Life Lessons

Upon turning 70, author Kevin Kelly shared 103 bits of advice. I found them all to be valuable words to live by, but I thought I would pick the top ten that particularly resonated with me.

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.

From personal experience, I’ve found it amazing how small changes compound over time and lead to large changes. I’ve seen it in my personal life from changes in habits such as diet. I’ve seen it in technology with computers and mobile phones. I’ve seen it in human behavior through my lifetime. The bottom line, it’s easy to get discouraged when you’re in the center of the forest. The days seem long. It feels like you’re not making progress. The key is to keep making progress every day, no matter how small. The small changes will compound, and before you know it, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

(There are two additional lessons Kevin includes which are close cousins to this one: 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; and Habit is far more dependable than inspiration. Make progress by making habits. Don’t focus on getting into shape. Focus on becoming the kind of person who never misses a workout.)

Focus on directions rather than destinations. Who knows their destiny? But maintain the right direction and you’ll arrive at where you want to go.

Activity without purpose is a fool’s errand. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. It’s important to set a direction and chart a course. Knowing where you want to go will enable you to prioritize what’s important and what you need to do to get there.

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.

This lesson reminded me of one of my favorite quotes – “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” When you refuse to forgive and hold a grudge, you’re only hurting yourself. You make yourself miserable. And more times than not, the other person isn’t even aware of what they’ve done or that you’re mad at them. It’s better (and easier) to learn how to forgive and move on.

You’ll get 10x better results by elevating good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior, especially in children and animals.

When I was teaching my dog how to heel, I was frustrated because he wouldn’t do it no matter how much I yelled at him or tugged on his collar. When I stopped punishing and instead rewarded him with praise and treats every time he would heel, his behavior changed rapidly. While this example applies to my dog, I’ve had the same experiences when I changed my approach to focus on praise and rewards when working with people.

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

This one feels selfish until you realize that it’s impossible to give something to someone unless they receive what they’re given. If you want to be good at giving, you have to be good at receiving. When you’re good a receiving, you allow a person to experience the joy that comes from giving.

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.

Imposter syndrome is real, but I love the way he positions it. To overcome the feeling of being an imposter, it is our duty to discover our unique talents and share them with the world.

The only productive way to answer “what should I do now?” is to first tackle the question of “who should I become?”

Goals and vision come first, tasks come second.

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.

We place too much emphasis on accumulating wealth to pass on as an inheritance. It’s more rewarding to enjoy and share the rewards of our hard work with loved ones while we’re alive so we can enjoy it with them.

Whenever there is an argument between two sides, find the third side.

My grandfather used to say there were two sides to every argument, and then there’s the truth. It’s a reminder to avoid forming opinions before listening to both sides, asking questions, understanding their points of view, and determining the facts before passing judgement.

Anything you say before the word “but” does not count.

This one hit a little too close to home. We can get careless and cavalier with our speech. Words matter. How many times have we offered a compliment or praise, only to follow it with the word but, which effectively nullifies anything we said up to that point.

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