When Kevin Kelly turned 68 years old, he began writing down notes and thoughts about all the lessons he’d learned in his life and the ones he wished he’d learned earlier. While those notes were originally intended for his young adult children, they eventually became the book Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier, which was released in May 2023. On this episode of the Knowledge Project, Kelly goes in-depth on some of the book’s most essential lessons, including learning, setting deadlines, perfection, forgiveness, living a meaningful life, reasoning, and so much more.
Kelly is the co-founder of the magazine Wired, which twice won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence while he served as the publication’s Executive Editor during the 1990s. He is also the co-chair of The Long Now Foundation, a membership organization that champions long-term thinking, as well as the founder of the popular Cool Tools website, which has been reviewing tools daily for 20 years. He is also an artist as well as the author of 14 books.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
Learn how to learn from those you disagree with or even those who offend you. See if you can find the truth in what they believe.
If your views on other things can be predicted from your views on one thing, you need to be very careful that you’re not in the grip of an ideologue.
Always demand a deadline because it weeds out the extraneous and the ordinary. A deadline prevents you from trying to make it perfect, so you have to make it different. Different is better…And deadlines are the difference between a dream and something that you complete.
I want as many people in the world to be able to say, on the day before they die, “I have fully become myself.” And in my mind, that requires tools and stuff around us to allow it.
The best way to have any hope of changing someone’s mind is to try to listen and truly understand why they think what they’re thinking and how they got there. You can’t reason someone out of a notion that they didn’t reason themselves into.
Kindness is not a weakness.
The major way that we’re going to find out about who we are is through AI and robots as we tend to try to make them like us and not like us.
00:00 – Intro
01:30 – Quick background on Kelly’s pithy advice
09:53 – AI and disruption
14:20 – Why deadlines are crucial to great work
21:20 – On forgiveness
23:56 – “Don’t measure your life with someone else’s ruler”
30:08 – Kelly’s definition of success
34:56 – Why Kelly doesn’t argue
37:50 – On irritating people
39:35 – On kindness
44:37 – Why you should attend funerals
48:57 – Kelly’s thoughts on AI
54:46 – What are the signs of AI being weaponized?
59:43 – Are we at the AI inflection point?
01:01:02 – One of Shane’s fears with AI
01:05:33 – Religion’s role in society