Kevin Kelly’s Excellent Advice for Living

Kevin Kelly recently published Excellent Advice for Living. Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier. It’s a curated collection of the bits of advice he has been writing over the last years. As Seth Godin writes, “One hundred years from now, when so much of the nonsense of our age is forgotten, people will still remember Kevin Kelly and his wisdom.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • Don’t be the best. Be the only.

  • Separate the processes of creating from improving. You can’t write and edit or sculpt and polish or make and analyze at the same time. If you do, the editor stops the creator. While you invent, don’t select. While you sketch, don’t inspect. While you write the first draft, don’t reflect. At the start, the creator mind must be unleashed from judgment.

  • Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe. And you can get better at it. It’s the one skill in life that benefits from ignoring what everyone else knows.

  • You are what you do. Not what you say, not what you believe, not how you vote but what you spend your time on.

  • Experience is overrated. Most breakthrough accomplishments were done by people doing them for the first time. Therefore when hiring hire for aptitude and attitude and then train for skills.

  • Over the long term the future is decided by optimists. To be an optimist you don’t have to ignore the multitude of problems we create; you just have to imagine how much our ability to solve problems improves.

  • Don’t ever work for someone you don’t want to become.

  • You can find no better medicine for your family than regular meals together without screens.

  • Instead of asking your child what they learned today, ask them who they helped today.

  • When you feel like quitting just do five more:

    5 more minutes.

    5 more pages.

    5 more steps.

    Then repeat.

    Sometimes you can break through and keep going but even if you can’t, you ended five ahead. Tell yourself that you will quit tomorrow but not today.

  • We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade. Miraculous things can be accomplished if you give it 10 years. A long game will compound small gains that will be able to overcome even big mistakes.

  • Explore or optimize?

    Do you optimize what you know will sell or explore with something new?

    Do you order a restaurant dish you are sure is great (optimize) or do you try something new?

    Do you keep dating new folks (explore) or try to commit to someone you met?

    The ideal balance for exploring new things vs. optimizing those already found is ⅓. Spend ⅓ of your time on exploring and ⅔ on optimizing and deepening.

    As you mature it is harder to devote time to exploring because it seems unproductive but aim for ⅓.

  • Five years from now you will wish you had started today.

Kevin Kelly wisdom

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