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Book Summary: Excellent Advice for Living – Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier

In the following book summary, you’ll learn timeless advice for living a happy and productive life.

“Whenever you can’t decide which path to take pick the one that produces change.” – Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine and trusted advisor to tech leaders, has been dubbed the “real-life Most Interesting Man in the World” by Tim Ferriss. Kelly lived with the Amish, biked across America twice, built a two-family home from scratch, created a music video 12 years before MTV, maintained a daily blog for 20 years, and authored several bestselling books.

After reflecting on 70+ years of living, he has collected 450 bits of timeless knowledge he wished he’d known sooner:

Master something

  • Do something loosely related to an unusual childhood interest. “The thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult.”
  • “Do what looks like work to others but is play for you.”
  • Take on projects and roles that are hard to describe. Podcaster was a hard profession to explain 20 years ago. Data scientist was a difficult profession to describe 10 years ago.
  • Instead of making grand plans, do stuff. “Doing” is life’s great teacher.
  • Build a business that helps others succeed – helping people succeed is the surest path to financial success. The people who got rich during the goldrush were entrepreneurs who served the miners.
  • Help people succeed by seeing the world from their point of view – empathy is the key to great design.
  • Only work for people you want to be like and shamelessly copy those you admire. Transcend your heroes by mastering their ways – this is the way of all masters.

As you master something, don’t strive to be the best; strive to be the only. Carving out a niche for yourself will take time and discipline, so don’t rely on inspiration. Instead, rely on good habits.

Book Summary: Excellent Advice for Living - Wisdom I Wish I'd Known Earlier

Rely on good habits

A person with good exercise habits will work out when they don’t feel like it – good habits ensure you make progress on your bad days. The purpose of a habit is to eliminate self-negotiation. “To cultivate a habit, switch your language from ‘I can or can’t do’ to ‘I do or don’t do’ (to) shift the weight from a wavering choice to an unwavering identity.”

Here are five productive habits to start building today:

  1. The 15-minute minimum habit: “Spend as little as 15 minutes (1% of your day) on improving how you do your thing.” Study, experiment, or refine a process so you’re just a tiny bit better than the previous day.
  2. The redo habit: After you’ve completed your first draft, redo it from memory to see if better ideas find their way to the page. “To make something good, just do it. To make something great, just redo it, redo it, redo it.”
  3. The imperfect deadline habit: Set and honor tight deadlines so you don’t have time to make your work perfect. If you can’t make something perfect, you must make it different. “Different is better.”
  4. Work hard – rest hard habit: When work ends, completely disconnect so you can completely recover for your next work session. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.
  5. The “change choice” habit: When faced with a difficult decision, take the path that produces the most change. Change is the catalyst for personal and professional growth.

Stay patient

“Most overnight successes – in fact, any significant successes – take at least 5 years. Budget your life accordingly.”

It’s easy to stay patient if you stay in a good mood. When you get angry, jealous, or frustrated, remember:

  • “If we all threw our troubles into a big pile and saw everyone else’s problems, we would immediately grab ours back.”
  • “Unhappiness comes from wanting what others have. Happiness comes from wanting what you already have.”
  • “Measure your wealth not by the things you can buy but by the things that no money can buy.”
  • “Writing down one thing you are grateful for each day is the cheapest possible therapy ever.”

Be kind

Much of your pain will be emotional pain from interpersonal conflicts. When someone is nasty, hateful, or mean, see their behavior as an unfortunate illness. And when someone turns you down, don’t take it personally. “Assume they are like you: busy, occupied, distracted. Try again later.”

Prevent interpersonal pain from lingering by forgiving quickly. Forgive by accepting an apology you will never get. “Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.”

About the author

Kevin Kelly helped launch and edit Wired magazine. He has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. His previous books include What Technology Wants and The Inevitable, a New York Times bestseller. He is known for his technological optimism. Currently he is a Senior Maverick at Wired and lives in Pacifica, California.


Self Help, Philosophy, Psychology, Productivity, Personal Development, Business, Health, Success, Motivation and Self-Esteem, Relationships Personal Growth, Motivational Self-Help, Personal Transformation Self-Help, Success Self-Help


Wise, practical, optimistic life advice from author and leading technology thinker Kevin Kelly

On his 68th birthday, Kevin Kelly began to write down for his young adult children some things he had learned about life that he wished he had known earlier. To his surprise, Kelly had more to say than he thought, and kept adding to the advice over the years, compiling a life’s wisdom into these pages.

Kelly’s timeless advice covers an astonishing range, from right living to setting ambitious goals, optimizing generosity, and cultivating compassion. He has wisdom for career, relationships, parenting, and finances, and gives guidance for practical matters ranging from travel to troubleshooting.

Excellent Advice for Living is aimed primarily at young people, but speaks to all ages. This is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to navigate life with grace and creativity.


“One hundred years from now, when so much of the nonsense of our age is forgotten, people will still remember Kevin Kelly and his wisdom.” —Seth Godin

“I love aphorisms, proverbs, and Secrets of Adulthood . . . Excellent Advice for Living includes wise, practical advice for life.” —Gretchen Rubin, via Twitter

“A collection of inspiring insights from a wise technology writer . . . [a] wonderful collection of 450 useful aphorisms . . . fresh, inspiring, even exhilarating . . . The title really says it all. Buy more than one, or people will keep stealing it out of your bathroom.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In this insightful entry, Kelly, a founding editor of Wired, collects pearls of wisdom for all stages of life . . . the entries are genuinely thought-provoking, and Kelly’s earnestness is leavened with refreshing humor. The result is an unapologetically upbeat offering.” —Publishers Weekly

“The non-linearity of this list is part of its magic. And one hundred years from now, when so much of the nonsense of our age is forgotten, people will still remember Kevin Kelly and his wisdom.” —Seth Godin

“If you don’t find at least seventeen golden nuggets of advice from Kevin Kelly’s list, you’re not awake.” —Daniel Pink

“Life essentials from a skilled navigator in an uncertain time.” —Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes

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