Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly unveils 73 nuggets of wisdom for a life well-lived

Kevin Kelly is my friend and a co-author of our weekly Recomendo newsletter ("6 brief personal recommendations of cool stuff" – subscribe for free here!). He was a co-founder of Wired magazine (he hired me to work there in 1993) and was the editor of The Whole Earth Review. He is a relentless optimist, and every time I talk to him, I feel more energized and hopeful about the future.

Kevin recently celebrated his 73rd birthday. To commemorate, he posted a four-part Twitter thread with 73 useful pieces of advice. Kevin has been creating these advice lists on his birthday for the last few years, and a lot of his advice was compiled into an excellent book, called, Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier.

Here are some of my favorites from his most recent Twitter thread:

  • The best way to criticize something is to make something better.
  • Admitting that "I don't know" at least once a day will make you a better person.
  • Forget trying to decide what your life's destiny is. That's too grand. Instead, just figure out what you should do in the next 2 years.
  • Aim to be effective, but unpredictable. That is, you want to act in a way that AIs have trouble modeling or imitating. That makes you irreplaceable.
  • Try to define yourself by what you love and embrace, rather than what you hate and refuse.
  • Read a lot of history so you can understand how weird the past was; that way you will be comfortable with how weird the future will be.
  • When shopping for anything physical (souvenirs, furniture, books, tools, shoes, equipment), ask yourself: where will this go? Don't buy it unless there is a place it can live. Something may need to leave in order for something else to come in.
  • You can become the world's best in something primarily by caring more about it than anyone else.
  • Asking "what-if?" about your past is a waste of time; asking "what-if?" about your future is tremendously productive.
  • Most arguments are not really about the argument, so most arguments can't be won by arguing.
  • The surest way to be successful is to invent your own definition of success. Shoot your arrows first and then paint a bull's eye around where they land. You're the winner!
  • Changing your mind about important things is not a consequence of stupidity, but a sign of intelligence.
  • When you are stuck or overwhelmed, focus on the smallest possible thing that moves your project forward.
  • In a museum you need to spend at least 10 minutes with an artwork to truly see it. Aim to view 5 pieces at 10 minutes each rather than 100 at 30 seconds each.
  • Your decisions will become wiser when you consider these three words: "…and then what?" for each choice.
  • Never accept a work meeting until you've seen the agenda and know what decisions need to be made. If no decisions need to be made, skip the meeting.
  • The most common mistake we make is to do a great job on an unimportant task.
  • Best sleep aid: first, get really tired.
  • If someone is calling you to alert you to fraud, nine out of ten times they are themselves the fraudster. Hang up. Call the source yourself if concerned.
  • Avoid making any kind of important decision when you are either hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT). Just halt when you are HALT.
  • If you are out of ideas, go for a walk. A good walk empties the mind—and then refills it with new stuff.
  • To tell a good story, you must reveal a surprise; otherwise it is just a report.
  • You'll never meet a very successful pessimistic person. If you want to be remarkable, get better at being optimistic.

Previously: Freakonomics interviews Kevin Kelly about his `68 bits of unsolicited advice`