The School of Life Book Summary - The School of Life Book explained in key points
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The School of Life summary

An Emotional Education

4.6 (506 ratings)
29 mins

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The School of Life by Alain de Botton and The School of Life is a guide to a more fulfilled life. It explores the philosophical teachings of history's greatest thinkers and offers practical advice for applying their wisdom to our modern-day problems.

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    The School of Life
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    Our current emotional patterns stem from childhood experiences.

    We spend every day inside our minds. Despite this, we’re woefully self-ignorant. How many times have we felt irritable, guilty, or furious without being able to pinpoint the root cause? We compulsively destroy salvageable relationships, but we can’t explain why. And many of us choose a profession without knowing if we’re truly suited for it. 

    Our minds are constantly forgetting things, obsessing, and otherwise deceiving us. We feel as if we’re reacting to each situation in isolation, as it unfolds. But in fact, our reactions to the present are heavily influenced by the past –⁠ especially by our childhoods.

    The key message here is: Our current emotional patterns stem from childhood experiences.

    One of the most well-known psychological examinations is called the Rorschach test. This is the famous test that asks us to look at an inkblot and describe the first thing we see. 

    Rorschach’s images don’t actually depict anything specific. Instead, what we see in them is highly connected to emotions and experiences from childhood. A woman raised in a kind, forgiving environment might see a particular inkblot as an animal with floppy ears. But a man raised by a domineering parent might see the same image as a giant, powerful figure poised to attack.

    Our childhoods have an indelible influence on our current emotions. Even if we’re raised in a caring environment, our intense vulnerabilities as children subject us to psychological injuries that stay with us in adulthood. 

    That’s not surprising, considering just how long humans spend in childhood. A foal stands up unaided 30 minutes after being born, but the average person will have depended on their parents for 25,000 hours by the age of 18. It takes a long time before we can cross the street, put on a coat, or write our names on our own. 

    Not only are we physically limited as children, but we’re emotionally underdeveloped. We rarely understand the origins of our own sadness or anger –⁠ let alone other people’s emotions. So, if we hear our parents screaming in the kitchen, we assume they despise each other. We don’t understand that arguments can be part of a healthy relationship.

    Similarly, we’re deeply influenced by our parents’ attitudes growing up. A dismissive parenting style may lead to emotional avoidance. A constantly busy parent may inspire attention-seeking behavior.

    As adults, these seem like minor starting points. But from these rudimentary experiences stem major consequences.

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    What is The School of Life about?

    The School of Life (2019) provides a set of philosophical, yet practical, lessons on emotional intelligence, compiled from the real-life institution of the same name. Offering insights on relationships, work, and life itself, it gives us the wisdom we need to understand ourselves and others just a little bit better.

    The School of Life Review

    The School of Life by Alain de Botton and The School of Life (2019) is a thought-provoking book that explores various aspects of life and offers valuable insights for personal growth. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • It delves deeply into topics that matter such as relationships, work, and self-awareness, providing practical advice for navigating these areas.
    • With its persuasive arguments backed by philosophy and psychology, the book challenges conventional wisdom and encourages readers to question their assumptions about life.
    • The book's approachable and engaging approach to complex subjects ensures that readers won't find it boring, as it effortlessly combines intellectual rigor with readability.

    Best quote from The School of Life

    We interpret what is happening in the here and now [. . .] through expectations fostered in long years whose real nature we have forgotten.

    —Alain de Botton and The School of Life
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    Who should read The School of Life?

    • Folks who’ve been struggling in life
    • People dealing with family or relationship issues
    • Anyone seeking emotional guidance

    About the Author

    Alain de Botton is a philosopher and author whose works seek to guide people through the trials and tribulations of life in the modern age. In 2008, he and a group of fellow writers and thinkers founded the School of Life, an organization that offers books, programs, and other services with advice on life issues. De Botton has written a number of best-selling titles, including Essays in Love, Status Anxiety, and The Architecture of Happiness.

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    The School of Life FAQs 

    What is the main message of The School of Life?

    The main message of The School of Life is to help us navigate the complexities of modern life and find meaning and fulfillment.

    How long does it take to read The School of Life?

    The reading time for The School of Life varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The School of Life a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The School of Life is worth reading as it offers practical insights and tools to improve our emotional intelligence and relationships, making it valuable in navigating the complexities of life.

    Who is the author of The School of Life?

    The author of The School of Life is Alain de Botton.

    What to read after The School of Life?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The School of Life, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
    • Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
    • Great Thinkers by The School of Life
    • The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
    • The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton
    • No Hard Feelings by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
    • Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
    • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
    • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
    • Discipline Is Destiny by Ryan Holiday