I recently finished the 2023 book Excellent Advice for Living, Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier by Kevin Kelly. Kelly is an author, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review.
Kelly collected 68 bits of wisdom to share with his adult children on his 68th birthday. When they asked for more, he kept going until he had about 450 – enough to publish in a book. Each page of the book contains a few bits of advice – here are some of our favorites.
Advice on Values
Don’t define yourself by your opinions, because then you can’t change your mind. Define yourself by your values.
Acquiring things will rarely bring you deep satisfaction. But acquiring experiences will.
You are what you do. Not what you say, not what you believe, not how you vote, but what you spend your time on.
Be frugal in all things, except in your passions. Select a few interests that you gleefully splurge on. In fact, be all-around thrifty so that you can splurge on your passions.
Very few regrets in life are about what you did. Almost all are about what you didn’t do.
All the greatest prizes in life in wealth, relationships, or knowledge come from the magic of compounding interest, by amplifying small steady gains. All you need for abundance is to keep adding 1% more than you subtract on a regular basis.
Before you are old, attend as many funerals as you can bear, and listen. Nobody talks about the departed’s achievements. The only thing people will remember is what kind of person you were while you were achieving.
For every good thing you love, ask yourself what your proper dose is.
It is much easier to change how you think by changing your behavior than it is to change your behavior by changing how you think. Act out the change you seek.
To cultivate a habit, switch your language from “I can or can’t do” to “I do or don’t do.” You shift the weight from a wavering choice to an unwavering identity.
Worry is ineffective. It is certain that 99% of the stuff you are anxious about won’t happen.
Fully embrace “What is the worst that can happen?” at each juncture in life. Rehearsing your response to the “worst” can reveal it as an adventure and rob it of its power to stall you.
To succeed once, focus on the outcome; to keep succeeding, focus on the process that makes the outcome.
Advice on Leadership and Working with Others
When you lead, your real job is to create more leaders, not more followers.
Always be quick to give credit, and to take blame.
Be more generous than necessary. No one on their deathbed has ever regretted giving too much away. There is no point to being the richest person in the cemetery.
When someone is nasty, hateful, or mean towards you, treat their behavior like an affliction or illness they have. That makes it easier to have empathy toward them, which can soften the conflict.
“No” is an acceptable answer even without a reason.
If you meet a jerk, ignore them. If you meet jerks everywhere every day, look deeper into yourself.
Don’t reserve your kindest praise for a person until their eulogy. Tell them while they are alive, when it makes a difference to them. Write it in a letter they can keep.
See that old person taking forever in line? That is the future you. Have patience.
A proper apology consists of conveying the 3 R’s: regret (genuine empathy with the other), responsibility (not blaming someone else), and remedy (your willingness to fix it).
How to Learn
It is the duty of a teacher to get everything out of a student, and the duty of a student to get everything out of a teacher.
Learning probability and statistics is far more useful than learning algebra and calculus.
Ignore what others may be thinking of you because they aren’t thinking of you.
It is easy to get trapped by your own success. Say no to tasks you probably won’t fail at and say yes to what you could fail at.
Read the books that your favorite authors once read.
Lessons on How to Live
When you are presented with a task that could be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
If you stop to listen to a musician or street performer for more than a minute, you owe them a dollar.
You can eat any dessert you want if you take only three bites.
Don’t ever respond to a solicitation or a proposal on the phone. The urgency is a disguise for a scam.
Don’t purchase extra insurance if you are renting a car with a credit card.
When you get invited to do something in the future, ask yourself: Would I do this tomorrow? Not too many promises will pass the immediacy filter.
You will spend one third of your life in your bed sleeping, and almost another third in your chair sitting. It’s worth investing in a great bed and fantastic chair.
We are unconsciously distracted by seeing our reflection. You can alleviate a lot of the fatigue of teleconferencing all day if you turn off your self-view.
When sharing, one person divides, the other chooses.
The end is almost always the beginning of something better.
Kevin Kelly’s book has over 400 more of these tiny gems of excellent advice for living. Please let us know your favorite advice from this list, or share a few of your own words of wisdom in the comments below.