Notes on

Excellent Advice for Living

by Kevin Kelly

This is a collection of passages I found interesting or useful in Kevin Kelly's "Excellent Advice for Living."

You may also like The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy.

Listening well is a superpower.
While listening to someone you love
keep asking them
“Is there more?”
until there is no more.

Always demand a deadline
because it weeds out
the extraneous and the ordinary.
A deadline prevents you from trying
to make it perfect
so you have to make it different.
Different is better.

Taking a break
is not a sign of weakness
but a sign of strength.

You don’t have to attend
every argument you are invited to.

A worthy goal for a year
is to learn enough about a subject
so that you can’t believe
how ignorant you were
a year earlier.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

If you are the smartest person
in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Hang out with, and learn from
people smarter than yourself.

Even better, find smart people
who will disagree with you.
You should demand
extraordinary evidence
in order to believe extraordinary claims.

Everyone is shy.
Other people are waiting for you
to introduce yourself to them;
they are waiting for you
to send them an email;
they are waiting for you
to ask them on a date.
Go ahead.

The more you are interested in others
the more interesting they’ll find you.
To be interesting, be interested.

The purpose of a habit
is to remove that action
from self-negotiation.
You no longer expend energy
deciding whether to do it.
You just do it.
Good habits can range
from telling the truth to flossing.

You lead by letting others know
what you expect of them
which may exceed what they
themselves expect.
Provide them a reputation
that they can step up to.

To make something good, just do it.
To make something great, just redo it
redo it, redo it.
The secret to making fine things
is in remaking them.

Nothing elevates a person higher than
taking responsibility for their mistakes.
If you mess up, fess up.
It’s astounding how powerful
this ownership is.

You can obsess about your customers
or you can obsess about
beating the competition.
Both work, but of the two
obsessing about your customers
will take you further.

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

Perhaps the most counterintuitive
truth of the universe
is that the more you give to others
the more you’ll get.
Understanding this
is the beginning of wisdom.

If you ask to be hired
mainly because you need a job
you are just another problem for the boss;
if you can solve many of the problems the
boss has right now
you are hired.
To be hired, think like your boss.

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 let someone else’s urgency
become your emergency.
In fact, don’t be governed
by the urgent of any sort.
Focus on the important.
The urgent is a tyrant.
The important should be your king.
Down with the tyranny of the urgent!

The reward for good work is more work.

The foundation of maturity:
Just because it’s not your fault
doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility.

You don’t need more time because
you already have all the time
that you will ever get;
you need more focus.

Your passions should fit you exactly
but your purpose in life should exceed you.
Work for something
much larger than yourself.

When a child asks an endless string of
“Why?” questions, the smartest reply is
“I don’t know, what do you think?”

Work to become, not to acquire.

When someone tells you something is
wrong, they’re usually right.
When they tell you how to fix it
they’re usually wrong.

Ignore what others may be thinking of you
because they aren’t thinking of you.

This is the best time ever
to make something.
None of the greatest, coolest creations 20
years from now have been invented yet.
You are not late.

To transcend the influence of your heroes
copy them shamelessly like a student
until you get them out of your system.
That is the way of all masters.

If you are buying stock, the person selling
it thinks it is worth less than you do.
If you are selling, they think it is
worth more than you do.
Each time you are ready to
buy or sell stock
ask yourself
“What do I know that they don’t?”

Productivity is often a distraction.
Don’t aim for better ways to get through
your tasks as quickly as possible.
Instead aim for better tasks
that you never want to stop doing.

The best work ethic
requires a good rest ethic.

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.

Your best job
will be one that you were unqualified for
because it stretches you.
In fact, only apply to jobs
you are unqualified for.

When you are stuck
explain your problem to others.
Often simply laying out a problem
will present a solution.
Make “explaining the problem”
part of your troubleshooting process.

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.

When negotiating
don’t aim for a bigger piece of the pie;
aim to create a bigger pie.

The best time to negotiate your salary
for a new job is the moment after
they say they want you
and not before.
Then it becomes a game of chicken
for each side to name an amount first
but it is to your advantage
to get them to give a number before you do.

The main reason
to produce something every day
is that you must throw away
a lot of good work to reach the great stuff.
To let it all go easily
you need to be convinced that
there is “more where that came from.”
You get that in steady production.

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