John Perry Barlow’s Advice on How to Become an Adult

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit privacy organization, yesterday announced the passing of its founder, John Perry Barlow. He was 70. In addition to his pioneering work at the EFF and his contributions to the Grateful Dead as a lyricist (Cassidy , anyone?), He established a set of guidelines by which all adults should act.

Barlow wrote Principles of Adult Conduct as he approached his 30th birthday. According to his Reddit AMA four years ago, “I was so surprised that I reached the age of an undeniable adult that I wrote a set of ‘adult principles’ that I’ve tried to follow for 35 years.” The rules below are short, practical, and can apply to almost every aspect of life, from waiting in line in the marketplace to having a difficult conversation with a loved one.

Here are Barlow’s 25 principles of adult behavior:

  • Be patient. No matter what.
  • Do not scold: assign responsibility, do not blame. Do not say anything about anything else that you would not say to him.
  • Never think that other people’s motives are less noble for them than yours for you.
  • Expand your understanding of the possible.
  • Don’t worry about things you really can’t change.
  • Don’t expect more from anyone than you can give yourself.
  • Endure ambiguity.
  • Laugh at yourself often.
  • Focus on what is right, not who is right.
  • Never forget that you can be wrong, no matter how confident you are.
  • Give up bloody sports.
  • Remember that your life belongs to others too. Don’t take risks lightly.
  • Never lie to anyone for any reason. (The lie about inaction is sometimes exempted.)
  • Explore the needs of those around you and respect them.
  • Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Try to define your mission and achieve it.
  • Reduce the use of the first personal pronoun.
  • Praise at least as often as you neglect.
  • Admit your mistakes quickly and quickly.
  • Give up joy with less suspicion.
  • Understand humility.
  • Remember that love forgives everything.
  • Cultivate dignity.
  • Live unforgettable.
  • Love yourself.
  • Tolerate.

Barlow was determined to stick to his list of voluntary virtues, and stated in his original message of principles in 1977: “If any of my friends or colleagues catches me violating any of them, arrest me.”


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