When my friend and Cool Tools partner Kevin Kelly turned 68 a few weeks ago, he posted an essay to his website titled "68 bit of unsolicited advice." (I posted it to Boing Boing.) Kevin's advice quickly went viral, and this week he was the guest on the Freakonomics podcast, where he talked about the list, among other things.
KELLY (reading from 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice): Learn how to learn from those who disagree with you, or even offend you. See if you can find truth in what they believe.
DUBNER: So the value of doing this one seems obvious, especially in a moment where so many people are so quick to take offense, and to be offensive. Can you give me an example of where you’ve actually done this?
KELLY: There are parts of my books where I’ve written something, and somebody will say something very strong, about, “That’s dumb,” or it’s stupid, or wrong. And that’s pretty harsh. But my take is to say, “Let me see if there’s any truth to that.” Sometimes there’s not. Sometimes there may be some sliver of something. And what I’ve learned to do is to respond to that little sliver. To try to get underneath why they’re saying it and where is it they’re coming from. I don’t have to necessarily always agree with them or change it, but I have to pay attention to that signal. And so I’ve learned to treat these things as signals rather than as insults.
DUBNER: And is the goal there to learn more about the idea you were writing about? Is the issue to mollify a potential enemy? Is the goal to make yourself feel more right, perhaps?
KELLY: That’s a fair question. I would like to be right. I should add this to this list, but Esther Dyson says it so well, she says, “Keep making new mistakes.” So, yeah, I would like not to make that mistake again. It’s not to mollify my critics, because I have learned that’s a no-win game. It’s more of, I want my argument to be better. I want it to be right, but for the right reason. And it’s about educating myself, primarily.