How to Be an Adult…If You Want to Be One

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When I work with leaders, we always get into a coaching conversation about who they want to be as a leader and who they are becoming. One of my clients was quick to respond with this list, which he has above his desk and has his staff hold him accountable to. These are the 25 principles of adult behavior by John Perry Barlow, who was an American poet and essayist, a cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian political activist.

  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.
  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.

What would you add to this list?


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