Status is a funny thing. When you have it, opportunities are abundant. When you don't, they're hard to find.

It doesn't matter if you are the most intelligent, talented, and gifted person around. Unless you stand out from your peers - and have their respect - you have no status.

Without status, you'll be hard pressed to get ahead. That's because people without status rarely get a shot at those once in a lifetime opportunities.

So what does the typical person do when they have no status?

They work harder. They spend a lifetime following the rules. They bide their time, hoping to increase their status slowly but surely. They go to all lengths to conform, hoping that will get them noticed. It rarely happens.

That's because there's always that one person. The one that's always ahead in the game. People treat them different - better, even - and they never have a shortage of opportunities.

Yet they're always breaking the rules.

What Science Says About Rules and Status

It turns out, the ability to break rules and get a way with it, is a key indicator you have status.

That according to a study published by Silvia Bellezza, Francesca Gino, and Anat Keinan, professors at Columbia and Harvard.

We spend a lot of time trying to conform and fit in. We do the right things. We say the right things. We wear the right things. We buy the right things.

We do this to be included.

But only when you achieve status - that is having a higher position and respect within a group - can you take those risks that result in big rewards. Can you take extra liberties without fear of retribution. Can you challenge without punishment.

You may have seen this in your workplace. It's the person who can deliberately challenge processes. That can deliberately ignore the dress code. That can deliberately miss meetings and retreats. That can deliberately ask "why"?

Like it or not, people with status set their own rules and usually win the game.

The Good News: You Can Jump Start Status

If you have the talent and chops to back it up, you can jump start your status in any group or organization. Beware though: Like a car battery, a jump start won't last forever. It will allow you to get things started. But you must have skills to keep it going.

And that's a good thing. Otherwise this world would be full of players who have no game.

So how do you do you jump start your status?

Science says to deliberately break a few rules or social norms of the group, as if you already had earned status. You fake it until you make it, to borrow from the common catchphrase.

That's because when you do, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. People will perceive you as having status. As being one that doesn't worry about social norms. As one that is confident enough to take risks.

They'll reward you with status, which gets you into the game. But the rest is up to you to you to capitalize on with your talent and skills.

(NOTE: I'm not talking about breaking rules by lying, cheating, or stealing.)

Still Need Convincing to Break the Rules?

Yes, status is a funny and fickle thing. You can spend a lifetime earning it the hard way, or you can be bold and jump start it.

Still not convinced great leaders have jump started their status? Here are a few quotes that might change your mind:

"Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." -Pablo Picaso

"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else." -Albert Einstein

"Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind." -Douglas MacArthur

Published on: Dec 8, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.