I attended The School of Life Conference in San Francisco this past weekend, a 3-day intensive course covering topics ranging from work, love, family, and emotional intelligence. It was wonderful, but of course, the best part of it all was being able to meet Alain de Botton in person! Wow! It was such a surreal feeling to meet someone whose work I've followed for so long! (Often in the middle of the night, crying, and confused with my direction in life... lol)
During one of our lunch breaks, I found him surrounded by tons of people dying to find answers to their many life questions, but I managed to sneak in a few.
I asked him about the impostor syndrome, and if he ever feels that way about his work. And he said yes, all the time. Which I found quite interesting, after all, he's written several bestselling books and seems to be rather successful (of course, I can only make that assumption from the outside in).
I also asked how he came to create The School Of Life because, in many ways, I'm sort of trying to create something similar with Barely Evolved Apes. He told me he began feeling quite lonely as a writer and constantly working by himself and so he wanted to create a "gang" as he called it so he can work with others as well. Which, once again, certainly rings a bell.
Of course, since he mentioned his loneliness, I asked him how he coped with his loneliness before creating The School Of Life. He told me that he does exactly what I am doing now. Sharing it. Talking about it. Writing about it. He said, to him, everything he writes about is very much his way of coping with the pain and the suffering he's dealt with in his life.
It was rather consoling, to hear that a man, as bright and intelligent as he, can still feel lonely, and also reassuring to see how frank he is about how his work is very much his way of figuring out his emotions.
The biggest takeaway I got from my brief meeting with my favorite author is this: You are not alone. In fact, it's quite normal to feel lost and confused at times. It's also okay to share your struggles with others as this is a great way of further understanding yourself. And in the best cases, you could be helping a whole lot of people without even knowing it.
Having said that. I just want to say thank you, Alain de Botton, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing your life and your work with us. For creating The School Of Life. For coming to San Francisco for your very first conference! And for inspiring me to continue sharing my work with the world as well. This is only the beginning. Thank you so much.
by Jason Lam