“We’re not very good at understanding what it is that we really want. We’re extremely prone to latch onto suggestions from the outside world.” – Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) is many things, but I think of him as a rare breed of practical philosopher.
In 1997, he turned away from writing novels and instead wrote an extended essay titled How Proust Can Change Your Life, which became an unlikely blockbuster.
His subsequent books have been described as a ‘philosophy of everyday life’ and subjects include love, travel, architecture, religion and work. His other bestsellers include Essays In Love, Status Anxiety, and The Architecture Of Happiness. More recent works include The News: A User’s Manual, which looks at the impact our obsession with checking news has on our minds, and Art as Therapy, co-written with the art historian John Armstrong.
In 2008, de Botton helped start The School of Life in London, a social enterprise determined to make learning and therapy relevant in today’s uptight culture. His goal is (through any of his mediums) to help clients learn “how to live wisely and well.”
In our wide-ranging conversation, we cover many things, including:
- Real-world versus academic philosophy
- The value of rituals and tribes
- Practical pessimism
- “Ordinary genius”
- The magic of pomegranates
- Lesser-known modern thinkers
- Why “mean” is often simply “anxious”
- His favorite Japanese pens
- And much more!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another podcast related to emotional intelligence? — Listen to my conversation with Brené Brown. In this episode, we discuss vulnerability and home run TED talks (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What life stressors do you wish you could handle better? What do you currently do to solve the problem(s), and what do you think is missing? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Want to win a free trip?
- Essays in Love by Alain de Botton
- How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
- Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
- The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
- Learn more about The School of Life
- In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
- Check out the documentary, Tim’s Vermeer
- The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
- Check out some modern philosophers:
- Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver
- Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann
- Dying Every Day by James Romm
- The Case of the Opulent Stoic
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
- Read Ryan Holiday’s post on Michel de Montaigne
- Watch the documentary, Seven Up!
- Alain de Botton’s favorite pen, the Pilot G-Tec-C4
- Watch the School of Life’s video on higher consciousness and subscribe
- Alain de Botton’s TED talks
- Connect with Alain de Botton
- How do you answer the question, “what do you do?” [7:43]
- How Alain de Botton started with his studies in emotional intelligence [11:23]
- On gaining mainstream success and the importance of “proving” oneself [17:08]
- On mixing nonfiction and fiction writing [21:23]
- Alain de Botton’s most influential writers and books [22:58]
- The impact of How Proust Can Change Your Life [24:38]
- How writing a book on daily habits changed Alain de Botton’s life [30:23]
- How to balance setting low expectations and striving to achieve great things [35:38]
- Complex philosophy vs useful philosophy [39:53]
- Alain de Botton’s pre-Cambridge years [59:38]
- Best practices to help status anxiety [1:03:08]
- Where Alain de Botton would like to be in three years [1:10:08]
- On developing the skill of listening [1:16:23]
- When you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why? [1:25:13]
- Most gifted books [1:29:28]
- What is something you believe that other people think is insane? [1:30:38]
- Utilitarian philosophers, artificial intelligence and future roles of philosophy [1:36:08]
- Favorite documentaries and movies [1:40:08]
- What purchase of $100 or less purchase has provided the most positive effect on your life [1:41:58]
- Valuable daily rituals and routines [1:44:18]
- If you could put a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [1:47:18]
- Advice to your 30-year-old self [1:48:08]
- Marcel Proust
- Henry David Thoreau
- Michel de Montaigne
- Johannes Vermeer
- Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
- Bertrand Russell