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What To Read This Weekend: The School of Life (Ideas to Live By)

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I had my usual three reading picks all lined up for you this weekend.

And then I came across this U.K.-based website: The School of Life. Chock-full of brainy and uplifting stuff, including “Sunday Sermons,” in which leading thinkers deliver maverick sermons (with group singing and all) on values to live by. I stayed up way too late last night listening in. Maybe you will too. I especially enjoyed Alain de Botton, speaking on the value of pessimism. I love most everything that de Botton writes, and now I’m interested in hearing anything he has to say. (That’s him in the photo above.)

Would love to hear what you think.

and have a great weekend!

*Thanks to Real Delia for alerting me to de Botton’s talk.


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  1. Zach on 04.06.2011 at 20:31 (Reply)

    Susan,
    I absolutely love your website. Before discovering this, I was ashamed and almost felt that being an introvert is a negative quality. Now, I’m actually quite arrogant about my quiet nature and feel lucky to be an introvert. After all, we are the smarter and more thoughtful ones!

    Great work.

    1. Susan Cain on 04.06.2011 at 21:10 (Reply)

      Hey, Zach, thanks, I really appreciate that!

      If I may: I wouldn’t say that introverts are smarter — I know plenty of smart and thoughtful extroverts, and indeed IQ tests show there’s no difference between the two types. But I do agree with you that people who prefer to spend their time contemplating things are more likely to arrive at certain types of insights or solutions to problems than those who are inclined to action — if for no better reason than that there are only so many hours in a day, and how you choose to allocate those hours makes a real difference. I think the world needs both types desperately and wish that so many introverts didn’t feel ashamed as you once did. But I have hope that the next generation of introverted kids will grow up in a more enlightened culture.

  2. Poppy on 04.06.2011 at 23:48 (Reply)

    Oddly enough, I came across the School of Life myself about a week ago, after watching Ben Fullerton’s talk at this year’s Wisdow 2.0 Conference on “Designing for Solitude”. Life is full of odd little coincidences!

    1. Susan Cain on 05.06.2011 at 14:18 (Reply)

      I’ve never heard of the Wisdom 2.0 conference either, but I am off to check it out! Thx, Poppy.

  3. Danielle on 10.06.2011 at 17:51 (Reply)

    Having listened to Alain de Botton’s talk on the Values of pessimism, I was reminded of one of the Dale Carnegie rules which uses pessimism to lower our frustration and be a little bit happier. The rule consists of expecting the worst in order to be psychologically prepared for it while preparing the three best plans of attack to counteract or even avoid the worst. Taking some form of action to turn things around makes us feel stronger and more in control instead of doing nothing and feeling like a total failure.

    But there is also a down side to pessimism. Pessimism turns people off, leaving you completely alone to deal with your sorrows. If that sorrow comes from the loss of a loved one, it is a known fact that your family and friends’ compassion will be very short lived since they will expect you to “snap out of it” within the next six weeks. Yet, it is a known fact that it takes anywhere between 1.5 to 3 years minimum to come to terms with the loss of a loved one providing that the bereaved is able to go through the grieving process properly. Some just can’t deal with it at all.

    Alain de Botton’s talk also reminded me of two things Dr. Phil has stated on his shows. Dr. Phil has been stating on his most recent shows that our high expectations are causing our frustrations, yet he also stated in his earlier shows that we should teach people how to treat us. If we try to teach others how to treat us and it doesn’t work, does that mean that we should adopt a hohum attitude and give up altogether and let them treat us badly?

    If someone is sexually agressed, should that person lower her expectations and be happy that she wasn’t killed and dumped in the middle of nowhere? That leads to a very slippery slope. Where do we draw the line with our expectations?

    As for the part about the Goddess of Fortune, I believe that’s a good name for the kind of luck that some people have. If it weren’t for being in the right place at the right time and meeting up with the right (rich) people at the right time, a lot of people wouldn’t have the riches and the success they have today. I do believe that a certain amount of success is due to our efforts, but some are obviously born under a very lucky star to get the level of success they’ve achieved, and they didn’t get there all on their own either.

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