Join What is The Book of Life?
Total views: 7729104
Close Nav


  • Romantic vs. Classical Voters

    We’re used to dividing how people vote in elections according to the categories of right-wing and left-wing. But there might be another way of labelling an electorate that taps into something broader and deeper in human personality. We might apportion people into the camps of Romantic and Classical voters. Which might you be? Here is some of what separates these two fundamental electoral types: 1. Revolution vs. Evolution The Romantic believes that a far738px-Richard_Caton_Woodville_-_Politics_in_an_Oyster_House_-_Walters_371994
  • Emotional Technology

    It's always exciting to think about what kinds of technology are going to be coming to us in the future. By extrapolating from current trends, we can make some good guesses about some of the astonishing inventions that are going to be around 40 or 50 years from now. Yet, when we think of the technology of the future, too often we restrict our imagination to particular areas: to gadgets that will make us go faster. But some of the truly exciting developments will11038797613_8bf393d021_z
  • Business and the Ladder of Needs

    Business is focused on addressing a multitude of human needs; for everything from Jelly Babies to cardiac surgery to nuclear technology to hand soap dispensers. Because human needs are so wide ranging, and span such a multitude of different appetites and desires, it can be useful to divide these needs into three broad categories - and then even arrange them up a distinctive sort of ladder: This way of cutting up our needs signals the different parts ofimage00
  • Consumer Self-Knowledge

    We are always making consumption decisions: where to go on holiday; which handbag to purchase; which mortgage lender to go to; what style of socks or make of car to buy; what to have for lunch. We don’t normally spell it out, but each decision is a shot at understanding ourselves in some sector of existence, big or small.  The range of our options is inevitably constrained but ideally, in exercising choice, we are promoting our happiness to the greatest possible9972076934_d978c6784b_z
  • The Entrepreneur and the Artist

    The entrepreneur is one of the key figures of the modern economy, though what an entrepreneur does is perhaps not entirely properly understood. There are certain conspicuous activities of entrepreneurship: raising capital, running factories, organizing supply chains or working out how to take existing products to new markets (how to increase sales of electric cars in Australia, for instance).   But then there’s a more private and primary first move14153691690_de6a94461d_z
  • What Advertising Can Learn from Art

    Our societies are exercised around the question of whether the advertising industry, on the whole, is good or bad. It can be a bit disconcerting that we are relentlessly solicited by people trying to sell us things. One might in some moods wonder if the world would be a better place, if there were a lot less advertising going on. But the fact is, the amount of advertising is increasing all the time. We want to shift the focus to a more specific and more14232466561_13003c2391_z (1)
  • Job Monogamy

    We are meant to be monogamous about our work, and yet in any given week, we’re likely to spend a good few moments daydreaming of alternatives. We may be paid to rationalise tax payments across three jurisdictions, assess the commercial viability of nail bars in Poland or help a class of fourteen-year-olds master quadratic equations; but a part of our brain will for a few moments be taken up with the possible pleasures of managing a ski resort, working in medical16260586225_7f45607388_z
  • The Duty Trap

    We start off in life being very interested in pleasure and fun. In our earliest years, we do little but hunt out situations that will amuse us, pursuing our hedonistic goals with the help of puddles, crayons, balls, teddies, computers and bits and pieces we find in the kitchen drawers. As soon as anything gets frustrating or boring, we simply give up and go in search of new sources of enjoyment - and no one appears to mind very much. Then, all of a sudden at the371997238_9f8505e976_b
  • Broadening the Job Search

    One key thing that can go wrong in our thinking about a career is that we get fixated on a particular kind of job which - for one reason or another - turns out not to be a promising or realistic option. It may be that the job is extremely difficult to secure, it may require long years of preparation or it might be in an industry that has become precarious and therefore denies us good long-term prospects. Here we call it a fixation - rather than simply an interest5534786554_8d71bd4fc1_z
  • The Perfectionist Trap

    We typically aim for a particular career because we have been deeply impressed by the exploits of the most accomplished practitioners in the field. We formulate our ambitions by admiring the beautiful structures of the architect tasked with designing the city’s new airport, or by following the intrepid trades of the wealthiest Wall Street fund manager, by reading the analyses of the acclaimed literary novelist or sampling the piquant meals in the restaurant of a14267500457_c25d5e37ba_z
  • On the Origins of Confidence

    We don’t often dwell on this – and may never discuss it with others – but when it comes to responding to the challenges we face around our careers, many of us have voices in our heads. We have a murmuring stream of thoughts inside of our minds that constantly comment on our aspirations and achievements. Sometimes, the voices are warm and encouraging - urging us to find more strength or to give an initiative another go: ‘You’re nearly there, stick with3589798166_26a10caaa1_z
  • On the Dangers of Success

    We might imagine that in an uncomplicated way, our parents (and siblings, friends and wider families) will always be pleased at our successes. After all, they were delighted when we scored highly in a spelling test at the age of 6, and so there is - apparently - no reason why they wouldn’t always be happy about our triumphs, however large or varied they might be. But this is to risk missing out on a crucial, rather secret piece of human psychology: how7945910370_8678ee1d13_z
  • Love and Sulking

    One of the most exciting aspects of the early days of a relationship can be the sense that a lover understands us without us needing to speak too much. With other people, we’re always having to explain ourselves at length and even when we do, they frequently struggle to grasp our drift - but a true lover on the other hand seems to get us almost immediately, even in the finer-grained aspects of our personalities. No sooner have we tried to explain, for example,23766944199_0fa4ac7ddd_z
  • Teaching and Love

    One of the most delightful and thrilling aspects of the early days of a love affair is the sense that our lover likes us not only for our obvious qualities - perhaps our looks, or our professional accomplishments - but also, and far more touchingly, for our less impressive sides: our vulnerabilities, our hesitations, our flaws. Perhaps they are particularly taken by the gap between our two front teeth which, while it wouldn’t impress an orthodontist, charms them3758989473_ac0a16a6ab_b
  • Rape Fantasies

    There are many things that it would be wrong, illegal, dangerous or crazy to do in reality but which we enjoy thinking about doing in ways that are innocent, kindly, safe and very sane. This is very familiar outside of the sexual arena. As a child one might have enjoyed imagining going to the South pole, wrestling and then making friends with a polar bear, adopting a pet penguin with a broken wing, feeding it chocolate cake, getting trapped in the worst blizzard1944443821_94b72ba055_o
  • On Blushing

    One of the odd - but not particularly uncommon - things that can happen when we feel aroused and excited by the idea of getting together with someone is that we start to blush. Maybe we’ve been having dinner with a new friend. We’re getting more and more turned on. But instead of this making us feel confident and sure of ourselves - instead of easing into a polished, playful response - we find ourselves growing increasingly quiet and reserved, awkward and7324951020_cedc78d1cd_z
  • Love and Self-Love

    One of the great and slightly strange dangers of falling in love with someone is how we may respond the day they start to love us back. Some of the reasons we fall in love with people is because we long to escape from ourselves into the embrace of a person who appears as beautiful perfect and accomplished as we feel ourselves to be flawed, dumb and mediocre. But what if such a being were one day turn around and love us back? Nothing could discredit them faster.14548336276_c975a7d2d9_z
  • An Instruction Manual to Oneself

    Most machines of any degree of complexity are offered to us with an instruction manual, a guide to how an unfamiliar technology works, what we can expect from it, how to get the best out of it and how to interpret its signals - the assumption being that it will be so much easier and less enraging to deal with the machine when we have taken some time systematically and patiently to learn how it operates. Yet one area where we tend not to have manuals to read is8032464074_8059e067c4_z
  • Emotional Education: An Introduction

    Our societies have a huge collective regard for education; but they are also oddly picky in their sense of what we can be educated in. We accept that we will need training around numbers and words, around the natural sciences and history, around aspects of culture and business. But it remains markedly strange to imagine that it might be possible - or even necessary - to be educated in our own emotional functioning, for example, that we might need to learn16615741305_4442213ac2_z
  • Introspection: The Stream of Consciousness

    One of the hardest things to describe or to be properly aware of is what it feels like to be inside our own minds: the second-by-second flow of images, words, feelings and sounds inside our heads that philosophers call our ‘consciousness’. All day, this consciousness is filled with a tangle of material that flashes by an observing ‘I’ so fast and in so multi-layered and dense a way, we can generally only arrest and focus on a minuscule part of what is8794440797_70597aa53e_k
  • Introspection: Children and Adults

    We can get a clearer idea of what a difficult and unusual achievement introspection is when we consider how unable children are to practice it. Looking inside oneself is not something most of us are born knowing how to do. The issue is at its most apparent when we read children’s diaries. Let’s think about George, who is eight years old. During his summer holiday he kept a diary - as suggested by a teacher at school as a useful writing exercise. Typical6314087116_4b7dcf3a1f_z
  • The Difficulty of Being in the Present

    Very many of us suffer from a peculiar-sounding problem: an inability to properly inhabit the stretch of time we call ‘the present’. Maybe we’re on a beautiful beach on a sunny day, the sky is azure and the palm trees slender and implausibly delicate, but most of ‘us’ isn’t actually here at all, it’s somewhere at work or in imaginary discussion with a rival or plotting a new enterprise.   Or maybe we’re at the birthday of a child:16208226939_693854372f_z
  • Introspection: The Lion & the Sore Paw

    Knowing yourself sounds like a good idea, but it can be hard to see quite why it should matter so much. There are some clues in an old story about a lion with a sore paw, a traditional folk tale known as Androcles and the lion. The earliest version of the story comes from the ancient Roman philosopher Aulus Gellius - and has been adapted and retold ever since. One version goes like this: once, long ago, there was a Barbary Lion - nine feet long with a splendidJean-Léon_Gérôme_-_Androcles
  • On Being Hated

    Learning that someone hates us deeply, even though we have done nothing ostensibly to provoke them, can be one of the most alarming situations we face. Because of technology, it is also liable to happen to us more and more. In the past, our enemies were restricted to the vicinity; now they lie scattered around the digital planet. In the past, we might once have unwisely read about ourselves in another’s diary. Now we can fall prey to a repeated temptation to100817327_41e29c23fb_o
  • The Life House

    The School of Life is a global organisation committed to emotional education. Our headquarters are in some of the world’s major urban centres: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Melbourne, Seoul, Istanbul…  But we have always been interested in helping our audiences find some of the peace of mind once offered by isolated rural monasteries. It was with this in mind that we bought a piece of land in a deserted valley in central Wales and, with the help of the BritishIMG-20160409-00139
  • On Taking Drugs

    It’s easy to have a pretty negative view of drugs: the news is always going on about police raids on drug dealers, kids tripping dangerously at raves, overdoses and rehab. It goes without saying: things can go horrifically wrong around drugs. But our intense awareness of the negatives is in danger of creating a misleadingly narrow view of the subject. Drugs are - at best - serious, dignified, noble and important, and we need more of them in ourPicknell_William_Lamb_The_Opium_Den_1881_Oil_on_Canvas-huge
  • Why Philosophy Should Become More Like Pop Music

    When pop music started in a big way in the 1960s, it seemed at times like an especially silly medium, favoured by hormonal school girls and connected up with delinquent and tediously bizarre behaviour.    By contrast, philosophy had a reputation for being deeply serious and impressive - the natural home of the big ambition to understand ourselves and transform the world through ideas. But since the 1960s, philosophy has stalled and pop has
  • The School of Life: What We Believe

      The School of Life is a global organisation with a simple mission in mind: to increase the amount of Emotional Intelligence in circulation. We are seeking more emotionally intelligent kinds of: - Relationships - Work - Leisure - Culture To further our goals, we undertake a number of activities; we run conferences, shops and classrooms worldwide, consult to businesses, write and publish books, make films, sell products and operate
  • Cultural Mining

    Cultural mining describes the process by which the most valuable parts of culture - by which we mean the arts, humanities and philosophy - are recovered and made useful for our own times. In cultural mining, the refined and practical essence of culture is carefully extracted, cleaned, blasted and remoulded - and then used to manufacture the utensils and mental resources that will help us navigate contemporary life; work, relationships, family, self-knowledge and18519962993_612979d290_z
  • Lego – the Movies

    Lego is a surprisingly useful medium for getting big ideas across: 1. Lego 'Philosophy' 2. Finding the 'right' one 3. No one is normal 4. Keeping going 5.  Why we love disaster news 6. Memento mori 5258089883_5b98ce066c_z
  • Introduction to The Curriculum

    This is a section of The Book of Life that gathers together our canon: our selection of the greatest thinkers from the fields of philosophy, political theory, sociology, art, architecture and literature whom we believe have the most to offer to us today. The idea of assembling a ‘canon’ can feel a bit awkward - maybe even oppressive. It can feel unfair to leave out so many people. And anyway, who decides? Surely the people making the canon are bringing some8074294232_a6d8999596_z
  • Andrea Palladio

    In Europe and the US, the average person spends 84% of their life indoors: that is, inside architecture. Much of the rest of the time we are around buildings, even if we’re not paying them a great deal of attention. Despite this massive exposure, on the whole we’re not – as a culture – very ambitious about what buildings look like. We tend to assume that mostly the buildings we live around won’t be anything special and that there’s nothing to be donePalladio_filtered
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    People have always had trouble pronouncing his name. The 19th-century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, was once mocked in Parliament for getting it wrong. If you don’t speak German, it’s not at all obvious how you are supposed to say it. A safe bet is to start with a hard g on ‘Ger…’ and end with a ‘ter’: Ger-ter. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832) has often been seen as one of Europe’s big cultural heroes - comparable to the likesunnamed7
  • Charles Dickens  

    Charles Dickens was the most famous writer in the English language during the nineteenth century and he remains one of the best selling authors of all time. He can seem remote: the frock coat, velvet collar, the fishtail beard, bow tie… But he has a lot to say to us today. And that’s because he had a remarkable ambition: he believed writing could play a big role in fixing the problems of the world. Entertainment Dickens didn’t just write.Dickens_Gurney_head
  • Gustave Flaubert

    Gustave Flaubert was a great French 19th-century (1821-1880) novelist who deserves our love and sympathy; as much for what he wrote as who he was. We can admire him for four reasons at least: HE UNDERSTOOD THE PURPOSE OF TRAGEDY Flaubert produced arguably the single greatest tragic novel ever written: Madame Bovary - which he worked on for five years and published in 1857. The point of a tragedy is to allow us to experience a degree of620px-Flaubert-Giraud
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky

    A good trick, with his name, is to say ‘toy’ in the middle: Dos-toy-ev-ski. He was born 1821 and grew up on the outskirts of Moscow. His family were comfortably off - his father was a successful doctor, though he happened to work at a charitable hospital that provided medical services for the very poor. The family had a house in the hospital complex, so the young Dostoevsky was from the very beginning powerfully exposed to experiences from which otherTrutovsky_004

If you’ve enjoyed reading The Book of Life, please join our mailing list and we’ll keep you in touch about the latest sections of the book and news from our sponsor, The School of Life: