I need help, and I need to help.

Of all the memes wriggling across The One True Web (that social network that includes and exceeds the digital), I suggest that the greatest compels some to describe helpful normative domains, and compels others to seek these out.

I came across the following, via kottke.org, and while it’s not quite as concise as other efforts, “Taleb’s top life tips” nevertheless makes for interesting brain fodder. I’d care to hear which of these are particularly interesting to you.

  1. Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.
  2. Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.
  3. It’s not a good idea to take a forecast from someone wearing a tie. If possible, tease people who take themselves and their knowledge too seriously.
  4. Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act—if you can’t control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.
  5. Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave it the way we found it, regardless of scientific “evidence”.
  6. Learn to fail with pride—and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error—by mastering the error part.
  7. Avoid losers. If you hear someone use the words “impossible”, “never”, “too difficult” too often, drop him or her from your social network. Never take “no” for an answer (conversely, take most “yeses” as “most probably”).
  8. Don’t read newspapers for the news (just for the gossip and, of course, profiles of authors). The best filter to know if the news matters is if you hear it in cafes, restaurants… or (again) parties.
  9. Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.
  10. Answer e-mails from junior people before more senior ones. Junior people have further to go and tend to remember who slighted them.

Additionally, though within a more focused scope (and from the same source), Kurt Vonnegut advises on how to write with style. Herewith, a full reproduction. (I’m open to suggestions if reproducing these here, even with proper credits, breaks with good sense.)

In Sum:

  1. Find a subject you care about
  2. Do not ramble, though
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Have guts to cut
  5. Sound like yourself
  6. Say what you mean
  7. Pity the readers

I find, for some, that the first is surprisingly difficult. I rather have a hard time choosing a subject I care most about; it’s my utter failure at commiting to any one subject that leads to my abject frustration in making headway in any of them.

Mr. Kottke seems to revel in this meme. You can find similar material throughout his archives.

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