John Perry Barlow’s Tips for Being a Grown Up


Image credit: JD Lasica/Flickr

Yesterday, the nonprofit privacy advocacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation announced the passing of its founder, John Perry Barlow. He was 70. In addition to his groundbreaking work at EFF and his contributions to the Grateful Dead as a lyricist (Cassidy, anyone?), he established a set of guidelines by which all grown-ups should operate.

Barlow wrote the Principles of Adult Behavior as he approached his 30th birthday. According to his Reddit AMA four years ago: “I found myself so surprised to have reached an age of indisputable adult that I wrote up a set of “adult principles” that I’ve been trying to live up to for 35 years.” The rules below are concise, practical, and can be applied to nearly every aspect of life: from waiting in line at the market to having a difficult conversation with a loved one.

Here’s the late Barlow’s 25 Principles of Adult Behavior:

  1. Be patient. No matter what.
  2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.

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  1. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
  1. Expand your sense of the possible.
  2. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
  3. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
  4. Tolerate ambiguity.
  5. Laugh at yourself frequently.
  6. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
  7. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
  8. Give up blood sports.
  9. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
  10. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
  11. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
  12. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
  13. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
  14. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
  15. Admit your errors freely and soon.
  16. Become less suspicious of joy.
  17. Understand humility.
  18. Remember that love forgives everything.
  19. Foster dignity.
  20. Live memorably.
  21. Love yourself.
  22. Endure.

Barlow was determined to adhere to his list of self-imposed virtues, and stated in his original post about the principles in 1977: “Should any of my friends or colleagues catch me violating any one of them, bust me.”

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