Silicon Valley visionary John Perry Barlow died last week at 70. During his lifetime, he had drawn up a list called Principles of Adult Behavior. They are:
1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
Admittedly, Barlow didn’t claim to perfect this list. He used them as a sort of guideline. Kind of Ten Commandment-y, but better.
My favorites (and ones I struggle with): 1, 2, 4, 7, 10 (<—this!), 14, 16(!), 18, 23, and 24.
Number 24, love yourself, is something my therapists likes to impress on me. Self compassion. Self forgiveness. It’s not narcissism, it’s letting go of baggage, or negativity or shame or regret.
Number 10, I’m constantly wrong about everything and anything. I feel like I live in a state of being wrong. And that’s okay.
Number 16. I’ve been meditating on this one. Reduce the use of the personal pronoun. Wow. I I I I I I I I I. I this. I that. I did. I didn’t. Especially in conversation, it reminds you to ask more questions than talk. And when you encounter those assholes who only I as often as the day is long, just enjoy it. Or let ’em. Maybe they need the selfishness. You’ve got real friends to care about you, and they’ll be the ones who actually mean a good goddamn.