Self-Help is Not Just for Dummies

My heaven, nirvana, would be if the questions that are raised by Oprah Winfrey would be answered by the faculty of Harvard University.

I’m struck by how in our modern culture, the self-help movement is for stupid people.  That’s what elite culture teaches us.  Elite culture teaches us, if you are a bit dumb, you will need guidance and then you’ll head for a self-help book.  I really protest against that idea that guidance is for people who are stupid.  Guidance is for everyone. We’re all in need of it.  What’s wrong is that, in our society, we’ve got this terrible division between clever people and people who offer guidance.  And clever people are not interested in guidance and the people who do offer guidance often their thinking is not that complex.  


My heaven, nirvana, would be if the questions that are raised by Oprah Winfrey would be answered by the faculty of Harvard University, a union of the best minds with the most practical questions.  I’ve tried to have a go at this with a little institution that I and some friends founded in London a couple of years ago called the School of Life.  It’s deliberately trying to say that life is a business that we need to be schooled in.  The main challenges, ranging from relationships to work to illness to death, these are things that we need help on.

We’re not just going to know how to work that, and culture, the storehouse of creativity of the last 2,000 years of philosophy and art and architecture, the humanities.  There’s an awful lot of wisdom there and you want to access that wisdom for the practical needs of ordinary people.  So it’s a little institution with huge ambitions.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy fo Shutterstock

Related Articles

Found: second draft of Galileo's argument for a heliocentric model

At least he wasn't burned at the stake, right?

The original letter in which Galileo argued against the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church has been rediscovered in London. Image credit: The Royal Society
Surprising Science
  • The letter suggests Galileo censored himself a bit in order to fly more under the radar. It didn't work, though.
  • The Royal Society Journal will publish the variants of the letters shortly, and scholars will begin to analyze the results.
  • The letter was in obscurity for hundreds of years in Royal Society Library in London.
Keep reading Show less

Why the world needs death to prosper

Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.

Surprising Science
  • Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
  • After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
  • Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
Keep reading Show less

Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

E. Fleischer
Surprising Science
  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Keep reading Show less