What kinds of life experiences open us up to empathy? One of my own, which in part inspired me to write my new book, Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution, took place when I had a horrible job working in telesales in Sydney after I left university. Here’s what I learned…
Something like this has probably happened to you. It is a quarter to seven on a Tuesday evening. You are cooking dinner and, at the same time, trying to get your overtired five-year-old to put on her pyjamas. The phone rings. It could be your mother. But in all probability it is somebody trying to sell you something. You pick up the phone. ‘Hello, is that ____ ?’ Your name is mispronounced. You were right. Telesales. You interrupt their pitch, telling them you’re not interested before you even know what they’re calling about. They ask for just a few minutes of your time. You respond, impatiently, that you’re busy cooking and that you’re not interested. And the moment they start replying, you hang up.Continue reading →
Tolstoy was more than just a great novelist with one of the best beards of the nineteenth century. He was also a radical social and political thinker who was constantly grappling with the problem of how to live. I’ve just written an article about his approach to the art of living called Six Life Lessons from Leo Tolstoy, which you can find over at Powells Books Blog.
It’s launch day for my new book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life, which has just been released in the US. Previously published in the UK under the title The Wonderbox (sorry, a bit confusing, I know), it’s about what history can teach us about the art of living. What might we learn from the Ancient Greeks about the different varieties of love, from the Renaissance about creativity and death, or from the industrial revolution about rethinking our attitudes to work, money and family life?
But rather than tell you all about the book myself, there’s a fascinating review and discussion of it by the brilliant Maria Popova from Brain Pickings, which came out today. She describes it (most flatteringly) as ‘an illuminating and awakening read in its entirety’. Check out her full article, which focuses on the topics of love, time and empathy.
INFP? ISTJ? You’ve probably taken a personality test at some point. But here’s the bad news: even the most popular tests, such as Myers-Briggs (MBTI), are not to be trusted. Retake a Myers-Briggs test after just a five week gap and there is a 50% chance you’ll be put into a different personality category. In this article at Fortune Magazine, I reveal the shocking truth about personality tests.
Here’s an article I just wrote for the Wall Street Journal on the dilemmas of balancing work and family life. Is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author of Leaning In, right to think that women can ‘have it all’ if only they really believe in themselves? My approach is not to answer the question ‘Is it possible to have it all?’ but to put it under the microscope and rethink it. (And this is an issue for men too…)
To celebrate the launch of the US edition of my book How to Find Fulfilling Work, I’ve written a short essay that draws out what I think are the most important, useful and hopefully inspiring ideas within its pages. It’s called Six Ways to Stop Worrying and Find Work You Love, and is published by the good folk at YES! Magazine. Please share it around with the dissatisfied workers of the world.
There is also an excellent overview of the book at Brain Picker, the brainchild of the remarkable curator of interestingness Maria Popova.
How to Find Fulfilling Work is dedicated to the late and great oral historian Studs Terkel. Here is my tribute to him, and his extraordinary 1974 book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.
There’s a fascinating new BBC Radio 4 series called The Human Zoo, looking at the ins and outs of who we really are – are we led by the head or the heart? what are the quirks and qualities that drive human behaviour? Episode 4 focuses on why human beings find it so difficult to admit when they are wrong, especially when they are part of groups. I’ve contributed some thoughts to the programme on The Tyranny of Group-Don’t-Think, which you’ll find in written form below… Continue reading →
In the eighteenth century, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau warned against ‘the universal desire for reputation’. And yet so often we seek to be admired by others, pursuing careers and lifestyles that offer the lures of social status. In this article in Psychology Today magazine, I put the idea of status under the spotlight, and ask whether we should really put so much effort into caring about it.
Finding fulfilling work isn’t always about making a drastic career change. In this article for the Wall Street Journal, I suggest five ways to make your existing job more meaningful and stimulating – with a little help from John Maynard Keynes, E. F. Schumacher and Brené Brown.
Yahoo’s new boss, Marissa Mayer, has just issued an edict banning her employees from working at home. In this article in today’s Guardian, I give my response, suggesting five ways to become an expert homeworker (and keep bosses like Mayer happy as well).