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Alain de Botton on A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success (Full Transcript)

So, I’m going to end it there. But what I really want to stress is: by all means, success, yes. But let’s accept the strangeness of some of our ideas. Let’s probe away at our notions of success. Let’s make sure our ideas of success are truly our own. Thank you very much.

Question-and-answer session

Chris Anderson: That was fascinating. But how do you reconcile this idea of it being bad to think of someone as a “loser,” with the idea that a lot of people like, of seizing control of your life, and that a society that encourages that, perhaps has to have some winners and losers?

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Alain De Botton: Yes, I think it’s merely the randomness of the winning and losing process that I want to stress, because the emphasis nowadays is so much on the justice of everything, and politicians always talk about justice. Now I’m a firm believer in justice, I just think that it’s impossible. So we should do everything we can to pursue it, but at the end of the day we should always remember that whoever is facing us, whatever has happened in their lives, there will be a strong element of the haphazard. And it’s that what I’m trying to leave room for; because otherwise, it can get quite claustrophobic.

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Chris Anderson: I mean, do you believe that you can combine your kind of kinder, gentler philosophy of work with a successful economy? Or do you think that you can’t, but it doesn’t matter that much that we’re putting too much emphasis on that?

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Alain De Botton: The nightmare thought is that frightening people is the best way to get work out of them, and that somehow the crueler the environment, the more people will rise to the challenge. You want to think, who would you like as your ideal dad? And your ideal dad is somebody who is tough but gentle. And it’s a very hard line to make. We need fathers, as it were, the exemplary father figures in society, avoiding the two extremes, which is the authoritarian disciplinarian on the one hand, and on the other, the lax, no-rules option.

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Chris Anderson: Alain De Botton.

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Alain De Botton: Thank you very much.

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By Pangambam S

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