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67 short pieces of advice you didn’t ask for

empty hall piano

There’s no way for such an avalanche of unsolicited advice to come off as anything but preachy. But there’s also something appealing about the scattergun approach. Trying on a few dozen ideas in a few minutes will almost always leave you with something you can take to the bank, if you don’t get hung up on what doesn’t resonate.

Here are sixty-seven short pieces of advice I either follow, or probably should. Take from it whatever rings true to you, and don’t take the whole thing too seriously. Have a good week.

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1. Ignore 1-star and 5-star reviews of books, hotels and products. The 3-star reviews will answer all your questions.

 

2. When you’re a host, use that experience to learn how to be a better guest, and vice-versa.

 

3. If you want to be fit, become someone who doesn’t skip or reschedule workouts. Skipping workouts is always the beginning of the end.

 

4. Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you don’t know what CTRL + Z does, your life is definitely harder than it has to be.

 

5. Become a stranger’s secret ally, even for a few minutes. Your perception of strangers in general will change.

 

6. Get over the myth that philosophy is boring — it has a history of changing lives. It’s only as boring as the person talking about it.

 

7. If you’re about to put down a boring a non-fiction book, skim the rest of it before you move on. Read the bits that still appeal to you.

 

8. Ask yourself if you’ve become a relationship freeloader. Initiate the plans about half the time.

 

9. Notice how much you talk in your head, and experiment with listening to your surroundings instead. You can’t do both at the same time.

 

10. Reach out to people you know are shy. It’s hard for them to get involved in social things without somebody making a point of including them.

 

11. Learn the difference between something that makes you feel bad, and something that’s wrong. A thing can feel bad and be right, and it can feel good and be wrong.

 

12. If you need to stop for any reason in a public place, move off to the side first.

 

13. Before you share an interesting “fact” on Facebook, take thirty seconds to Google it first, to see if you’re spreading made-up bullshit.

 

14. Clean things up right away, unless your messes tend to improve with age.

 

15. Consciously plan your life, or others will do it for you.

 

16. Be suspicious when someone uses the words “Justice” and “Deserve” a lot. Be suspicious when you use them yourself.

 

17. Get rid of stuff you don’t use. Unused and unappreciated things make us feel bad.

 

18. Expect people to get offended sometimes when you try to tell them what to do. Even if you think it’s good advice :)

 

19. Once in a while, imagine what it would be like if you really did lose all your data and had only your current backups.

 

20. Spend as long as it takes — five or ten years even — to move towards a line of work that feels well-suited to you.

 

21. Rediscover board games. They’re still tons of fun.

 

22. Try making small, humble presents instead of buying big ones, and see how different it feels for both you and the recipient.

 

23. To eat fewer calories, eat a lot slower than normal and see what changes.

 

24. Watch experts peform their chosen art whenever you get a chance. There’s something really grounding about it.

 

25. Avoid arguing about politics, except for entertainment value. By the time it’s an argument, nobody’s listening.

 

26. Ledger all your income, purchases and expenses, at least for a whole month. You can’t help but discover wasteful spending. It’s like giving yourself a raise.

 

27. When someone disagrees with you, try to understand what needs and fears are behind their stance. Yours probably aren’t much different.

 

28. When driving, pretend the other drivers are all friends and relatives. It makes the driving experience friendlier, and often hilarious.

 

29. Don’t act while you’re still angry. Anger makes the wrong things seem right, and remorse lasts way longer than anger.

 

30. Understand that what’s dangerous and what’s illegal are always going to be different, and need to be. It doesn’t always make sense to criminalize something just because it can be harmful.

 

31. Don’t be late. Everyone hates waiting for late people.

 

32. Read Richard Carlson’s classic Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  Or read it again if it’s been a while. Fifteen years after I first read it, I can’t think of a more helpful book.

 

33. Be aware of the complex, systemic nature of the world’s biggest problems, and our habit of framing them as simple ones with clear villains and victims.

 

34. When you’re with a loved one, pretend momentarily that they’re actually gone from your life, and that you’re just remembering this ordinary moment with them.

 

35. Make of point of sitting and chatting with at least one local whenever you travel. It will transform your view of the place. [It’s easy to meet a local resident for coffee using couchsurfing.org]

 

36. Experiment with meditation. It gives you tools to mitigate nearly every thing human beings complain about — fear, boredom, loss, envy, pain, sadness, confusion, and doubt — yet remains unpopular in the West.

 

37. Give classical music another shot every few years.

 

38. Read a bit about some of the “isms” you normally dismiss — socialism, capitalism, conservatism, feminism, anarchism. There are probably more good ideas there than you thought.

 

39. Be wary of declaring yourself a “_____ist” though. Making an identity out of your beliefs is bound to make you less objective.

 

40. Picture yourself at your own funeral. Imagine what they are thinking.

 

41. Donate clothes that you don’t feel good wearing.

 

42. Practice opening up to minor discomfort when it happens — really letting yourself feel it instead of resisting it. Everything becomes easier to handle.

 

43. Listen to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” slowed down to 33 rpm, at least once in your life.

 

44. Don’t make jokes about people’s names or bodies, even if you think they would laugh.

 

45. Make a point of enjoying the walk across the parking lot.

 

46. Understand the concept of “privilege,” but don’t use it as a slur. Use your privilege for good.

 

47. Don’t limit your compassion to people who don’t cause any harm (because there are none.)

 

48. Be aware of the intoxicating effect of bad moods. A bad mood usually means things are better than they look.

 

49. Once in a while, imagine that this moment is the very first moment of your life, and then build a future from there.

 

50. Go to your city’s low-key ethnic restaurants instead of flashy chain establishments — not to “help out the little guy” but because they’re better and cheaper.

 

51. Avoid being the least sober person in the room, unless you’re the only person in the room.

 

52. Go to New York, at least once.

 

53. Consider keeping a bucket list that you take seriously. They stave off complacency.

 

54. Remember that you’re essentially no different from prehistoric humans, except that you have tools and advantages they would find ridiculous.

 

55. If life ever feels like it’s too loud and busy, go hang out at the library.

 

56. Never hide from truths about your financial position. If you’re afraid to know your bank balance, you have a problem bigger than money problems.

 

57. If you think dancing isn’t for you, try it again sometime.

 

58. When you’re about to buy something, think about what feeling you’re actually after. Ultimately we only want things because of how they promise to make us feel.

 

59. Floss every day. You can fool yourself but you can’t fool your dentist, or your teeth.

 

60. Be extra kind to people while they are at work, especially servers, clerks, and tech support staff.

 

61. Whenever you’re being contradicted, try not to get caught up in being defensive. You’re either right, or you get to learn something new today.

 

62. At least consider taking religion’s five central no-no’s seriously: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t kill, don’t harm people with your reproductive urges, and don’t drink so much that you forget the other four.

 

63. Own at least one plant. They’ll never judge you, but they’ll let you know if you’re being careless.

 

64. Try not to let a week go by without having lunch or coffee with a friend.

 

65. Do 30-day experiments for fun and sport — try out a new way of doing something for a while. Even if they’re train wrecks you always learn something about yourself.

 

66. Appeal to your friends for their expertise. You get good advice, they feel valued.

 

67. Write people letters. Everyone loves getting letters.

 

***

Photo by Joe del Tufo
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Chris February 8, 2015 at 10:50 pm

Thanks— at least a few of these resonate. Speaking of 30-day experiments… are you still making/eating soylent? Do you have any follow-up thoughts on the long-term viability of that diet?

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 8:05 am

Still doing it, yup, six months later. It’s so normal to me now I don’t even think about it much.

thejuntotimes February 26, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Wow you are still drinking soylent! Would be interested to know if there have been any long term health benefits. Currently experimenting with my diet a lot right now, so would be interested to try it. One thing I find difficult is fitting eating well around meeting friends for food etc. Difficult when they always suggest chain restaurants which only serve crappy mass produced food. Would be interested to know your thoughts on this? Any tips for keeping good eating but still fitting it in with social life?

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 8:06 am

I think it’s about time I did long-term updates for ALL my experiments, a lot of people ask about them. Maybe I’ll do one long post going over where I’m at with all of them.

Chris February 9, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Please do. I’m excited for an update on your standing desk experiment!

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:44 pm

That one is up to date, as of about two days ago. Check it out here: https://www.raptitude.com/experiment-log-no-19-working-standing-up/

Russell February 8, 2015 at 11:17 pm

As a shy person, I highly approve of #10. I would also add 10.1: Invite them to another event, even though they turned you down the first time.

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 8:08 am

For sure… shyness is a slippery slope and a person really needs help to get out of it. Bless all those reacher-outers.

Ric February 9, 2015 at 4:28 am

Bookmarked so I can revisit this list from time to time – thanks:-)

Fabiano Silva February 10, 2015 at 10:45 am

I second that!

Pandu Aji February 9, 2015 at 4:37 am

thanks for this advice. some point i’ve noted :)

Ragnar February 9, 2015 at 4:56 am

Good point about periodically trying things that you have previously denounced again. Classical music used to bore me to death in piano class, but now it is incredibly enthralling to me. I find that slower pieces are very effective at helping me calm down if I’m stressed.

Do you think having a longer list of more specific guidelines to follow is more effective than having a shorter list of broader guidelines to follow?

I am going make my own list similar to this and review often, because at times it takes a while to remember realizations that I’ve already made right when I need them the most.

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 8:09 am

I think both have their uses. The more specific it is, the more likely you are to remember it in that specific situation. The broader it is, the more often it’s useful (if you remember it.) I just like to fill my head with ideas and see which ones reappear at the right time :)

Michael Alan Gambill February 9, 2015 at 5:46 am

Absolutely splendid! A list to look at every day. Thanks.

sally February 9, 2015 at 5:53 am

Lots here I like, lots I should work on, but right now I’m really enjoying the slowed version of Jolene!

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 8:10 am

Isn’t it great?! I think listening to that song is the most important piece of advice here

JN2 February 9, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Actually, I prefer the 45 rpm version!

More importantly, if Jolene takes my man, and he is happy, so be it. My happiness depends on Jolene’s choice? I don’t think so. “But I could never love again” – is that true?

I fear that listening to this song could lock you into an unhealthy romantic world-view of victim-hood and neediness. Just sayin’ :)

Kenoryn February 10, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Ha ha! I agree! On the other hand I always liked how there is no malice toward Jolene in this song. Also I figured the implication was that Jolene would take ‘her man’ as a fun amusement for awhile and then cast him aside, having no serious interest in him (don’t take him “just because you can”) while he is infatuated with her mainly for her beauty “beyond compare” and voice soft like summer rain etc.

Ron Bruce February 9, 2015 at 8:24 am

A lot to learn here so I’ve bookmarked it. Thanks.
Loved hearing Jolene like that too.

Ron B

David Baur February 9, 2015 at 8:31 am

Plenty of great stuff here, but a few jumped out for me.

#5 Be a stranger’s secret ally: In general, assuming people have good intentions until proven otherwise goes a long way toward making your day more pleasant.

#7 Skim nonfiction stuff if you don’t like the book: This is just the sort of reminder I need. I’m prone to perfectionism, and it’s more difficult for me to stop reading a book I don’t like than it ought to be. Instead it languishes on my nightstand or Kindle for ages before I eventually move on. But what harm could come from checking out other sections before giving up altogether?

#37 Classical music: I’ve enjoyed classical music for most of my life so perhaps I don’t “need” this reminder as much as others, but I’m glad to see it here anyway. From time to time, the right mood, or weather, or circumstances will make me feel like nothing but classical will do.

#43 Jolene: I’ve heard this before, and it’s great. This led me down a Spotify rabbit hole where I landed at Smokey Robinson’s “The Tracks of My Tears.” If that’s not a perfect pop song then I don’t know what is.

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:45 pm

A spotify rabbit hole isn’t the worst rabbit hole to find yourself in. I’m going to cue up some Smokey Robinson :)

Free to Pursue February 9, 2015 at 8:51 am

Loved the list, including the LOL moments it offered. Where was it four years or so ago? It would have saved me a lot of wandering through the desert.

I’ll be rereading “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”. Thank you for reminding me of how powerful it is.

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:57 pm

DStSS is timeless :)

George G. February 9, 2015 at 8:56 am

I don’t understand #30. Surely, there are plenty of illegal activities that are made illegal BECAUSE they are dangerous: murder, rape, armed robbery, assault, reckless endangerment, etc. How can you claim that what’s illegal and what’s dangerous are ALWAYS different?

Kenoryn February 9, 2015 at 9:51 am

I don’t think he meant that they are mutually exclusive; he meant that, as sets, they are not identical. E.g, some things that are dangerous are not illegal, such as skiing, and some things that are illegal are not dangerous, such as smoking pot (depending who you ask). Not that NOTHING illegal is dangerous or vice versa.

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Yeah I didn’t word that very well. I just meant we shouldn’t presume that all harmful things should be criminalized, alcohol being an obvious example.

Millie February 9, 2015 at 9:21 am

I was all ready to skip my workout this morning and then read this list – I suppose I should thank you for getting my butt on the bike! (thanks)

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I have finally accepted that there’s little hope of staying in shape consistently if there is any habit of skipping or rescheduling workouts. Makes things a lot simpler.

Jason Barber February 9, 2015 at 9:26 am

Reading this has made for a great start to my day. I copied and pasted the list into a text document on my desktop so I can refer to it often. Thanks for another great post David, you’re making the world a better place.

june February 9, 2015 at 9:51 am

Great list David

Kenoryn February 9, 2015 at 9:58 am

Re: the classical music one, I suggest: go see your local symphony orchestra play. You may be surprised by how different it is seeing a symphony in person compared to hearing a recording. Whole other experience. Plus, your symphony could use your support, since symphony audiences these days are literally dying off! Go see something big like a Beethoven or Tchaikovsky symphony or The Planets. :)

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:52 pm

That is a great idea. I’ve never seen my own local symphony orchestra, and I’ve lived in this city for most of my life. I imagine this one speaks to number 24 too.

Kenoryn February 10, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Your symphony is playing Beethoven’s 9th in March! That’s a huge production. Worth checking out. Or they seem to do lots of pops stuff like a Simon & Garfunkel tribute and a show with Randy Bachman, although that doesn’t help with your classical music advice. ;)

Lynn February 9, 2015 at 10:32 am

This is one of the best lists I have ever seen. I will revisit it often.

Cait Flanders February 9, 2015 at 11:22 am

Great list, friend! I can’t wait to see you in #52, so we can do #64, maybe at a #50. We can also make up fun stories about the people we come across for #5, so we know who we are protecting. Ahhh, #52… it will be cold and it will be wonderful.

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Cold! Haha! You must be from Vancouver or something.

#52 is a great place for #5. You never run out of strangers.

Belladonna Took February 9, 2015 at 12:08 pm

So just as I finished reading this most excellent list of advice, my husband called me over to his computer to watch a video. In a spirit of advice sharing, here is #68 – never fry gnocchi.
http://www.ijreview.com/2015/02/247867-gnocci/

You’re welcome… :)

David Cain February 9, 2015 at 3:03 pm

So glad you posted this because I was about to drop some gnocchi into a deep fryer

claire February 12, 2015 at 1:57 am

:-)

Georgina February 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Love all your posts. Even if there is a power outage or load-shedding, my IPad is always charged ahead of time and because i have copied and pasted your posts, these are an every day go-to read.

Billy Flynn February 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Sometimes it’s the advice you don’t ask for that you need the most, good post.

Takara February 9, 2015 at 4:06 pm

David Cain! Thanks so much for writing these. I read your procrastination article about a year ago on another website and it was life changing and offered a large wave of relief and then hope during a very dark time. I feel like I will end up owing a lot of my life to you since finding your full website!!

Nick Hilden February 9, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Dolly Parton doing “Downtown” at 33rpm is pretty amazing as well. As is CCR’s “Fortunate Son”. You’ll never heard a bluesier version.

Barbara Fischer Smoody February 9, 2015 at 7:46 pm

David, thank you for putting this together, and finally, my favorite of the day.just this morning I expressed your final suggestion this way:
“Dears, now and then, write your messages with ink on paper. Send them to your friends and family. Those words will last. All these fb notes, what will become of them in a decade or three?
yesterday i found a book given to me by a friend in 1981 or maybe ’82, let’s see, when did i visit the Heaps on Maine? (?!..hey, write the date on your notes, too!), ….tucked in the pages was her note, saying a friend had given her a copy of this book and she enjoyed it so much she thought I “rated my own copy”! I can recognize her handwriting, less scrawled then (before we both had kids!, or even husbands…), I remember their house is at North Haven (hence the abbrev N. H.), all these clues from our shared past of my visit to her, and that she thought to send me a gift. The faintest ink, the strongest memory, each will last, but it is pleasing to hold in your hands paper with ink.”

Bob February 9, 2015 at 11:14 pm

62. At least consider taking religion’s five central no-no’s seriously: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t kill, don’t harm people with your reproductive urges, and don’t drink so much that you forget the other four.

None of the main religions have a prohibition against rape. In fact they are in strong favor of it.

Rashakor February 10, 2015 at 7:31 am

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife”?

It is widely understood that this one covers the rape thing.

Kenoryn February 10, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Technically, it would be only if the victim is female and is married to someone other than you. Rape of the unmarried, of a man or of your partner would be acceptable. The subtext is really more along the lines of “don’t take something that belongs to someone else” than “don’t harm people”. Most people summarize it as “thou shalt not commit adultery”.

If you go into more detail, some religions do say rape of the unmarried is unacceptable but don’t forbid raping someone you’re married to.

On the other hand, many religious hold that sex in general is evil unless it is for the express purpose of producing a baby, so that would preclude rape if you’re following that idea.

tallgirl1204 February 11, 2015 at 4:31 pm

How about this: Do not do unto another what is hateful to you? (I don’t know the reference, but I believe this is approximately how the Koran puts it)

or “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Fancy King James version, Matthew 7:12)

I think this covers rape. As for for religions “promoting rape,” I’m pretty baffled where you would get this. The Old Testament of the bible acknowledges that rape happens, and often associates it with tribal warfare and general subjugation of women (i.e., Lot offering his daughters up to the locals– which could be read as him trying to protect the angels who were visiting him at the detriment of his own family)–

But Jesus’s injunction to following the “golden rule” would have to over-ride the older, tribal visions of the world.

Because in what twisted universe would YOU want to be raped, and therefore would find it o.k. to rape someone else?

Kenoryn February 17, 2015 at 8:40 am

Again, in the same way that “thou shalt not covet” is really more about property than people, the “do unto others” is talking about people, and people, in religious texts, has historically meant men, since women were property rather than individuals. In general religious texts seem to be aimed only at men, e.g.coveting your neighbour’s wife, but nothing about coveting your neighbour’s husband, or “thou shalt not have sex with men, it is abomination”, presumably not directed at women, etc. Not surprising since these texts were mostly written by men thousands of years ago to whom it had probably never occurred that women are people and not housepets. So, as we read these things now in our modern context, we in north american society will look at “do unto others” and assume it applies to everyone, women included. But if you live in a restrictive society that subjugates women, you may believe women are exempt, and the explicit reference to “men” reinforces that.

Mrs. Frugalwoods February 10, 2015 at 8:45 am

What a great list. I like how specific each item is–I always find more general advice tougher to follow. But these, I can do! I can floss!

Dani (Positively Present) February 10, 2015 at 10:14 am

This is brilliant! I love all of these. Such wonderful advice!

Emily February 10, 2015 at 11:06 am

I love #24. I have always enjoyed watching people do their jobs, especially when they’re “experts”. My current partner is a highly recognized scientist, and I just adore watching him when he’s working. Also, I find college courses so much more interesting when the instructor clearly loves what he’s teaching. Otherwise, it’s simply too much like work.

Lena February 11, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Great to hear you’re also a Couchsurfer! If you ever visit Melbourne, Australia, I insist you stay with us.

:)

Garrett February 11, 2015 at 10:54 pm

“Be aware of the complex, systemic nature of the world’s biggest problems, and our habit of framing them as simple ones with clear villains and victims.”

And those complex, systemic problems are rooted in some combination of nature and nurture, both of which fall almost entirely outside an individual’s circle of influence.

Adriano February 15, 2015 at 11:04 am

#49 is my favorite. I like to sometimes think that I had just landed in somebody else’s body, inheriting his memories and assets. I feel like starting a new fun game, like regaining control.

HappinessSavouredHot February 16, 2015 at 11:14 am

I was seriously considering not going to the gym (the roads are snowy, I have a cold) and then I read your number 3. Thank you!

Watches Review February 18, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It actually was
a amusement account it. Glance complicated to more introduced
agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate?

Reagan Sanders February 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm

On #60, When I’m on the establishments want to buy new stuffs sometimes there are employees that are not kind at all even I spoke softly to them.

Rick and Clay County Bail Bands

SJ February 19, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Some thought provoking advice here!
Just went through and updated my backups haha.

Sprezzaturian February 25, 2015 at 2:42 am

Don’t just avoid ARGUING about politics. Stop WATCHING the news, weather, speeches etc altogether. If you’re not planning to actively USE the information, whys spend time watching or discussing it?

Enjoy the walk across parking lot: Good advice; my mantra to make it more enjoyable is “At least you’re not at the office”

Many 3* reviews are more or less empty, so I’m not completely with you there

David February 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm

The Dolly Parton thing just made my day :)

Love this list, and as someone else said above, it’s getting bookmarked.

Also I couldn’t agree with this one more (especially when it comes to music): “Watch experts perform their chosen art whenever you get a chance”. Went to a tiny jazz club recently and saw the musicians play from about a yard away and was utterly blown away. Grounding indeed.

Diane March 29, 2015 at 7:01 am

Love this list. Just found your site and will definitely be following it.

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