Home > Archive >
Bruce Sterling at Reboot
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 by Dave Winer.
Bruce Sterling gave a wonderful talk at the Reboot Conference this summer in Copenhagen. At the beginning of the talk I wanted to strangle him, but as it progressed, it made more and more sense. By the end I thought it was one of the best speeches I’d ever heard, a story that I think everyone should hear. I’ve made an MP3 of his talk because I want to make it available to people in my family as a podcast. I hope Bruce and the people at Reboot don’t mind.
He talks about clearing your life of posessions, how you should divide everything into four categories: 1. Beautiful things. 2. Things with emotional value. 3. Functional things. 4. Everything else.
Divide each category into the things you keep and the things you get rid of. In category 1, you can keep it if it’s on display in your house, if you show it to your friends, if you share it. If not, then you don’t need it, it’s taking up space and time, which you’re paying for with your money, time and health. Take a picture, put it on a thumb drive, take it everywhere with you and get rid of the original. In category 2, if it has a compelling story, one that you actually tell people, you can keep it. In category 3, unless it’s very good at what it does and it does something you do a lot of, it goes. And of course everything in category 4 goes.
He says you shouldn’t try to do this in normal times. Wait until a spouse dies, a divorce, a child is born or a child leaves home. Wait till you move. It pays to figure out now what you want to do when that time comes.
I know Sterling is right because I’ve had things like that happen and I’ve done it both ways. Most of the time I don’t clean house, and miss the opportunity to improve my life. But sometimes I do make the changes and it’s always, in the end, been a good thing. Most people advise you not to make changes in times of great life turmoil. That’s exactly the wrong advice. Those are the only times you can make change.
This is a hot topic in my family because of Father’s Day. It just happened, and the shock is just now beginning to set in. It’s strange that along with the pain and sorrow, there’s also a new sense of freedom, of possibilities. It’s palpable. And it doesn’t take a second to locate the source — it’s the changes Sterling talked about so eloquently.
Anyway, most of the time most of us are not in position to do anything about the mess in our lives. But listen to Sterling’s talk. It’s only 43 minutes. It might be the best 43 minutes you’ve ever spent.
View the forum thread.