Alain de Botton on success and anxiety

Thinking more deeply, or at least differently, about success seems to have become a genre. Malcolm Gladwell has done it, I am doing it right now in the manuscript which I am rewriting, and now Alain de Botton, another young author, is doing it in this TED talk below.

His key points:

  • we live in an age of anxiety.
  • the problem is our egalitarianism. We no longer believe that people who are worse off are “unfortunates” (the old term). Instead, they are now “losers”. It is their fault.
  • So we fear failure more than ever, because it is our fault. This is the flip side of meritocracy, which we consider a good thing, but which is really a tyranny of expectations.
  • The dominant emotion in this age of equality/anxiety is envy. We envy everybody who does better.
  • With it comes fear: the fear of the judgment of others. If we have a boring job, others will look down on us and we will feel bad.

I think he underestimates the anxiety that previous generations had, but he does have a point.

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