John Perry Barlow’s “Principles of Adult Behavior”

John Perry Barlow was a visionary, and a modern-day renaissance man.

A poet, writer (and lyricist for The Grateful Dead), activist (associated with both Democratic and Republican parties), cyberlibertarian and founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation – his contributions to the world have left a lasting impact, whose effects we are still feeling (and unfolding) each day.

Sadly, he left this plane of reality on February 7th, 2018 at 70-years-old, but his legacy lives on through his work and words.

“Have an objective to be a good ancestor.” – John Perry Barlow

In 2015, I had the honor of listening to Barlow speak at the World Technology Network, where he gave a talk on the importance of being a “good ancestor”, and I recently came across Barlow’s list about The Principles of Adult Behavior, which he wrote at age 30.

These 25 tenets are potent, resonant, and relatable for anyone easing into adulthood and looking to leave the past behind, as we segue into a more mature reality. The words serve as a reminder to live in alignment with the wisdom that age affords us, to find grace in time’s lessons, and practice mindfulness through each moment.

John Perry Barlow’s “Principles of Adult Behavior”

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, never blame. Say nothing behind another’s back you’d be unwilling to say, in exactly the same tone and language, to his face.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you yourself can deliver.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Do not endanger it frivolously. And never endanger the life of another.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Never let your errors pass without admission.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Forgive.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Here’s what these principles meant to Barlow:

“I don’t expect the perfect attainment of these principles. However, I post them as a standard for my conduct as an adult. Should any of my friends or colleagues catch me violating one of them, bust me.”

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