One’s birthday is a time to reflect on the passage of time. It is a chance to see if age has indeed granted wisdom, or just added wrinkles.

So, without further ado, and recognizing that life advice from someone who has yet to cross the venerable age of sixty is somewhat pretentious and likely to be wrong, here are thirty-five short, simple pieces of advice that my experience has taught me:

  1. There is only now. The future is an illusion, it does not exist and may never exist. The past is gone forever and can never be recovered.1 Live in the now.
  2. Laugh at everything, because it’s always funny.2
  3. Change, uncertainty, and death are the only three universal constants of life. Accept them.3
  4. You will regret the things you did not do more than the things you did. When life asks you to dance, STFU and dance.
  5. Be selective when deciding who you will spend time with. Prefer a handful of close friends over a hundred casual acquaintances.
  6. Go out of your way to spend time with people who are intelligent, interesting and driven. Your life will be better for it.
  7. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. When you’re in a room and everyone else is as smart or smarter than you are, then you’re in the right room.
  8. Learn, and never stop learning.
  9. Read good hard science fiction. It opens your mind to possibilities.
  10. Do new things often, even when doing it makes you afraid. To live is to be open to being afraid.
  11. Avoid clutter, physical and mental.
  12. Eat healthily. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Resilience is a blessing you never notice until it’s gone.
  13. You are not what you own.
  14. Do, or do not do. But don’t waste time talking about what you would do but never do.
  15. Learn to say “No.” Life is too short to spend time doing things that you don’t really want to do.
  16. Have clear goals for yourself, for every day, every week, every month, every year, and every decade.
  17. In the immortal words of Sean Connery, “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.” Fuck the prom queen/king.
  18. Other people’s successes do not diminish you. Don’t be jealous.
  19. Treat material comforts without arrogance or apology. If they’re available, avail yourself of them. If they aren’t, don’t yearn for them.4
  20. Be very afraid of someone5 who extrapolates a linear pattern in something. Most interesting things in the world are non-linear.
  21. You do not need everyone to like you, and in fact not everyone will like you. Accept that and move on.
  22. Life is too short to stay in one place forever.
  23. Life is too short to drink poor quality alcohol. Quality over quantity. Always.
  24. The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Be mindful of what you think about.
  25. Little boys wear pre-tied bow ties. Be a man and learn to tie a bow tie properly, if you haven’t already learned to do that.
  26. Fuck up. Make mistakes, glorious, amazing, new mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying new things and pushing yourself to the limits and then bursting past those limits.
  27. Serendipity matters a lot. Be open to the possibility that the things you planned may not happen, but something better will.
  28. Things never go according to plan.
  29. Work hard and aim to be the best in the world at whatever you do.
  30. When you give someone a gift or do someone a favor, treat it as pure expenditure and expect nothing in return. If he or she repays it, it is an unexpected pleasure.6
  31. Be awed by the sheer size of the universe, at least once in a while.
  32. Love: It will make you vulnerable. Accept that living and loving means opening yourself to being hurt. But the alternative is to become impervious to life.7
  33. Forgive: Yourself and others.
  34. Life will break you, inevitably. You will know grief, pain, despair, and darkness. But it is only after knowing all of those that you can truly see the beauty of the light.
  35. One of life’s surprising pleasures is watching someone grow and learn. Be a mentor.

  1. Absent a working time machine, e.g. a TARDIS
  2. Okay, this one is from Doctor Who. But it’s still good.
  3. Taxes might be a fourth, but so long as there are jurisdictions that are tax havens, that does not quite qualify as universal.
  4. Yes, this is from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.
  5. Consultants, economists, et cetera.
  6. Yes, this is from Seneca’s De Beneficiis.
  7. I cribbed this from C.S. Lewis. It’s good advice.