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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

My Coffee is Bitter Today

My coffee is bitter today. I didn’t want it to be that way, it’s just that I added a bit too much coffee beans into the hand grinder, trying to see what would happen. Turns out this is what happens.

Lately the morning sun’s position is in a certain angle that its light goes through my office window blinds, creating horizontal line shadows over the right half of my desk. It makes for a nice, fleeting adornment. It is only when I have to have a video meeting in the morning that the light also goes into my eyes and it becomes uncomfortable.

Last Sunday I kept hearing ambulance siren sound from somewhere nearby. Over and over and over again. Complaining about sunlight-hitting-eyes discomfort seems inappropriate.

My wife’s cousin passed away yesterday. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

A few moments after our first daughter was born, I remember stepping outside of the hospital for a bit and suddenly taken aback by the sight of every single human being whom I saw outside. The fresh experience of childbirth made me realize that every single of them was once a newborn, every single person out there needed the collective work and years and years of learning and knowledge accumulation of so many other people so they could be born alive. And then for years and years later, uncountable amount of support and nurture and love were poured into each of them, into each of us, so we could be the person we are right now.

It is unfathomable to me how incredibly exhausted each and every one of us must be at this moment. Yet, if it is for others, no matter how miniscule and how separate we might seem to each other, it is still worth it.

Dark Mode on Photography Posts

Just a quick announcement that posts under the Photos category on this blog are now shown in a simple dark mode style. This applies both on single post view, and on the category view itself. It makes photos in the post pop up more, and I rather enjoy it that way. Check here for an example post.

If you’re interested in the technical aspect of it, have a look at my studio blog’s post (it’s CSS with a little help from SASS).

On Learning Useless Skills at School

An answer to the age old question of “why am I learning this at school, I’ll never use it in real life”:

[…] doing math, reading, and writing actually develops the connections between the neurons in the human brain, re-wiring it to complete the tasks you practice in those areas. The layman result is it literally makes you smarter. Studying math that you will never technically use makes your brain better at performing discrete and logic-based tasks. So, the information actually matters very little, but the practice is essential. If a child focused on science and math in school, they will be better at tasks like construction, where you need to focus on measurement and intuitive design and workflow. Reading practice helps the brain fire faster and to more quickly comprehend a work of art as an adult.

A Digit That Should Have Been A Zero

A fascinating story about a pair of programmers at Google, Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat:

On Sanjay’s monitor, a thick column of 1s and 0s appeared, each row representing an indexed word. Sanjay pointed: a digit that should have been a 0 was a 1. When Jeff and Sanjay put all the missorted words together, they saw a pattern—the same sort of glitch in every word. Their machines’ memory chips had somehow been corrupted.

Sanjay looked at Jeff. For months, Google had been experiencing an increasing number of hardware failures. The problem was that, as Google grew, its computing infrastructure also expanded. Computer hardware rarely failed, until you had enough of it—then it failed all the time. Wires wore down, hard drives fell apart, motherboards overheated. Many machines never worked in the first place; some would unaccountably grow slower. Strange environmental factors came into play. When a supernova explodes, the blast wave creates high-energy particles that scatter in every direction; scientists believe there is a minute chance that one of the errant particles, known as a cosmic ray, can hit a computer chip on Earth, flipping a 0 to a 1. The world’s most robust computer systems, at NASA, financial firms, and the like, used special hardware that could tolerate single bit-flips. But Google, which was still operating like a startup, bought cheaper computers that lacked that feature. The company had reached an inflection point. Its computing cluster had grown so big that even unlikely hardware failures were inevitable.

from “The Friendship That Made Google Huge”


For about a month in 2002, J002E was discovered and thought to be an asteroid. It was found to be orbiting Earth, which was unusual because the only large object to do that is, well, the Moon.

Then NASA did some measurements and concluded that it was a man-made object. J002E3, it turned out, was the third stage of the Saturn V rocket from November 1969. The rocket helped launch Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon on the Moon landing mission of Apollo 12. When he reached the Moon’s surface, Conrad famously said: “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

Read more about the history of J002E3 here.

Getting out of the Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop

Continuing the theme of reducing smartphone usage, I came across an article that explains about the dopamine seeking-reward loop. What it is saying, in essence, is that dopamine is the neurotransmitter that’s responsible in causing us to want, seek out, and search out for something. The thing is that the dopamine wanting system does not come with a sort of satiation criteria, so it’s possible to get trapped in the continuous cycle of seeking for new things, smartphone addiction for example.

This system apparently is also specifically sensitive to cues about incoming rewards: so things like new notification pings or comments icon. I’d say that seeing new content peeking from the bottom while scrolling through my Instagram feed is a type of cue, too. This is probably an area where setting a phone to grayscale might help, to reduce the amount of sensory attraction these cues are creating for our mind, so while the notification dot will still be there, at least it’s now a muted gray instead of screaming “read-me-now” red.

The end of the article comes with a suggestion on how to break the loop:

Can you get out of the loop? —  The combination of dopamine release in the brain plus a conditioned response with motor movement (the swipe with finger or thumb), makes this dopamine loop hard to stop. One way you can get some control is to create a counter-movement — a physical movement you do that becomes its own conditioned response. For example, my counter movement conditioned response is that when I realize I’m in a dopamine loop I immediately press the home button and place the phone face side down. If you can come up with a physical movement that becomes a conditioned response you can at least break the dopamine seeking-reward loop once it has started.


Grayscale Phone

I recently read something about using the accessibility feature on a phone to turn everything grayscale, in an effort to combat addiction:

I’ve been gray for a couple days, and it’s remarkable how well it has eased my twitchy phone checking, suggesting that one way to break phone attachment may be to, essentially, make my phone a little worse. We’re simple animals, excited by bright colors, it turns out.

Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google know this, and they have increasingly been turning to the field of applied neuroscience to see how exactly brains respond to color in the apps, what brings pleasure and what keeps the eye. New research shows how important color is to our understanding of priorities and emotion.

I use my phone a lot, so this idea is interesting to me. Today’s the second day I’m setting my phone to grayscale (it’s a Samsung S7 Edge, and the option is in Settings > Accessibility > Vision, then toggle the “Grayscale” option).

I’m planning to do this for a month to see how it goes. Some quick impressions:

  • This makes my phone feels more minimalist, and I somehow like it,
  • Things are less enticing to buy when you see a catalog on the phone in grayscale,
  • Most of what I do on phone is reading, and text being in grayscale doesn’t really change much,
  • It makes it harder to upload pictures to Instagram because I don’t know if the picture will look good on it.

So far I haven’t really noticed a decrease of usage because of the color setting; I do consciously do other things to reduce phone usage, but I don’t know if this hack is helping or not yet.


Don’t Dissect the Frog, Build It

Nicholas Negroponte, on how synthesis can be better for learning than analysis:

On April 11, 1970, Seymour Papert held a symposium at MIT called “Teaching Children Thinking” and placed a new stake in the groundwork of epistemology. His notion was based on using computers as engines which children would teach and thus learn by teaching. He moved the locus of interest from how computers can teach to how children learn. This astonishingly simple idea simmered for almost fifteen years before it came to life through PCs. Today, when almost 30 percent of all American homes contain a personal computer, the idea really has come into its time.

Certainly, some learning derives from great teaching and telling a good story. We all remember our good teachers. But a major measure of learning results from exploration, from re-inventing the wheel and finding out for yourself. Until the computer, the tools and toys for these experiences were limited, special-purpose apparatuses, frequently administered with extreme control and regimentation (my excuse for not learning chemistry).

The computer changed this radically. All of a sudden, learning by doing has become the standard rather than the exception. Since computer simulation of just about anything is now possible, one need not learn about a frog by dissecting it. Instead, children can be asked to design frogs, to build an animal with froglike behavior, to modify that behavior, to simulate the muscles, to play with the frog.


Funding of Media Lab research from Interlego A/S, the Danish company that owns Lego in the US, has resulted in an important contribution to products in Lego’s Dacta division (“LEGO TC Logo” and “Control Lab”), which have been used in elementary and secondary schools by more than one million children. The computer-controllable Lego allows children to endow their physical constructs with behavior. Both anecdotal evidence and careful testing results reveal that this constructivist (as Papert calls it) approach has an extraordinary reach, across a wide range of cognitive and learning styles. In fact, many children said to be learning disabled flourish here. Perhaps we have been more “teaching disabled” than “learning disabled.”


Parity Purchasing Power

I was pleasantly surprised to see this notification at the top of React for Beginner’s site:

Parity purchasing power discout at React for Beginners

It said:

Hey! I noticed you are coming from Indonesia where this course may be a bit expensive.

I support Parity Purchasing Power — I want to make this course affordable for everyone around the world.

If you need it, use the code INDONESIALOVE for an extra 52% off the listed prices.

Parity purchasing power is something I haven’t heard before. According to The Balance:

Purchasing power parity is an economic theory that states residents of one country should be able to buy the goods and services at the same price as inhabitants of any other nation over time.


Purchasing power parity is used in many situations. The most common method is to adjust for the price differences between countries. For example, China produced $10.98 trillion in goods and services in 2015. The U.S. produced $17.95 trillion. You cannot compare the two without taking into account the fact that the cost of living in China is much lower than in the United States.

For example, a McDonald’s Big Mac costs $5.04. In China, you can get the same thing for only $2.79. People in China don’t need as much income because it costs less to live. For more fun comparisons, see The Economist’s Big Mac Index.