Excellent Advice for Living Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Excellent Advice for Living compiles over 400 short bits of hard-won advice learned by Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, in 70 years of life.

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Excellent Advice for Living Summary

What does it take to build a successful business, to make it in the arts, or to get people to take a charitable cause seriously? According to Kevin Kelly, the answer is the same for all three: 1,000 true fans. If you have 1,000 people who care about you and your work, there’s almost nothing you can’t do, the founder of Wired Magazine explains.

Kelly is over 70 years old, and his publication has been in print for over 30 years. In that time, he’s acquired quite the treasure chest of little insights. When he shared some of them on his blog (68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice), a publisher knocked on his door. After revising and expanding the list, we now get to enjoy Kelly’s Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier. The book is a completely loose and random collection of tweet-like ideas, but if you look closely, several themes emerge.

For today’s 3 lessons from the book, we decided to curate some of Kelly’s best ideas around time, money, and happiness:

  1. Time is mostly on your side, but timing can be tricky.
  2. Money is less important than you think both before and after you have it.
  3. Happiness mostly comes down to living in and enjoying the present.

Let’s get some hard-won life advice from someone who’s been around the block!

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Lesson 1: Timing is more important than time, which is limited but plentiful — and usually on your side.

Generally, Kelly believes the passage of time is on your side. Timing, however, is more fickle.

Here are his 7 best ideas around timing:

  1. Everyone thinks life was best when they were 10 years old.
  2. Live cheaply when you are young so you’ll never be afraid of the worst-case scenario later.
  3. “Figure out what time of day you are most productive and protect that time period.”
  4. Let your 20s inspire the rest of your life. Front-load all the odd, crazy, and risky stuff so you can make smarter decisions later.
  5. “The foolish person winds up doing at the end what the smart person does at the beginning.”
  6. You’re always either late or early to things, but you can choose which one it will be.
  7. “About 99% of the time the right time is right now.”

And here are 7 more around the passage of time:

  1. You need more focus, not more time, because how much time you’ll have is already determined (or at least out of your control).
  2. “You are what you do. Not what you say not what you believe not how you vote but what you spend your time on.”
  3. The only way to truly get more time is to buy someone else’s with money.
  4. “If you repeated what you did today 365 more times will you be where you want to be next year?”
  5. When you feel like quitting, do five more. You’ll either keep going or at least end while you’re ahead.
  6. “You are only as young as the last time you changed your mind.”
  7. Bad things can happen fast but almost all good things happen slowly.”

Time is your friend, timing is tricky. Find the right things to work on, then keep doing them until time sends you the rewards.

Lesson 2: Money is overrated both before and after you have it.

Kelly’s advice on retirement echoes his attitude towards time: The best way to invest is to buy and hold, because “average returns, maintained for above-average periods of time will yield extraordinary results” — “but no one wants to get rich slow.”

Beyond that, Kelly mostly believes money is overrated both before…

  1. Breakthroughs rarely require money. Being young, scrappy, and hungry is better than being rich and complacent. That’s because…
  2. “A problem that can easily be solved with money is not really a problem because its solution is obvious.” Therefore, you should “focus on problems with non-obvious solutions.”
  3. “To succeed, get other people to pay you; to become wealthy, help other people to succeed.”

…and after you have it:

  1. “The rich have money. The wealthy have time. It is easier to become wealthy than rich.”
  2. After a certain point, you don’t need to make more money. You just need to manage what you have better.
  3. Energy, time, and additional costs are never on the label, but they’re still real prices we pay.
  4. Friends are worth more than money, and a friend with a boat is better than owning a boat.
  5. It’s impossible to motivate smart people with money alone, and that’s why…
  6. You should never take a job solely because it pays the most money.
  7. “Don’t create things to make money; make money so you can create things. The reward for good work is more work.”
  8. “Measure your wealth not by the things you can buy but by the things that no money can buy.”
  9. Ergo: “For the best results with your children spend only half the money you think you should but double the time with them.”

You don’t need money to make money, and money will never buy you everything you need. Act accordingly, save and invest a little on the regular, and don’t sweat the dollars too much.

Lesson 3: Happiness is about presence, giving, and doing things that matter.

If you donate 10% of your income, the loss of that purchasing power is minor compared to the extra 110% in happiness, Kelly believes. A good way to get started on giving? Pretend you’re gifting things when you’re lending them.

Outside of giving, fun experiences, and having influence, “only mattering makes us happy,” Kelly also suggests. “Do stuff that matters.”

His most important points on happiness, however, all relate to staying present and living life one day at a time:

  1. “Unhappiness comes from wanting what others have. Happiness comes from wanting what you already have.”
  2. Our luckiest breakthroughs often happen during side quests. “Embrace detours” because “life is not a straight line for anyone.”
  3. “Worry is ineffective” because nearly all of our worries never come true.
  4. “The greatest killer of happiness is comparison. If you must compare, compare yourself to you yesterday.”
  5. “You can’t change your past but you can change your story about it. What is important is not what happened to you but what you did about what happened to you.”

Keep going with the flow, and learn to see what’s there more clearly than what isn’t. If you work hard and learn to enjoy every day, maybe one day, you, too, will have some excellent advice for living to share with us!

Excellent Advice for Living Review

Excellent Advice for Living is tough to summarize but amazing to read. Seven decades of hard-won life lessons are nothing to scoff at. If you browse the book for yourself, you’ll find plenty of other patterns and clusters of useful advice for your unique situation right now, and that alone makes it a book worth placing on your coffee table.

Who would I recommend our Excellent Advice for Living summary to?

The 15-year-old who’s just emerging from childhood into the world of adultness, the 29-year-old who feels lost in her career, and anyone who enjoys pithy sayings and inspirational quotes.

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!