Throughout my life, I’ve almost always prioritized short-term goals. I don’t have a lot of patience and imagination to work on long-term goals. In an attempt to rebalance that, I found that lessons shared by people more experienced than me to be priceless. It’s as if someone is traveling from the future carrying these gifts.

Kevin Kelly recently turned 70, and shared 103 advices on his blog. They’re all short advices that are worth lengthier reflection than they might appear at first. At this stage of my life, here are some that I found particularly weighty.

Forgiveness

When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to not let something steal attention and drain my mental energy continuously. When someone does something harmful to me, it’s easy to fall into self-pity. To keep asking why they couldn’t do better. To keep wondering what I had done to deserve such thing. Left unchecked, this keeps the wound open, as the mental energy required for the healing is spent for ruminating instead. Forgiveness short-circuits the negative cycle.

Writing Things Down

The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I dont need to write this down because I will remember it.”

This resonates with me. I’ve tried so many diferent things: fountain pens, note-taking apps, voice recordings. All in the name of making it as seamless as possible for me to record and retrieve random piece of thoughts or information that might be valuable in the future. I am still searching.

Bravery

Speak confidently as if you are right, but listen carefully as if you are wrong.

This is another form of “strong opinions—weakly held”, but I think I like “speak confidently, listen carefully” better. It rhymes better. And it’s good to mention listening in there. Listening skill—wondrously, being such a passive activity—is something that requires huge amount of efforts to improve.

In the end, it’s all about being brave both ways: in sharing our thoughts, and in being wrong.

Consistency

The consistency of your endeavors (exercise, companionship, work) is more important than the quantity. Nothing beats small things done every day, which is way more important than what you do occasionally.

Almost word-for-word similar to one of Muhammad’s sayings: “Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.”

Also related:

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 ten years. A long game will compound small gains to overcome even big mistakes.

Breaks and Goofing Off

Efficiency is highly overrated; Goofing off is highly underrated. Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks and time off are essential for top performance of any kind. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.

I’m grateful for “good rest ethic”. It puts into words something that has been percolating in my mind for a while. Since I’ve became a full-time developer, I’ve been noticing the need and benefits of taking a break. Constantly thinking about a programmatic puzzle or an odd bug almost always yield in worsening performance, while being away from them eventually brings fresh perspective.

On the other hand, I’ve also been dealing about the guilt stemming from goofing off. From taking breaks. That something still feels off if I don’t notice myself constantly grinding. So that particular advice helps convince and point me to the right direction.

Good pen, bad pen

Take note if you find yourself wondering “Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?” That means you have bad ones. Get rid of those.

I have too many bad pens (here’s my best one).

On Public Speaking

When public speaking, pause frequently. Pause before you say something in a new way, pause after you have said something you believe is important, and pause as a relief to let listeners absorb details.

When speaking to an audience it’s better to fix your gaze on a few people than to “spray” your gaze across the room. Your eyes telegraph to others whether you really believe what you are saying.

Good public speaking advices, as travel and conferences seem to be coming back.

Receiving

Denying or deflecting a compliment is rude. Accept it with thanks, even if you believe it is not deserved.

Something I recently realized (from getting code reviews, of all places) is to deeply appreciate whenever people take the time to think about what you’ve done, and give feedbacks about it. Humans generally spend time thinking about themselves, so it’s always precious when we productively think about others.

Compliments (also: gifts) count as valuable feedbacks. Even if I don’t think they’re deserved, I might still be wrong. Others might have seen something valuable that I have missed in the gap of my experience and understanding. So indeed the only right path is to thankfully accept them.

Things Only We Can Do

Making art is not selfish; it’s for the rest of us. If you don’t do your thing, you are cheating us.

When you have some success, the feeling of being an imposter can be real. Who am I fooling? But when you create things that only you — with your unique talents and experience — can do, then you are absolutely not an imposter. You are the ordained. It is your duty to work on things that only you can do.

I had not considered the connection between doing something that only we can do, and it being the antidote of imposter syndrome, but it makes perfect sense.

On Aging

Your time and space are limited. Remove, give away, throw out things in your life that dont spark joy any longer in order to make room for those that do.

The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.

Aim to die broke. Give to your beneficiaries before you die; it’s more fun and useful. Spend it all. Your last check should go to the funeral home and it should bounce.

No comments on these, except that I’ll be thinking about them for a long while.

One thought on “Kevin Kelly’s “103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known”

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