it’s incorrectly blocked. My friends at FB said if we do this enough, they should eventually unblock our website… great. There were no exceptions to the rule.

So no Bunny House

Soho House wouldn’t allow my rabbit at their venue. Their reason was that rabbit fur could make people allergic. The ridiculousness of this statement set me on a path not to change their mind but to prove how flawed their rationale was. I asked if they allow rabbit scarves. They said yes but said the rabbit could escape. The rabbit was in a cage with the entire cage being a litter box… plus, not that it matters, but it’s potty trained. I had brought the rabbit multiple times before, and there were no incidents.

I talked to the heads of community at the Austin Soho House. They told me how they personally love animals but don’t allow any animals at the property except service animals. Service animals include dogs and mini horses. I clarified– so I’m allowed to bring a mini horse, but not a rabbit in a cage. This is the federal law. This was the first and still only venue in Austin that had a problem with me bringing a rabbit. They had to follow their institutional rules and supposedly have no leeway.

Soho House also has a rule where they don’t allow more than 3 guests even when the venue is empty. Employees don’t have leeway. They don’t have autonomy. Their employees are effectively robots who are following rules. With a company structure like this, there’s no reason to have employees.

Process with Smart Creatives

If there’s an employee who joins a company out of college and crushes it, how fast can they advance? In most companies, they have to follow the standard, at best 18 month per raise path. If a company is optimally run, I’d argue the minimum 18 month wait per raise is too long. If someone is an absolute all star, they should be able to advance rapidly. They should be able to advance rapidly within the org compensated for the value they create.

What makes companies great is people. People who can follow processes but understand the intent behind the processes, and thus make exceptions to the rule. Process is necessary at scale, but whether one can circumvent the process is telling of the institution. It’s a choice to be a cog in a machine. The same way it’s a choice to build a machine full of cogs.

At Ender, as long as one accomplishes the desired end goal, we don’t mind when people circumvent the process. Sans legal and compliance issues, our team members can accomplish tasks anyway they please. Our process is meant to be iterated on. Nothing is set in stone. We view our team as a group of all stars coming together. Exceptions to the rule allow smart creatives to thrive.