A 70th birthday gift
Kevin Kelly’s 103 bits of advice he wished he known when he was younger
Mr Kelly’s 70th birthday crossed my path from several sources last week, which immediately made me curious. I’d bumped into him before, but it was only when I started researching, that I realised what a good egg he was. It also gave me an idea for a theme (not every week), to uncover more good eggs and dedicate the week’s letter to reveal why they deserve our attention.
Who is Kevin Kelly?
Mr Kelly is a nerd, he freely admits it. He’s also a nomadic photojournalist, conservationist and self-described, technology optimist. If you had any interest in the internet back in the nineties, Wired magazine, which he cofounded and edited for the first seven years, was a bit of a monthly bible. His greatest work has arguably been published since, although he still finds time to remain an occasional contributor to the magazine.
Vanishing Asia is his 3-volume, 40 year photography project through 35 countries documenting the disappearing cultures of Asia. The Long Now Foundation, which he co-chairs, is a non-profit encouraging long-term thinking based on a 10,000 year timespan, the length of time civilisation has been around, or as the foundation prefers to call it, the long now. One of their projects is a clock, hundreds of feet tall inside a mountain, designed with minimum energy requirements to keep time for 10 millennia.
103 bits of advice
No need for me to write out his list, when you can read it here. It’s thought provoking and helpful, coupling simple technology advice, like use a password manager - safer, easier and better, with deeper life tangles many of us have faced at some point. It’s those which attracted my attention more and I’ve shared a few.
1. Every breakthrough is at first laughable and ridiculous. In fact if it did not start out laughable and ridiculous, it is not a breakthrough.
My first version of CitNOW (car dealer video app) was an early version of video conferencing for remote GP consultation on cable TV. It had already failed which is why I was allowed to plagiarise for a new demo for the car industry. When the Honda dealer saw it, he wasn’t impressed. The picture quality was awful and the lip sync non existent.
2. 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.
I lived, breathed and explained the problems I had to anyone who would listen, when we started the business. I wrestled with them and what was preventing our success, during the thousands of miles I travelled in an old Vauxhall Corsa with no radio. I also listened to a lot of customers and why they thought video presentation was a waste of their time.
3. 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.
Running a company was the best job I ever had. Unlike all the paid employment before, suddenly barriers to do, no longer existed. Take as much responsibility as you want and more, because there’s nobody else. Even when there were plenty of others, there was still too much to own and develop.
1. 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.
In the early days of CitNOW, I used to deliver some of our training - needs must. I was forever spouting on about developing a habit to send every customer enquiry a video. The sales would take care of themselves.
Now, I use my own daily log habit tracker, to remind me of my daily commitments to stretch, meditate, read and write. It’s too easy to ignore, postpone and forget. If I ever want to publish my book, which I mention often enough, better to focus on writing every day.
2. If you repeated what you did today 365 more times will you be where you want to be next year?
What a great way to evaluate your day, whether it’s been good or bad. In my journal, I answer a similar question - What is the one action I could do tomorrow to make sure it's successful?
1. When you arrive at your room in a hotel, locate the emergency exits. It only takes a minute.
I once listened to a fire expert on the radio (I’d changed my car by then). He refused to stay in a hotel room, if it wasn’t on the first two floors. His piece of advice was to check where the stairs were and rehearse how to get to them assuming the corridor is thick with smoke. I still check and hopefully my children do as well.
2. Rather than steering your life to avoid surprises, aim directly for them.
I’d also add especially as we get older, don’t be scared to challenge and change, life gives us this wonderful opportunity.
3. The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.
And to be astonished means you have to take risks. Maybe small ones, like waste time reading a book which you’d never choose to read. Big ones as well, like Mrs H and spend 5 years training to be a psychotherapist.
Children and money
1. For the best results with your children, spend only half the money you think you should, but double the time with them.
Feel free to argue this one out with your friends and family.
2. Aim to die broke. Give to your beneficiaries before you die; it’s more fun and useful. Spend it all. Your last cheque should go to the funeral home and it should bounce.
What a wonderful thought.