Loser Talk

There are plenty of great TED talks out there, but for some reason Alain de Botton’s A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success in particular has attained the status of sacred text for me.

Yes, it could be more focused, and yes, he’s probably talking a bit too fast. Plus, I’m not sure I completely buy into his baseline melancholy-but-breezy version of Humanism. But I do love the way his mind works, and the questions of identity and significance that are the starting points for his thoughts on our feelings about success.

Of course I love muchly de Botton’s strong visual anchors — that first image of quietly “crying into my pillow” on Sunday evening, or the weird queen with a big house, or the emotionally vulnerable Ferrari Driver.

But under those images and near the center of this three-ring circus of word-play and introspection is a modest message of hope for those of us allergic to boilerplate ideas of success — you are the only one who can make a real definition of “success” for yourself. Ja, it’s pretty obvious, but its one of those things I keep forgetting. He ends by talking a bit about about the forces that want to define success for all of us, and finally says: “…its bad enough not getting what you want, but its even worse to have an idea of what you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t in fact what you wanted all along.”

I’m not sure there’s enough direction or comfort here to get me back on Facebook, though.


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