12 Wise Bits of “Unsolicited Advice”

12 Wise Bits of “Unsolicited Advice” May 26, 2021

A wisdom tree. Photo by Gilly Stewart via Unsplash.

There’s a guy by the name of Kevin Kelly who I was introduced to through the Tim Ferriss podcast. He was billed as the “real-life most interesting man in the world” which is quite a title to live up to. Then I listened to the podcast and discovered why there’s some truthiness to this.

Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine and spent decades traveling the world, much of it, in his words, “photographing the disappearing traditions of Asia.” Well-versed in a wide range of subjects, listening to Kelly it might strike you that he’s one of those “smartest person in the room”-types, someone you might gravitate to at a party.

The good news is that last year, at the age of 68, Kelly published a blog piece titled 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice. He followed that up this year with 99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice. They offer a lot of wise advice. Some of it is practical, like this tidbit:

If you are looking for something in your house, and you finally find it, when you’re done with it, don’t put it back where you found it. Put it back where you first looked for it.

Here’s another tip worth considering:

 Don’t loan money to a friend unless you are ready to make it a gift.

But what I found most compelling are what I would term his rules to live by. While his bits of advice are short, many comprised of just a sentence, their meaning and importance go much deeper. I believe that much of his counsel, if followed, can help any of us become a little bit wiser, a little more prepared for whatever life may send our way.

After reviewing the 167 pieces of advice offered by Kelly, I’ve compiled my 12 favorite bits. There was so much good stuff to choose from, it was a struggle to parse the list down to 12. (You can find the complete initial list here, the follow-up list here.) I’ve added several additional thoughts of my own in italics, as well as links to stories I’ve done on a few of the subjects.

12 Wise Bits of “Unsolicited Advice”

  1. That thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult — if you don’t lose it. Don’t downplay the things that make you different; celebrate them. They are what sets you apart from everyone else.
  2. Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love, keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more. Truly listening to someone may be the best gift you can give a fellow human being.
  3. Your passion in life should fit you exactly; but your purpose in life should exceed you. Work for something much larger than yourself. Discover your passion first, your purpose second.
  4. Perhaps the most counter-intuitive truth of the universe is that the more you give to others, the more you’ll get. Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom. A similar rule comes from John Templeton: “As we give our love and appreciation to others, the good we put out into the world reverses course and flows back to us.”
  5. You are what you do. Not what you say, not what you believe, not how you vote, but what you spend your time on. As Annie Dillard said: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. 
  6. Hatred is a curse that does not affect the hated. It only poisons the hater. Release a grudge as if it was a poison. The same advice might be given for managing anger. Release it.
  7. On the way to a grand goal, celebrate the smallest victories as if each one were the final goal. No matter where it ends you are victorious. It’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey.
  8. The more you are interested in others, the more interesting they find you. To be interesting, be interested. Put simply, ask questions and listen to the answers.
  9. Before you are old, attend as many funerals as you can bear, and listen. Nobody talks about the departed’s achievements. The only thing people will remember is what kind of person you were while you were achieving. A similar rule of life: no one on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time at work.
  10. When someone is nasty, rude, hateful, or mean with you, pretend they have a disease. That makes it easier to have empathy toward them which can soften the conflict. Remember that they may be going through their own hard struggle.
  11. 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. One place to start: consider starting your own morning ritual.
  12. To be wealthy, accumulate all those things that money can’t buy. What would your list of “things” consist of? Love, friends, and peace-of-mind are just a few that come to mind.

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