Rules to live by

Serendipitously, I recently came across two blog posts in quick succession which are both filled with some excellent words of wisdom. I love reading these just as much as I do posts about peoplesworkflows, as they are insights into how others approach doing what they do and being who they want to be.

JP Rangaswami posted a lovely note about John Perry Barlow, former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. His post links to another blog which documents Barlow’s Principles of Adult Behaviour. It’s worth reading this in full, but basically he noted the principles he wanted to abide by as an adult who was turning 30 in 1977. Some of them stand out for me right now:

1. Be patient. No matter what.

10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.

12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Do not endanger it frivolously. And never endanger the life of another.

15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.

17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.

23. Live memorably.

There’s a lot in here. It got me thinking about where I am and how well I am doing aged 41. I recognise a lot of myself in these principles but also see many places where I can do better. It’s a great list to remind me of where to aim. Principles 1 and 17 speak to me as a parent of two young boys who are rapidly heading towards their teenage years, and 15 reminds me that ‘being happy’ isn’t as worthy a life goal as having a full broad range of experiences and having empathy for others.

I’ve been listening to Russ Roberts on his excellent EconTalk podcast for many years. He recently posted his Twelve Rules For Life. This is also well worth your time. I’m an atheist, but I understand where he is coming from with his rule three to “Make Shabbat”:

I have over 500 books that I have queued up to read. I know that I’m unlikely to get through all of them (particularly as for some reason they seem to keep publishing new ones) and Roberts makes a very important point in rule five, “Read Read Read”:

Having left a job recently for what on paper looks like a step down — going from running a programme and project portfolio for a whole company to leading a programme once again — I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment:

Probably the most important rule is the last one: “Be kind — everyone is in a battle”. The coffee shop at my client’s office used to have something similar posted up at the counter. It’s a good reminder that everyone is going through their own thing and it’s always better to give them some latitude; think about what they may have going on in their life that you can’t even begin to imagine:

These principles and rules aren’t always attainable all of the time, but perhaps the point is to aim high and keep trying.

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