​John Perry Barlow’s Adult Principles Are Perfect


Along with an account of writing the Dead song “Cassidy,” a number of those who already miss him have been sharing a set of rules he set down at age 30. They’ve circulated before, but they’re worth posting again, they’re so spot-on.

Mind you, those who got to know Barlow understood that they could make him a hypocrite—the point wasn’t that he lived up to them 100 percent of the time. But he had a code for himself that he aspired to. And it made him and others better for it.

“The jury’s well out on the great man thing,” he typed on Reddit, when he shared his 25 “Adult Principles” four years back. On the other hand, he added, “I’m willing to accept it when someone calls me a good man. I’ve been working on that one quite consciously for a long time. And, outside of being a good ancestor, it’s my primary ambition.”

1. Be patient. No matter what.

2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.

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. Don’t ask more of others than you can deliver yourself.

7. Tolerate ambiguity.

8. Laugh at yourself frequently.

9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.

10. Try not to 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. Don’t risk it frivolously.

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. Admit your errors freely and quickly.

19. Become less suspicious of joy.

20. Understand humility.

21. Remember that love forgives everything.

22. Foster dignity.

23. Live memorably.

24. Love yourself.

25. Endure.

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