Be polite, on time, and work really fucking hard until you are talented enough to be blunt, a little late, and take vacations and even then . . . be polite

ASHTON KUTCHER is a prominent actor, investor, and entrepreneur. He began his acting career in the popular sitcom That ’70s Show, which aired for eight seasons, and he starred in the comedy and box office hit Dude, Where’s My Car? He is a renowned technology investor, with investments in Airbnb, Square, Skype, Uber, Foursquare, Duolingo, and others. He is currently a co-founder and chairman of the board of A Plus, a digital media company devoted to spreading the message of positive journalism, where he leads strategic partnerships with brands and influencers. In 2009, he became the first Twitter user to reach one million followers, and he now has close to 20 million.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. If you want to be a hands-on parent and also have some version of a career, this book is gold. I usually send it with another book called The Sleepeasy Solution, written by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack.

The brainy book I seem to be sharing or talking about the most lately is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The more that I study people and the way systems work, the more I realize that it’s all made up. It’s easy to spout philosophies, or quote books, well-known people, or doctrines as if they are somehow of more credence than others, but the deeper you dig, the more you realize we are all just standing on piles of collective fiction. This book does a great job of illustrating that point.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
When I was 18, I went to jail and was charged for a third-degree burglary felony offense (thankfully, I got a deferred judgment, which expunged it from my record, so I can still vote and own a firearm). The shame of that event pushed me to prove, to everyone who judged me, that I wasn’t that guy. Because of this event, I took risks that I never would have taken otherwise, because I knew that the low of failure would never match the low of shame.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
“Shit or get off the pot.” Too many people are waiting to get shit set up just right so they can do the thing they are gonna do. It’s time.

Or: “Posting about it isn’t doing anything. It’s just like talk . . . it’s cheap!” Too many people think they are supporting a cause, and the only thing they are doing is posting about it on social media. Doing something is doing something, everything else is just talk.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I finally started to value sleep. I’ve realized that if I don’t sleep responsibly, I’m performing below optimal state in [nearly] every aspect of life.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
Take a walk or run. Have sex. Or eat. Then I make lists.

Generally the cure for feeling overwhelmed is getting to a state of appreciation. Walking helps you appreciate the world around you. Running helps you appreciate oxygen, health, life. Sex . . . I mean, come on, it’s sex. Food is really just to make sure that you aren’t hangry. And making lists brings organization to the chaos and generally turns big things into little actionable things.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
Be polite, on time, and work really fucking hard until you are talented enough to be blunt, a little late, and take vacations and even then . . . be polite.

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