There is a rich curriculum of life advice compilations out there. From the classics like Life’s Litte Instruction Book, Kevin Kelly’s 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known which turned into a book, to 100 Tips for a better life. They are often fascinating reads. But they are also often more entertaining than driving actual change.
Yet, they do become educational once you have the experience that brings the wisdom home. “The large print giveth and the small print taketh away” is only relevant once you sign a contract or buy a product to then get disappointed by the fine print. Having those experience matters with those lists, because then they help us notice things, patterns and behaviors and rethink them.
A while back Tony Fadell gave a TED talk about the secret of design being noticing. His thesis is that great design notices even small annoyances that add up over time. One of his examples was the little sticker on supermarket apples. It’s there to promote the brand. But for most people that sticker is a minor annoyance in a series of many throughout their day.
The lists of life advice do help us notice things. They spell out what we know, but don’t have the words for yet. They make the implicit explicit and help us put words to feelings. As such it makes sense to read and re-read those lists every now and then. I’ve made thousands of new mistakes since I first read Life’s Litte Instruction Book back at university. Many of those lessons make sense in a way they did not back then.
In that spirit: find a good list or book and put a reminder into your phone to re-read them every few of years. It’s a good cheat code to get better at noticing.