What I Learned from Gibbs’ Rules on NCIS

I’m sure we all have that one TV show that we grew up watching with one or both of our parents. Mine was, and still is, NCIS. One of the longest running detective dramas, NCIS has given us many characters to fall in love with--from Ducky to Abby to Ziva to McGee to Tony and so many more! Yet, one character that has been with the show from the start is Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs played by the brilliant Mark Harmon. Gibbs is one of those special characters who has never quite left me because of his love for his family, his team (who are kind of like family), his friends and his job.


There is one thing that will always stick with me even after NCIS is no longer on air: Gibbs’ Rules. For those of you who don’t know, Gibbs keeps a growing list of rules that he created from experience over his many years of life out in the field. There are upwards of well over 50 rules on his list, yet only some have found their way onto the show, which is why they jump around in numbers. What I love about these rules is that they don’t just translate to agents; they work for all people.


Below are Gibbs’ rules and what we can learn from them!


Rule 1: “Never let suspects sit together.”  

While this rule seems to apply specifically to cops, it can be applicable in real life. Are you a teacher and are there two people who can never seem to stop talking? Separate them! Do two people just need to be separated before a fight breaks out? Do it! Don’t let people plot against you!


Rule 1 (Other): “Never screw over your partner.” 

This rule can be geared toward friends, relationships, school groups, families or anything. Don’t ever mess up something for someone else or take away from any hard-work someone else has done.


Rule 2: “Always wear gloves at a crime scene.” 

This might seem a bit strange, but if you need to be sneaky, wear some gloves. If you’re cold, wear other gloves. Maybe this one isn’t as handy in real life …


Rule 3: “Never believe what you are told. Double check.” 

This is perfect for journalists, but also people who should never take anything at face value. Don’t just believe anything you hear.


Rule 3 (Other): “Never be unreachable.” 

I once had a friend told me if they were ever in trouble, they would call me because they knew I would pick up. Be that person who is there for people if they need help.


Rule 4: “Best way to keep a secret. Keep it to yourself. Second best, tell one other person—if you must. There is no third best.” 

This is like a child’s rule. Everyone can always tell their best friend a secret. After that, keep it tight-lipped.


Rule 5: “You don’t waste good.” 

This is simple. Don’t take anything for granted.


Rule 6: “Never say you’re sorry.” 

This is something many people have told me. Don’t say you’re sorry unless you truly mean it. Also, don’t apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong.


Rule 7: “Always be specific when you lie.” 

I don’t condone lying, but if I did make sure it’s believable.


Rule 8: “Never take anything for granted.” 

This is practically rule five, Gibbs. But why repeat it? Because this matters!


Rule 9: “Never go anywhere without a knife.” 

This also isn’t possible. Please don’t carry a knife. Maybe a pocket knife can come in handy, but really I don’t like violence.


Rule 10: “Never get personally involved in a case.” 

I feel like this can be applied to situations that don’t affect you. If it’s none of your business, don’t get involved. Break this rule only if someone could get hurt.


Rule 11: “When the job is done, walk away.” 

I need to listen to this one. If you’re done with something, like my Dad says, “it is what it is.” Just leave it be and hope you did your best.


Rule 12: “Never date a co-worker.” 

I have heard so many stories of co-workers getting involved with each other. Try really hard not to do it. It’s awkward for everyone.


Rule 13: “Never involve lawyers.”  

I’m honestly not sure how to make this one work. Sorry guys!


Rule 14: “Bend the line, don’t break it.” 

I kind of like this one, but I would have issues doing it. It’s kind of like bend the rules but don’t break them.


Rule 15: “Always work as a team.”

I feel like this matters a lot for jobs, school projects and in life when you need make family work.


Rule 16: “If someone thinks he has the upper hand, break it.” 

I like this one too because it’s kind of like saying make sure no one can ever get the best of you.


Rule 18: “It’s better to seek forgiveness then to ask permission.” 

I don’t personally agree with this one, but I know a lot of people live by it.


Rule 20: “Always look under.”

I interpret this as dig deeper.


Rule 22: “Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation.” 

This is also hard to apply to life, but if you change the words you can make it generic and say to never bother people who are in the middle of something important.


Rule 23: “Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.” 

I don’t see the allure of coffee, but I know some people have a drink that you should never touch.


Rule 27: “Two ways to follow someone. First way, they never notice you. Second way, they only notice you.”  

Please don’t follow this one. Don’t be a stalker.


Rule 28: “When you need help, ask.” 

This is a hard one for many people, but there is always someone who is willing to help you no matter what the situation.


Rule 35: “Always watch the watchers.” 

I feel like this is an intriguing rule because the watchers are people just like you. Most likely, they are just writers (not to call out myself or others I know).


Rule 36: “If it feels like you’re being played, you probably are.” 

I think that if you feel like someone isn’t appreciating you, then you need to drop them or talk it out. After all, communication is key.


Rule 38: “Your case, your lead.” 

Take the lead in a work or school project and make sure you really lead well.


Rule 39: “There is no such thing as a coincidence.”  

In this world, I don’t think anything happens randomly. Fate is always at play. Sorry if this one is too philosophical.


Rule 40: “If it seems like someone’s out to get you, they are.” 

This is similar to rule 36. The bottom line is to be aware of how people behave around you.


Rule 42: “Never accept an apology from somebody who just sucker-punched you.” 

If someone is physically harming you, don’t go back to them. Please.


Rule 44: “First things first, hide the women and children.”  

I can’t do this one. Sorry, Gibbs. This makes no sense.


Rule 45: “Left a mess I gotta clean up.” 

As a sort of clean-freak, please clean up after yourselves physically. Also, make sure you do this emotionally too.


Rule 51: “Sometimes you’re wrong.” 

Many people need to understand that sometimes, they’re wrong. I know I need to learn this too. No one can be right 100% of the time.


Rule 62: “Always give people space when they get off an elevator.” 

This is an interesting rule, but it also kind of works.


Rule 69: “Never trust a woman who doesn’t trust her man.” 

This works in many different ways. If someone doesn’t trust another person, something strange might be going on.


Rule 70: “Keep digging till you hit bottom.”

Technically, I think McGee made this up, but Gibbs took it. This sometimes works if you need to do research. It’s also kind of saying never give up.


Rule 73: “Never meet your heroes.” 

This rule threw me for a loop, but I feel like there could be that realization that your hero is human. All people make mistakes.


Rule 99: “Never tell Gibbs he’s been audited.”

Gibbs can be all people for this. No one wants to be chased after by tax people.



Hopefully, you all appreciated my explanations of Gibbs’ fantastic rules. Maybe they can even help you out like they’ve helped me!



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