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51 Tips For a Successful Life

(1) Get married.  Then get divorced.  Then get remarried.
(2) Every day, ask yourself, do I feel like showering today?  If the answer is, “yes,” shower.
(3) Be in environments with the right amount of light.
(4) Subtly vary your bedtime and waking times every day, so that you never quite settle into a pattern. Same for mealtimes.
(5) Respond to emails immediately, except if they seem important, then trust that you’ll remember them at some indeterminate moment in the future.
(6) Be afraid for your children: Will they become good people?  Will bad things happen to them? Will they love me when they grow up? These are good questions to ponder.
(8) Floss for the first few days after every dentist appointment.
(9) Sometimes, write all day, from morning to night.  Other times, read all day.  Yet other days should be nothing but meetings, as payment for the days of the first two kinds.
(10) Make sudden, unexpected changes in your appearance every few years.
(11) Allow yourself to admire (some) people to the point where you feel really bad about how much you fail to measure up.
(12) If you have a problem in your work--in my case these are problems with philosophical arguments--ask your kids to solve it for you.  Kids should not be kept idle.
(13) Listen to music all the time, but have no taste in music.
(14) Avoid eye contact when socially acceptable, and also when not.
(15) Sometimes, eat yogurt and cereal for dinner, even when you are over 40.
(16) When you play games with you kids, try really hard to beat them.
(17) See paradoxes everywhere, and when people try to 'solve' them or smooth them out or call them "pseudo-paradoxes," fight to keep seeing them.  Hard.
(18) When you read some new interesting book/paper or have some new idea, find convenient segues that allow you to talk about it to everyone you meet, especially people who are unlikely to be interested in it.
(19) Every once in a while, lose touch with everyone you know.  So that you can be ready when the mood strikes, keep a list of places you can hide away where no one will find you.
(20) When traveling, find all the idiosyncrasies of the culture you are in to be funny and absurd by comparison with the normal place you are from.
(21) At any given time, be pretty obsessed with one particular food and eat it for many meals in a row.
(22) Regularly find ways to be alone in crowded places.  
(23) Learn to appreciate what is sublime about smoking and drunkenness.  Assume other drugs are not sublime without trying them.
(24) Use coffee to make yourself better, and plan work around this.
(25) Work all the time, to the point of exhaustion, usually fruitlessly, but with many distractions.
(27) Don’t expect the unexpected, so that you can be shocked when it happens.
(28) When you feel guilty for the bad ways you have treated your loved ones, or regret for opportunities missed, or ashamed for not being a better person than you are, assume these feelings are correct.
(29) When people criticize you, even when they are anonymous internet men threatened by the hint of feminism in something that you wrote, assume that they are on to something.
(30) Don’t worry too much about your academic career until after you get tenure, that is when the hidden dangers set in.
(31) Be sure to tell your children fantastic lies while they are still young enough to believe them. For example, I am right now wearing shoes I convinced my 5yo are made out of dinosaur skin.
(32) Confuse other people.
(33) Confuse yourself.
(35) When participating in group deliberations, or really any group activities, avoid the temptation to get along.
(36) Test whether your loved ones really love you, but be explicit about it.
(38) Always be restarting your life with a new n-year plan.
(39) Argue a lot, often repeating arguments you have made before without remembering this fact. More generally, don’t worry about repeating yourself or making “progress.”
(40) Engage in the kind of group exercise that allows for secretive, invidious comparisons between bodies and abilities.  That will keep you coming back for more.
(41) Stare at very beautiful people and wonder how so much beauty is possible. Reflect on the fact that no work of art can compare.  Be sad that you never were nor will be one of those people.
(42) Fear death. 
(43) Bookstores with chairs are good places to read the whole book and then you don’t have to buy it. More generally: try to own as few books as possible.
(44) Learn to read fast, but also learn to keep this power in check.
(45) When you are walking through your neighborhood, envy the people who own fancy houses but then imagine yourself having a miserable life living in them.
(46) At some point in your life, own and ride a motorcycle.  But give it up before it kills you.
(47) Often ask yourself, “What would Socrates/Jesus/Julia Child [insert your hero] do?  And why would that be a mistake?”
(48) Arrange your physical environment so that you can enjoy the textures and colors of things.
(49) Don’t be a contrarian.
(50) Doodle, and take real pleasure in it.
(51) If you encounter some evidence of impairment to your health, anything from the flu, to a food allergy, to mental illness of some kind--dismiss it and give yourself the benefit of the doubt.  Avoid medical treatment, and just go ahead and eat what you want. 

(i) 7, 26, 34, 37 have been censored, they were about sex and my kids might find this blog one day.
(ii) This list is not a joke, nor is it meant ironically.  I follow all these rules, and I am a successful person.  So don't dismiss the possibility that these tips might work for you!


  1. my goodness! you should be friends with Merrill Markoe!

  2. >(i) 7, 26, 34, 37 have been censored, they were about sex and my kids might find this blog one day.

    Heavens forbid kids get advice about sex from their parents.

  3. Item #1, get divorced.

    Well, looks like the kind of success you’re after differs from the kind I’m pursuing. Hope giving advice isn’t your full-time job.

  4. Thank you for sharing how REAL life actually looks like!

  5. is it possible for you to share 7, 26, 34, 37 without your kids finding out.


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