I was listening to philosopher and author Alain de Botton on the Tim Ferriss podcast and I am so drawn in to what he was saying. He was talking about democratizing philosophy so that everyone realizes how helpful it is to ask questions about what makes us happy, what we want to do every day, and how love fits into our lives. Philosophy is not just meant for universities and theoretical thinkers. It’s meant for all of us.
Alain said, “When the majority of people have got enough food, have got a secure shelter, but life is still very tough in all sorts of ways. So it’s not the old kind of toughness when it was really about survival. It’s toughness of a different sort. It’s about trying to make sure that your brief time on earth is well-spent, that your talents have been properly explored, that you’re in a satisfying relationship, that you understand yourself, that you have a purpose.”
When asked about his definition of a successful person, Alain talked about someone he knew who was empathetic and strong and peaceful and lived every minute of every day. Someone who embraced others and made everyone feel welcome. Someone who had opinions and was curious. He said we all know people like that. He called them, “An ordinary genius of the business of living.”
There are people with all the money in the world who are devastatingly unhappy. And those who have nothing who never stop smiling.
The idea of being an ordinary genius is so interesting. Someone who is successful in the business of getting through life in the most beautiful way. Someone who lives simply.
Alain said, “We’re not very good at understanding what it is we really want. We’re extremely prone to latch onto suggestions from the outside world.” People think this is the big movement in society so that is what I will study at university. Or this is the vacation people say you should take so I will work long hours to earn the money to go. Or this is the company that is leading the pack so I need to get employment there.
We often don’t realize that we have leaned our ladder up against the wrong wall. We are climbing to a destination that doesn’t suit us. A place where we won’t find happiness.
The most ordinary day could be the one you miss the most if life changes and you can’t have it again. And we are ordinary geniuses if we can recognize those moments as they happen, hold that space, and truly breathe in life and all its glory. Here’s to asking the right questions and embracing the simplest answers.