Inside your head is a 1.5-kilogram object, which, as far as we know, is the most complex entity in the known universe. Your brain is a collection of 100 billion nerve cells, intricately wired together with over a million billion connections; creating a system more complex than anything mankind has ever made.
The gestalt nature of our brain is therefore clear. Here is a system capable of delivering the functional aspects of mind, but also attributed to being the centre of consciousness itself. Without the ability to learn however, the system would be useless. From before we are born till the moment we die, our mind is engaged in the process of learning, forming associations that modern science still cannot understand, which allow us to make meaningful perceptions of our place in the world, the contents of that world, and the relevance of our existence within it.
The philosopher Nicola Abbagnano identified that, “…the fundamental revealing fact of the nature of existence is that man should be compelled to ask himself what he is and what he should be (what beingness is). This fact excludes the possibility that existence should be beingness and implies on the contrary that it is a research of beingness. It excludes also the possibility that man should be infinite and shows that man is finite…. Man is finite, not because he excludes other things from himself, things which he may know and understand beyond any fixed limit; he is finite in the sense that his very beingness escapes him and therefore he must strive to attain it with his research. With his thought, man may embrace the entire world and for this reason he does not live in that corporal exteriority in which things exclude each other mutually. But even when his thought extends to the extreme limits of the universe, the question about what he is and what he should be still presents itself to him with the same urgency, and still implies on his part the necessity of a decision and a choice.” (Outline of a Philosophy of Existence, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 Dec, 1948).
The underlying assertion that Abbagnano makes is that whatever learning we undertake, ultimately tends towards answering those great questions of our existence; and for that reason, we must consider the story of learning and the story of ourselves within the same discourse.
In these exclusive interviews we speak to Sir Antony Gormley (One of the world’s most influential sculptors), Bear Grylls (Adventurer, TV Host & Author), Marina Abramović (internationally acclaimed performance artist), Sir Ken Robinson (the world’s foremost expert on creativity, innovation and human resources in education and business), Sadhguru (visionary, yogi & mystic), Sir Anish Kapoor (Internationally renowned artist and sculptor) and Captain Alan Bean (NASA astronaut and artist, fourth person to walk on the Moon), Dan Pink (bestselling author and expert on human behaviour), Susan Cain (Author, Chief Revolutionary and Co-Founder of Quiet Revolution), Dr. Eric Thomas (World Renowned Author, Speaker, Educator and Pastor) and Robin Sharma (Leadership Expert, Author & Speaker). We discuss the essence of our life long journey of understanding our purpose, and who we are.
Antony Gormley is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space.
His work has developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos. Gormley continually tries to identify the space of art as a place of becoming in which new behaviours, thoughts and feelings can arise.
Gormley’s work has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and internationally with exhibitions at Forte di Belvedere, Florence (2015); Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern (2014); Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia (2012); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2012); The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (2011); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2010); Hayward Gallery, London (2007); Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (1993)
and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (1989). He has also participated in major group shows such as the Venice Biennale (1982 and 1986) and Documenta 8, Kassel, Germany (1987). Permanent public works include the ANGEL OF THE NORTH (Gateshead, England), ANOTHER PLACE (Crosby Beach, England), INSIDE AUSTRALIA (Lake Ballard, Western Australia) and EXPOSURE (Lelystad, The Netherlands) and CHORD (MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA).
Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999, the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture in 2007, the Obayashi Prize in 2012 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2013. In 1997 he was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and was made a knight in the New Year’s Honours list in 2014. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an Honorary Doctor of the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity and Jesus Colleges, Cambridge. Gormley has been a Royal Academician since 2003.
Bear Grylls has become known around the world as one of the most recognised faces of survival and outdoor adventure. His journey to this acclaim started in the UK, where his late father taught him to climb and adventure.
Trained from a young age in martial arts, Bear went on to spend three years as a soldier in the British Special Forces, serving with 21 SAS. It was here that he perfected many of the skills that his fans all over the world enjoy watching him pit against mother-nature.
His TV Emmy nominated show Man Vs Wild / Born Survivor became one of the most watched programmes on the planet with an estimated audience of 1.2 billion. He then progressed to US Network TV, hosting the hit adventure show ‘Running Wild’ on NBC, where he takes some of the world’s best known movie stars on incredible adventures, including the likes of President Barack Obama, Ben Stiller, & Kate Winslet, Zac Efron and Channing Tatum.
Bear co-owns and hosts the BAFTA award winning ‘The Island with Bear Grylls’ on Channel 4, which has sold as a format all around the world. In addition Bear co-owns and hosts ITV & CITV’s ‘Bear Grylls Survival School’ as well as Survivor Games and Absolute Wild for Chinese TV.
Bear is currently the youngest ever Chief Scout to the UK Scout Association and is an honorary Colonel to the Royal Marines Commandos.
He has authored 20 books, including the number one Bestselling autobiography: Mud, Sweat & Tears.
This year Bear brought his adventure to our doorsteps with his first ever UK live arena spectacular, Endeavour, which saw Bear recreate some of the greatest moments of human exploration ever.
Marina Abramović was born in 1946 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Since the beginning of her career in the early 1970s when she attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, Abramović has pioneered the use of performance as a visual art form. The body has been both her subject and medium. Exploring the physical and mental limits of her being, she has withstood pain, exhaustion and danger in the quest for emotional and spiritual transformation. As a vital member of the generation of pioneering performance artists that includes Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci and Chris Burden, Abramović created some of the most historic early performance pieces and continues to make important durational works.
Abramović has presented her work with performances, sound, photography, video and sculpture in solo exhibitions at major institutions in the U.S. and Europe. Her work has also been included in many large-scale international exhibitions including the Venice Biennale (1976 and 1997) and Documenta VI, VII and IX, Kassel, Germany (1977, 1982 and 1992). In 1998, the exhibition Artist Body – Public Body toured extensively, including stops at Kunstmuseum and Grosse Halle, Bern, Switzerland and La Gallera, Valencia, Spain. In 2004, Abramović also exhibited at the Whitney Biennial in New York and had a significant solo show, The Star, at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan and the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, Japan.
Abramović has taught and lectured extensively in Europe and America. In 1994, she became Professor for Performance Art at the Hochschule für Bildende Künst in Braunschweig, where she taught for seven years. In 2004, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Art Institute in Chicago, The University of Plymouth and Willams College.
She was awarded the Golden Lion for Best Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale for her extraordinary video installation/performance piece Balkan Baroque and, in 2003, received the New Media Bessie award for The House with the Ocean View‚ a 12-day performance at Sean Kelly Gallery.
In 2005, Abramović presented Balkan Erotic Epic at the Pirelli Foundation in Milan, Italy and at Sean Kelly in New York. That same year, she held a series of performances entitled Seven Easy Pieces at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. She was honored for Seven Easy Pieces by the Guggenheim at their International Gala in 2006 and by the AICA-USA, which awarded her the Best Exhibition of Time Based Art designation in 2007.
She was the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Artist is Present, in 2010; the following year, the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, Russia also presented a major retrospective of Abramović’s oeuvre. Abramović’s work is included in numerous major public and private collections worldwide.
In 2011, Abramović participated in visionary director Robert Wilson’s, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, the critically acclaimed re-imagination of Abramović’s biography, which continues to tour internationally. The feature length documentary, Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present, premiered in January 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival and has since received widespread critical acclaim.
Abramović is currently developing the Marina Abramović Institute (MAI) in Hudson, New York, an interdisciplinary performance and education center dedicated to the presentation and preservation of long durational work and the fostering of collaborations between art, science, technology and spirituality. Special thanks to Giuliano Argenziano, Allison Brainard and Sidney Russell at ABRAMOVIC LLC
Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and in business. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers on these topics, with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been viewed more than 25 million times and seen by an estimated 250 million people in over 150 countries. His 2006 talk is the most viewed in TED’s history. In 2011 he was listed as “one of the world’s elite thinkers on creativity and innovation” by Fast Company magazine, and was ranked among the Thinkers50 list of the world’s top business thought leaders.
Sir Ken works with governments and educations systems in Europe, Asia and the USA, with international agencies, Fortune 500 companies and some of the world’s leading cultural organizations. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (The Robinson Report) was published to wide acclaim in 1999. He was the central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, working with the ministers for training, education enterprise and culture.
The resulting blueprint for change, Unlocking Creativity, was adopted by politicians of all parties and by business, education and cultural leaders across the Province. He was one of four international advisors to the Singapore Government for its strategy to become the creative hub of South East Asia.
For twelve years, he was professor of education at the University of Warwick in the UK and is now professor emeritus. He has received honorary degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design, the Open University and the Central School of Speech and Drama; Birmingham City University, the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and Oklahoma State University. He was been honored with the Athena Award of the Rhode Island School of Design for services to the arts and education; the Peabody Medal for contributions to the arts and culture in the United States, the Arthur C. Clarke Imagination Award, the Gordon Parks Award for achievements in education and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding contributions to cultural relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2005, he was named as one of Time/Fortune/CNN’s ‘Principal Voices’. In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts.
His 2009 book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything is a New York Times best seller and has been translated into twenty-one languages. A 10th anniversary edition of his classic work on creativity and innovation, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative was published in 2011. His latest book, Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life, will be published by Viking in May 2013. Sir Ken was born in Liverpool, UK. He is married to Therese (Lady) Robinson. They have two children, James and Kate, and now live in Los Angeles, California.
Yogi, mystic, and visionary, Sadhguru is a spiritual master with a difference. An arresting blend of profundity and pragmatism, his life and work serve as a reminder that yoga is not an esoteric discipline from an outdated past, but a contemporary science, vitally relevant to our times. Probing, passionate and provocative, insightful, logical and unfailingly witty, Sadhguru’s talks have earned him the reputation of a speaker and opinion-maker of international renown.
With speaking engagements that take him around the world, he is widely sought after by prestigious global forums to address issues as diverse as human rights, business values, and social, environmental and existential issues. He has been a delegate to the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit, a member of the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders and Alliance for New Humanity, a special invitee to the Australian Leadership Retreat, Tallberg Forum, Indian Economic Summit 2005- 2008, as well as a regular speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, TED, YPO, WPO, TieCON, India Today Conclave and many more. With a celebratory engagement with life on all levels, Sadhguru’s areas of active involvement encompass fields as diverse as architecture and visual design, poetry and painting, ecology and horticulture, sports and music. He is the author and designer of several unique buildings and consecrated spaces at the Isha Yoga Center, which have wide attention for their combination of intense sacred power with strikingly innovative eco-friendly aesthetics.
Listeners have been ubiquitously impressed by his astute and incisive grasp of current issues and world affairs, as well as his unerringly scientific approach to the question of human wellbeing. Sadhguru is also the founder of Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the wellbeing of the individual and the world for the past three decades. Isha Foundation does not promote any particular ideology, religion, or race, but transmits inner sciences of universal appeal.
Anish Kapoor is one of the most important contemporary artists working today. Born in 1954 in Bombay, he has lived in London since the early 1970s. Over the past thirty years he has exhibited extensively with solo shows at venues including: Kunsthalle Basel; Tate; Hayward Gallery; Reina Sofia, Madrid; CAPC in Bordeaux; Haus der Kunst, Munich; MAK, Vienna and Deutsche Guggenheim. In 2009 he was the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. 2010 saw the opening of his first solo exhibition in India at NGMA, Delhi and Mehboob Studios, Mumbai, and an exhibition of large–scale stainless steel works in Kensington Gardens, London. Since 2011 he has had a solo touring exhibition with the Arts Council, part of their Flashback series. Other international solo shows have included: Pinchuck Art Centre, Kiev; De Pont Museum, Tilburg; MCA, Sydney; Leeum; Samsung Museum or Art, Seoul; Martin–Gropius–Bau, Berlin and Sabanci Museum in Istanbul. In 2015 Kapoor exhibits throughout the gardens and in the Jeu de Paume of the Château de Versailles. He has participated in many group shows internationally including those at Whitechapel Art Gallery, Serpentine Gallery in London, Documenta IX in Kassel, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and Jeu de Paume and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He represented Britain at the Paris Biennale in 1982 and at the Venice Biennale in 1990, where he was awarded the ‘Premio Duemila’. In 2009 he acted as Guest Artistic Director of the Brighton Festival, U.K. He won the Turner Prize in 1991 and received the prestigious Unilever Commission for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in 2002. In 2006 he was commissioned by the Public Arts Fund to create a work to be exhibited outside the Rockefeller Centre, New York. In 2011 Kapoor was selected to exhibit for Monumenta, at the Grand Palais, organised by the French Ministry for Culture and Communication and in 2013 Ark Nova the world’s first inflatable concert hall was launched for the Lucerne Festival in Matsushima, Japan.
Major permanent commissions include Cloud Gate (2004) for the Millennium Park in Chicago, Dismemberment Site I (2003-2009) for the sculpture park The Farm, Kaipara Bay, New Zealand and Temenos (2010) in Middlesbrough, the first of a series of large scale works for Tees Valley, U.K. In 2012 Orbit, a tower commissioned for the London Olympic Park was completed.
Anish Kapoor was awarded Honorary Fellowships by the London Institute and Leeds University (1997), University of Wolverhampton (1999), the Royal Institute of British Architects (2001) and University of Oxford in 2014. He was elected Royal Academician in 1999 and in 2003 was awarded a CBE. In 2011 he was awarded the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and the Premium Imperiale. In 2012 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in Summer 2013. Anish Kapoor is represented by the Lisson Gallery, London; Gladstone Gallery, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Kukje Gallery, Seoul, SCAI the Bathhouse, Tokyo; Galleria Continua and Galleria Massimo Minini, Italy and Kamel Mennour, Paris.
As the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 12, Alan Bean was the fourth man to set foot on the moon. He explored the beautifully desolate landscape of the Ocean of Storms and later, as commander of Skylab Mission II, Alan spent 59 days in orbit around our fragile, blue-and-white Earth.
Alan had been painting earthbound subjects for many years by the time he began training to pilot the space shuttle, but his fellow astronauts convinced him to paint his experiences on the moon.
Because of this unprecedented opportunity and challenge, Alan resigned from NASA in 1981 to devote all of his time and energy to painting.
Over the years, Alan’s art has evolved into a mixture of painting and sculpture, textured with lunar tools, sprinkled with bits of Apollo spacecraft and a touch of moon dust. You can see many of Alan Bean’s paintings on this site and read more about the space-age techniques and materials used in his work.
Daniel H. Pink is the author of several provocative, bestselling books about business, work, and behavior.
His latest is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, which uses social science, survey research, and rich stories to offer a fresh look at the art and science of sales. To Sell is Human is a #1 bestseller on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post lists and is being translated into 27 languages. More than a dozen outlets, from Amazon.com to The Washington Post, selected it as one of the best books of the year. It also won the American Marketing Association’s Berry Book Prize as the year’s best book on marketing.
In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink uses 50 years of behavioral science to overturn the conventional wisdom about human motivation and offer a more effective path to high performance. Along with being a Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Publishers Weekly bestseller, Drive spent 159 weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists. A national bestseller in Japan and the United Kingdom, the book has been translated into 33 languages.
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future charts the rise of right-brain thinking in modern economies and describes the six abilities individuals and organizations must master in an outsourced, automated age. A Whole New Mind was on the New York Times bestseller list for 96 weeks over four years. It has been a Freshman Read at several U.S. colleges and universities and has been translated into 24 languages.
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need is the first American business book in the Japanese comic format known as manga and the only graphic novel ever to become a BusinessWeek bestseller. Illustrated by award-winning artist Rob Ten Pas, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko has been translated into 14 languages.
Dan’s first book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself, was a Washington Post bestseller that Publishers Weekly says “has become a cornerstone of employee-management relations.”
His articles on business and technology appear in many publications, including the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Wired, and The Sunday Telegraph. (See a sample of articles here) Dan has provided analysis of business trends on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NPR, and other networks in the U.S. and abroad. And he lectures to corporations, associations, and universities around the world on economic transformation and the new workplace.
He is also host and co-executive producer of “Crowd Control,” a television series about human behavior on the National Geographic Channel.
In 2015, London-based Thinkers 50 named him, alongside Michael Porter and Clayton Christensen, as one of the top 10 business thinkers in the world.
Dan’s TED Talk on the science of motivation is one of the 10 most-watched TED Talks of all time, with more than 19 million views. His RSA Animate video about the ideas in his book, Drive, has collected more than 14 million views.
Before venturing out on his own 18 years ago, Dan worked in several positions in politics and government, including serving from 1995 to 1997 as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore.
He received a BA from Northwestern University, where he was a Truman Scholar and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a JD from Yale Law School. He has also received honorary degrees from Georgetown University, the Pratt Institute, the Ringling College of Art and Design, and Westfield State University.
Susan Cain is the co-founder of Quiet Revolution and the author of the bestsellers Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking, which has been translated into 40 languages, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over four years, and was named the #1 best book of the year by Fast Company magazine, which also named Cain one of its Most Creative People in Business. Cain is also the co-founder of the Quiet Schools Network and the Quiet Leadership Institute. Her writing has appeared in the The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Her record-smashing TED talk has been viewed over 14 million times and was named by Bill Gates one of his all-time favorite talks. Cain has also spoken at Microsoft, Google, the U.S. Treasury, the S.E.C., Harvard, Yale, West Point and the US Naval Academy. She received Harvard Law School’s Celebration Award for Thought Leadership, the Toastmasters International Golden Gavel Award for Communication and Leadership, and was named one of the world’s top 50 Leadership and Management Experts by Inc. Magazine. She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons. Visit Cain and the Quiet Revolution at www.quietrev.com.
Eric Thomas, PhD is a critically acclaimed author, World renowned speaker, educator, pastor and audible.com Audie Awards Finalist. ET, as he is better known, has taken the world by storm, with his creative style and high-energy messages. His words continue to impact tens of millions of people in several hundred countries across the planet! Through a significant social media presence and his recent domestic and international tours, “ET, The Hip Hop Preacher” has become a global phenomenon!
Drawing from his own personal experiences as they relate to homelessness, the absence of his biological father, scholastic struggles, and various other obstacles, ET allows his life to be an “open book” from which radiates dynamic and inspiring messages that relate to many people across all strata.
While the typical undergraduate student takes between four to six years to complete their studies, ET took 12. For most, that would have signalled the end of any future academic aspirations. For ET, it was a springboard from which his academic success would be launched! In 2005, ET completed and received a Master’s Degree from Michigan State University and on February 5th of 2015, Eric successfully defended his dissertation and will receive his PhD in Education Administration on May 8th, 2015, from Michigan State University.
Eric’s commitment to community activism has been long standing. It began with his award-nominated GED Program that lead to his non-profit, Break The Cycle, I Dare you, and a plethora of ministerial and educational endeavours. The culmination of those efforts resulted in the development of the Advantage program at Michigan State University. This program targets high risk college students by improving their study habits and increasing their retention rates. Michigan Sate University is where he continued to pursue his passion to remedy the effects of adverse societal influences plaguing both the young and old. It is from this platform that he created International Urban Education Consultants; a non-profit organization committed to finding solutions to close the achievement gap in urban schools through goal framing and helping students to reform their perception of learning.
ET is the epitome of hustle, drive, determination, and success. Millions of followers have been able to apply the principles revealed in his award nominated autobiography, The Secret to Success, which has scaled the social media charts with over 50 million hits. His sophomore release, Greatness Is Upon You, features 24 life changing fundamental precepts and is meeting with equal success. Both titles are available through Eric Thomas and Associates Publications and can be purchased online at etinspires.com.
As CEO of his Consulting Firm, ETA LLC., Eric has led his team through the doors of dozens of reputable organizations and Fortune 500 companies such as General Electric, Quicken Loans, AT&T, Nike, Under Armour, New Balance and UPS. He has also consulted for major Universities and the major sports teams within the MLB, NBA, NFL and MLS.
Eric’s spiritual walk, tenacity and drive are the perfect example of his quote, “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you‘ll be successful.” At a recent business meeting, Eric had the opportunity to learn more ‘Secrets of Success’ from Mr. Warren Buffett. This invitation-only event, broadened his mind and further strengthened his resolve to empower others in their pursuit of greatness.
Robin Sharma is one of the world’s premier speakers on Leadership and Personal Mastery. As a presenter, Sharma has the rare ability to electrify an audience yet deliver uncommonly original and useful insights that lead to individuals doing their best work, teams providing superb results and organizations becoming unbeatable.
For nearly 20 years, many of the most well-known organizations on the planet, ranging from Nike, GE, Microsoft, FedEx, PwC, HP and Oracle to NASA, Yale University and YPO have chosen Robin Sharma for their most important events, when nothing less than a world-class speaker will do.
Sharma’s books such as The Leader Who Had No Title have topped bestseller lists internationally and his social media posts reach over six hundred million people a year, making him a true global phenomenon for helping people do brilliant work, thrive amid change and realize their highest leadership capacities within the organization so that personal responsibility, productivity, ingenuity and mastery soars.
Sharma has been ranked as one of the Top 5 Leadership Gurus in the World in an independent survey of over 22,000 businesspeople and appears on platforms with other luminaries such as Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, Jack Welch and Shaquille O’Neill.
Q: Why do we need a why?
[Eric Thomas] I speak often about being average, good and phenomenal. You are limited in terms of the level you’re able to operate on when your primary focus is self.
There have been stories about mothers who have been able to fight dogs or other prey off their infants, and if you asked those same mothers if they’d been able to do that a day or two before the event? I’m not 100 percent sure they would have been able to muster up that strength. When they had to saved their loved one? They were able to do it.
When you have a why, it gives you a focus. It gives you the opportunity to operate and tap into your strength, creativity and muscle in a way you’re not able to if your focus is just on yourself.
[Bear Grylls] I always try to follow the 5 F’s that over time I have figured out as being good guides to living a fulfilling life: Family, friends, fun, faith and following your dreams.
Q: What is the role of adventure in your life?
[Bear Grylls] I grew up on the Isle of Wight and have such strong memories of learning to climb on the sea cliffs and tinkering on boats with my father. To me, these were the stepping stones to my love for adventure, which has since taken me to so many of the extremes on this incredible planet of ours. My dad was a former Commando and climber who taught me to survive and climb from a very young age but he also taught me that it was ok to have big dreams. As a child my bedroom was covered in posters of Mount Everest, and one day I vowed to attempt to climb the mountain. It was an ambition my father and I nurtured together. Those early days of adventure were as much about being close to him as anything else, but it gave me skills that have lasted a lifetime. That was the beginning of it all for me…
Adventure now for me is all about seeing how the wild can build character in people – it can give them a pride and confidence that possessions or money can’t. I love that. It is natural. But it also demands courage and persistence and resilience in return. Thats the pain but also the magic. And I have seen the wild inspire and change people so much, from kids from tough inner city areas to the President of the United States and many Hollywood movie stars in between.
Q: How do you know when you need a change in your life?
[Robin Sharma] As leaders and human beings we are all built for change. We are more alive and energized when we are pushing our limits and growing towards our highest creative, productive and personal potential.
The battle we all face is that when we grow and progress and rise, our fears emerge. The neurobiology of this is our limbic system (the primitive brain). So we need to practice becoming fearless. The more we move towards the jagged edges of our greatest limits, the more they expand. And the braver and better we become.
My answer is really: we always need to be changing. To do otherwise is to die while still alive.
Q: What is the role of the ‘self’ in society?
[Sadhguru] Most human beings form relationships to fulfil different needs within themselves. These needs may be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or social and people maintain a variety of relationships for the variety of needs they may have within themselves.
If you form relationships to fulfil your needs, when the need is fulfilled, the relationship cannot have the same significance as it had from day one.
There can be – and many people do have – relationships where they aren’t seeking something from each other\. Rather it’s an opportunity to express joy or the deeper dimensions of who you are.
If your life is an expression of your joy, not a pursuit of your happiness, your relationships will be completely different in nature. Right now when you say, ‘I can’t live without you’ it’s supposed to be the greatest statement you can make to another person; but in reality, you’re saying that you’re limping, and you cannot walk without a crutch!
If you are a complete human being by yourself, and don’t need or expect anything of anyone, your relationships can become beautiful. Creation has made you into a complete piece of life, you are not half a life where you need to complete yourself with another part from somewhere else.
If relationships were about sharing the beauty of who you are, rather than squeezing the joy out of other people, we would live in a very different world.
Q: What is the relationship of our body to our environment?
[Marina Abramovic] We treat our body like a rubbish-can, and it’s become worse and worse… I always ask myself the same question; why do we like junk food more than good food? why do we not like to exercise and instead sit in front of the television? why are we not good to ourselves? It’s like we try to make the wrong choices!. If we treat our body in the right way, our consciousness will change.
Q: What is the role of the human being within art? Is art independent of human appreciation?
[Antony Gormley] The meaning of art – its intrinsic value – is only released when it is shared. In this post-Duchampian age, when it is understood that the viewer does half the work, the object-nature of art is far less important than its participatory nature. Art cannot be separated from the life that inspires it. The first form of art is dance. Painting on the body probably pre-dated cave painting.
Individualism and a liberal economy equates freedom with consumption. But real wealth comes from being a producer of and recipient of collective culture, and art is its engine.
Q: What is the relationship of humans to their spaces?
[Anish Kapoor] Space is very odd, it is a weird concept. We know from Einstein that space is multifarious, linking to many things such as gravity, time and so on.
The space we carry inside ourselves is bigger than us, and that is truly fascinating. Just close your eyes and be in darkness. The space you create is immense.
Space isn’t just real, it is also a fiction held collectively by us within our cultural and psychological reality. The idea of of space changes between culture and time.
To interfere with space is one of the roles of art. It questions this space we all occupy, not just with our bodies but with our souls and inner-beings. Art interferes with our space, and leaves us with often unanswerable questions, ‘how can this be?’ ‘can it be?’ ‘why should it be?’ ‘is this beautiful?’
We partake in Beauty by letting art in, the denial of beauty is the refusal of entry. What are you letting in? Space? Poetry?
[Antony Gormley] Our bodily relation to containing space is in constant evolution. Our original place is under the dome of the sky. In indigenous cultures, where there are no permanent enclosures, consciousness is open to space and light. Formal architecture evolved as hominids established more permanent settlements and moved north towards cooler, more temperate climates. In the first cities, like Ur, it was not the need for bodily warmth but bodily closeness that drove the desire for the second body: the body of architecture.
The relationship with our immediate habitat is a complex extension of the human need to make and organise, as well as influenced by the power of economics and the affordance of technology. Indigenous architecture uses organic materials and we use mass-produced processed units of both sheet and beam materials with defined properties and reproducible dimensions, allowing repetition. Original architecture was a dialogue between a locus and a habitus producing a habitat. With advances in stacking techniques and more mechanical construction, architecture has become an agent of alienation. Early systems of proportion used body measurement to decide door and window sizes: these factors have been virtually lost in the use of an objective metric. There are residues in the tatami measure of Japan and the imperial system still used in America that share an affection for and continuance of wood frame construction, but since the turn of the twentieth century, the metric grid is the primary determiner of our habitat.
There have been few exceptions: Zaha Hadid’s attempts to evolve the implications of the “Endless House” of Frederick Kiesler and bring a new, so-called ‘parametric’ to work against the determination of grid construction is still in its infancy. How this will evolve remains to be seen. Our imaginations, our attitudes to our bodies and the way we move in space itself, are all fundamentally affected by the degree to which the right angle has determined our environment. The attempts of Pod architects taking on the experiments of Buckminster Fuller and the anti-metric architecture of Frank Gehry, that avoid inevitable structural impositions of grid construction, are still underdeveloped, and often look clumsy and theatrical. It’s interesting that Le Corbusier’s most revered work, the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, looks towards (and refers back to) an idiom for architecture that does not require the grid. The possibilities of the Hakka circular architecture of southern China, the Brochs of bronze age Scotland, the Gur of Mongolia and the Volloi tombs of the ancient world all seem to suggest that there are architectures that do not require the determination of the grid, allowing a more fluid relationship with space. When we stand in the Pantheon or under the great domes of Hagia Sophia or the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, it is difficult not to feel that the dome of the sky has found its human complement and produced a less constrictive spatial awareness.
Q: What is the relationship between our minds and our bodies?
[Marina Abramovic] There are so many different philosophies and cultures, and every one of them answers this question differently. The most important thing is balance between mind and body. In western culture, people live for the mind and neglect the body completely. See how philosophers look, with their big fat bellies? and scientists… they look like their bodies have been neglected, but they have an incredible brain…
For most of my life, I thought the mind ruled the body. Only in my later years, when I was introduced to Brazilian Shamanism; I changed the relationship and realised we have to listen to our bodies. Our bodies create certain rules which the mind must obey. The mind always moves-off with willpower, and we just push ourselves. The body is an incredibly precise machine, and it gives us specific and clear signs. It tells us when we need to rest, when we are overworked, when we are stressed, when we are about to have a heart attack… If we listened to our body, our relationship to everything would be different. We are talking of a microcosm that reflects a macrocosm.
Q: To what extent is the human body art as itself, and as a subject?
[Antony Gormley] Humans love nothing more than watching one another. In the gymnasium of ancient Greece, the human body in motion became the site of aesthetic projection. Football and basketball – sports that produce intelligent bodies that appear to fly- could be our equivalent. Bodily movement pre-dates verbal communication, irrespective of whether it is used for art. If you know somebody well, you can sense their internal condition at 500 paces through the way they move. We have an innate ability to read emotion from the face and from the body. The slightest inflection of torso to hip, or head to shoulder, can transmit clearly joy or sadness, vitality or weakness. So when you ask what is the body’s relationship to art, I would say it is its most expressive vehicle. It’s extraordinary that so much contemporary Western visual art should have missed this opportunity. Some of the oldest works of art are the silhouettes of hands outlined in ochre on the walls of the caves of Peche Merle, Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc and Gargas. They wave to us across time. The body itself is a transmitter and receiver: it is the instrument through which all our perceptions of the world come and it seems to me the best vehicle to carry those perceptions back towards a wider world.
The potential of the body has become lost in a trend that began around the sixteenth century and is still with us now, of bodies becoming idealised through portraiture. The Romans and Greeks understood the way in which power and bodily beauty could be brought together to enthral, control and bend the will of the people. The ubiquity and power of advertising commands the same obeisance in its use of the idealised and sexualised body. This denies the potential of the body to simply be a trigger for awareness. Something that I learned from the art of the Far East and India is that there is no need for verisimilitude. If we treat the body as a place of transformation, a zone in which the potential of expansion inherent in consciousness meets material in embodiment, we can treat the body as a space rather than as a thing. If we look at the greatest works of the Gupta period, say, the standing Mahavir in Belgola, India; the great Mathuran Buddha from Sarnath; the Khmer head of Jayavarman and the great Chola Shiva Nataraja at the British Museum – these bodies have nothing to do with a copied body. They simply take the elements of a body and re-invent it to evoke vital and spatial principles. The real potential of the body in art is not in the representation of power but in reflexivity, as an agent of mindfulness and proprioception.
Q: What does it mean to live a successful life?
[Eric Thomas] Success is making sure that each generation can do better.
What my grandmother was able to achieve is one thing, what my mother was able to accomplish is another level of success, but what I’ve done is another level above that. We’re each trying to build on what has gone before to leave a legacy for our family.
Success is making sure the challenges we face in the past are not there in the future.
I dropped out of high-school but was fortunate enough to get my GED and go to college and had to work hard, it took me 12 years to do a 4 year degree. Both my children graduated K through 12 and were fortunate to attend Michigan State University. My son is a senior and my daughter is a freshman, they both have pretty good jobs at the university as well.
I’ve been able to be successfully married, and was able to have both of my children in my marriage. My mother didn’t have me in marriage, but I still turned out to be pretty successful!
Success is about making sure each generation gets better professionally, financially and so on.
Success is about having a goal, accomplishing that goal and realising that it makes your life better, but also improves the life of your family and people outside your family. Your success can help people reach their successes, and do things they may never have been able to without your influence.
Q: What are the common mind-sets of the most successful people in the world?
[Robin Sharma] Having worked with Titans of industry for 2 decades, I can personally share most of them have the same mindsets and heartsets:
- a drive to be the best
- a mighty mission to make a difference
- massive relentlessness
- an ability to hypnotize people around their dreams
- a learned talent to see a vision few see
- a skill to build fantastic teams who get results
- unreasonable optimism
- unbridled creativity
- and they are mostly eccentrics, misfits and outcasts
Q: What is the role of education in society?
[Sadhguru] Education isn’t a part of everyone’s life – I didn’t go to college or school!
Our education system is not generally designed for your well-being. It’s designed to fill our offices, factories and industry where you’re just a cog in a machine. Education is just machining you to fit into that machine properly.
Q: Is there a unique relationship that we have with other individuals?
[Marina Abramovic] All human beings are different, but this in itself is a contradiction. In one way, we are all different- we have different DNA, different social backgrounds, different religions, different beliefs, races and so on. Yet… we are all connected by the very fact we are human beings. In that diversity, we have to find a way to communicate and live together.
Q: What is the real role of the teacher and the student?
[Sir Ken Robinson] There are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes around teaching. For quite some time for example, I’ve been hugely interested in having creativity at the centre of education. I often hear people assert that you can’t teach creativity; the truth is that you can! Understanding that you can and how you can relies on having a proper understanding of what creativity is and how it works, but also relies on a proper understanding of what teaching is and how it works. People can often slate teaching with instruction- feeling that it’s simply a matter of telling people what you know, so that they know those things as a result.
Instruction is part of the repertory of any great-teacher, sometimes things do need to be set out and explained by someone who understands the issue better than the learner… but teaching is much more. Really good teachers insight curiosity, provoke, set puzzles, stir the imagination and excite people so that they will learn. Learning is a hugely personal process… you can’t make people learn… you can threaten them with the consequences of not learning, but if you really want people to flourish as learners, enjoy learning and feel they can carry on being independent and creative thinkers… then you have to excite them in the process of learning.
There was a recent book called “The Empty Space” published by Theatre Director, Peter Brook. In this book he describes how his commitment is to make theatre the most powerful experience it can be, rather than a passive evening. This starts with understanding what theatre is, and breaking it down into a thought experiment. If you take an average theatre performance, what can you remove from it and still have theatre? You can get rid of the costumes, script, director, stage-crew, the building and more. All you need is an actor in a space, and someone watching. The actor performs a drama, and theatre essentially describes the relationship between the performance and the audience. That relationship is the one we have to focus on, and we shouldn’t add anything to it unless it improves it; we should keep it away. There’s a very clear analogy there with education. The ultimate purpose of education is to help people learn; and there’s a difference between learning and education. People are always learning, and we learn things everyday without being taught them. Children are born with a voracious appetite to learn which begins even before they’re born, they are constantly absorbing information and putting things together. Most of the really remarkable things kids achieve, they achieve with no instruction. Imagine how hard it is to learn how to speak? You encourage them, mentor them, but you don’t teach them. Children also pick up all the cultural nuances, patterns and relationships in their world without being told. Education is simply an organised version of this; an organised programme of learning underpinned by the belief that there things students should learn that they may not ordinarily come across and that we can help them to learn more effectively than they would be able to do so on their own. What always interests me is that very often, kids who go to school with a huge appetite for learning, lose that appetite by the time they get a few years into their journey. They become bored and disaffected.
The heart of education is learning, it’s not warehousing, discipline or supervision- it’s learning. If you think of medicine, that is about helping people be well and get well. If hospitals ended up as centres for disease themselves and contributed to high mortality rates, they would not be doing what they were designed to do in the first place. Schools should be there to help people learn, and at the heart of this is the relationship between the teacher and a learner. The conceit of teaching is that we can help people learn; and we have to focus on the relationship. Much of what has happened in education in recent years has distracted from this relationship and focussed on testing, data-driven outcomes and so forth. The consequence has been that the relationship between teachers and learners has become impoverished; this has disaffected teachers and students alike.
Teaching and learning are not two hermetically sealed processes. The great teachers learn from their students, the great students also learn from each other. It’s a multi-faceted relationship. Several years ago, I did an event with the Dalai Lama– one of the world’s great teachers. He was asked a question in a room with around 2,000 people; followed by which there was a very long pause. We were all sat there expecting a fantastic insight, but in the end he said, “I don’t know..” People were shocked and many commented, “what do you mean you don’t know!? you’re the Dalai Lama” but he responded to the audience, “I’ve never thought of that, what do you think?” The great teachers know they don’t have to know everything, they are there to guide learning; often their students know more- or know better. I’m not a religious person, but I’m told that in some religious services, the priest or officiator faces towards the congregation. In some religions, the priest faces forward in the same direction as the congregation; the premise being that they are all learning together.
Q: What are the consequences of a dysfunctional education system?
[Sir Ken Robinson] If you go to either end of the system, you will find an increasing problem of graduate under-employment (people who are doing work for which they are overqualified, or for which their qualification is not relevant). That is very significant. The current system of education is based on a very linear view of the relationship between education and the economy. The origins of mass public education lie in the industrial revolution; it was designed with explicit economic purposes in mind. This is why we have a broad base of elementary education, a narrower base of secondary education and so on. It was originally that a very narrow apex of university education existed because the vast-majority of people were destined to a life of overalls or factory work. A smaller group of people were needed for clerical roles, and an even smaller group for professional roles… Education was designed with this economic model in mind and for the most part, it worked well; albeit many people who were perfectly capable of achieving great things in education were never given the chance. In the post-industrial era however, it doesn’t work at all. In the industrial era, 1:20 people went to university now it’s nearer 1:3. Politicians opened the sluice gates to university as we now live in a knowledge economy. President Obama recently made a speech where he pointed out that many of the most ‘basic’ jobs in manufacturing now require quite substantial amounts of IT literacy.
When I was at college, the idea that you would not be able to find work with a college degree was preposterous; the reason? relatively few had a degree. Now every other person has a degree and so it’s not as valuable as it used to be as a currency. Most countries have focussed on pumping out more and more graduates, and this has had big consequences. China has far too many graduates now; many who have worked hard to get advanced degrees are returning to their villages unable to find work, or are doing jobs they are far too qualified to do.
Unless you work on the supply and demand mismatch in education, you will have problems. The world moves far more quickly than you can adjust the system to cope with.
The people who don’t go through college or higher education are finding themselves in a skills-gap where jobs exist, but they simply don’t have the skills to do the work. You also have an achievement gap which shows how these factors play out across different cultures and communities. It’s often the case for example, that African American’s are not graduating from school at the same rate as White kids and so forth. This all contributes to the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor.
In the USA 1.2 million kids leave high-school before they graduate each and every year; many go into education later in life, or may choose another path. What is true however, is that a significantly high proportion of people on social welfare programmes did not graduate from high-school and a very-high percentage of people in the correctional system did not graduate from high-school. If you add up the savings in social programmes and add the increased taxation income from people in work, if we could halve the non-graduation rate in US high-schools, it would create a net gain to the US economy of over U$90 billion a year; or around U$ 1 trillion over a decade. That’s worth paying for.
Education is based too much on standardisation, and is not allowing people to adapt and have a sense of purpose, direction, and a life that has meaning for them and their communities.
Q: Why are young people feeling so hopeless?
[Eric Thomas] Many young people don’t have a vision; they don’t have a reason to go to school.
I talk to a lot of young kids and they tell me about how this isn’t their parent’s generation where people graduate and get a job. They talk about these billion dollar businesses like Uber, Facebook and Instagram and ask me why they should go to the same place every day for 12, 16 or 18 years. They see their cousins, their siblings who aren’t doing anything with their lives, or who have tried but it isn’t working…
There’s a cloud of hopelessness surrounding young people, and there’s pockets of kids who don’t think that education makes a difference or matters. Worse than this, there are a lot of young people who feel they don’t matter… that nobody really cares about them or loves them.
People tell young kids to go to school and get good grades, but nobody says ‘we love YOU, we believe in YOU, we believe YOU are special, we believe YOU have a great future ahead…’
For a lot of our young people, maybe because of absentee-fathers, or maybe because the work-life balance their parents have mean that they’re not there much, you see young people feeling they don’t matter, that life doesn’t matter.
The young people I’ve been able to get in contact with, the ones who watch my videos or come to my conferences… once they realise they do matter and that they’re future does matter and that what they do dictates what their lives will be like… once they realise that life doesn’t happen to you, that you have to make it happen… you see a difference in how they walk their lives.
Q: What is motivation?
[Dan Pink] It’s the drive that propels much of our behavior. But the key thing to understand is that human beings have a mix of drives. We have a biological drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, and so on. We have a reward-and-punishment drive. In many realms, if you reward our behavior, we’ll do more of it; if you punish behavior, we’ll do less of it. But humans also have what I like to call a “third drive.” We do things because we want to direct our own lives, learn and grow, make a contribution, and connect to others.
Q: How has our approach to motivation changed in the past century?
[Dan Pink] In the business world, the approach has long centered around that second drive. To promote certain behavior, employers hold out rewards — money, promotions, acclaim. And to deter behavior, they threaten punishments — termination, demotion, pay cuts. What’s beginning to change is that many people in business are realizing that this approach isn’t nearly as effective as we think and alternatives lead to far greater results.
Q: What does wealth mean to you?
[Robin Sharma] Of course society tells us wealth is all about how much money one has. That’s a part of wealth. But I’ve coached many billionaires who are poor–in many ways.
At my annual event The Titan Summit, I teach that there are actually 8 forms of wealth that are essential for a happy–and legendary–life. These include integrity, peak health, love, adventure and having a positive impact on the world.
I know a janitor in Johannesburg who is wealthier than most rich people. Money is just one element of wealth.
Q: What has science taught us about motivation?
[Dan Pink] Over the last half decade, social scientists across the world have studied motivation in laboratory experiments, field studies, and, more recently, by analyzing large sets of data. What they’ve found is complex, but in my view, the biggest idea is rather simple. It involves a type of reward that scholars call “controlling contingent rewards” and that I call “If-then” rewards. Fifty years of research tells that if-then rewards (not all rewards, but this mainstay type of reward) are extremely effective for simple, short-term tasks with short time horizons. Human beings love rewards. Dangle a contingent reward in front of us and we’ll focus like a laser beam, which is great if we know precisely what we need to do and how we need to do it. However, the same body of research tells us that if-then rewards are far less effective for complex, creative work with longer time horizons. Why? It’s the same reason. Contingent rewards narrow our focus — but for these sorts of tasks we want an *expansive* view. The trouble is that many organizations use if-then rewards for *every* category of work rather than one category for which we know they’re effective.
Of course — and this is extremely important — in the workplace, you have to pay people fairly and well. The research doesn’t show that people don’t care about money. In fact, it’s the opposite. But money is really a threshold motivator. If you don’t pay people fairly, you won’t get motivation. Period. But once you pay people fairly, that’s the beginning of the process, not the end.
Q: How can autonomy impact motivation?
[Dan Pink] Autonomy is fundamental for many kinds of motivation — and certainly for the motivation do deal with tasks that involve conceptual or creative thinking. The big problem with if-then rewards isn’t the reward. It’s the if-then. The contingency is a form of control. And human beings typically have only two reactions to control: We comply. Or we defy. But what we really want — in our workplaces and in our broader lives — is to be engaged. And human beings don’t engage by being controlled. The way we engage is through self-direction — having the ability to guide our own lives. So much of genuine motivation begins here — with self-direction, with some amount of autonomy over what we do, when we do it, how we do, and who we do it with.
Q: How can mastery impact motivation?
[Dan Pink] The work of Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile is instructive here. In some landmark research carried out a few years ago, she found that the single biggest day-to-day motivator on the job was “making progress in meaningful work.” Making progress, getting better, moving toward mastery is inherently motivating. It’s a big part of what brings satisfaction in life and a major component of enduring motivation for complex, creative tasks.
Q: How can people motivate others?
[Dan Pink] Edward Deci, the legendary psychologist and one of the founders of Self-Determination Theory puts it well. He says we need to stop thinking of motivation as something that one person does *to* another — and start thinking of it as something people do *for* themselves. That means that the best bosses don’t really motivate people per se. They create the conditions in which people can motivate themselves. But assuming a leader understands that, her best move is to pay people well — and then offer healthy amounts of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Q: How can people motivate themselves?
[Dan Pink] There are many possibilities here. When it comes to work, the first key is to look for a profession or a set of tasks that you actually enjoy — most days at least — something that you might even do in your spare time. Then, once you’re on the job, look for ways to sculpt that job so you have more control over your time, task, team, and technique. Also, pay attention to how often you’re in ‘flow‘ at work — when the challenge is so exquisitely matched to your capabilities that time seems to dissolve. Come up with ways, both formal and informal, to ensure you’re getting rich and relevant feedback on how you’re doing. And look for ways what you’re doing makes a difference in the world or makes a contribution to others.
Q: Would an understanding of motivation lead to differently structured companies and even countries?
[Dan Pink] Sure. You see that happening already in many companies. For instance, some are moving away from compensation systems built heavily on contingent rewards and mega-bonuses. There are even large, publicly-held companies — for example, Microchip Technology — that have eliminated commissions for their salespeople. Many companies are implementing policies like “Ship It Days” or “Genius Hours” in which people have a block of pure autonomy to work on whatever they want. Several large companies — Adobe, General Electric, Accenture, to name a few — have gotten rid of formal performance reviews because they found that those weren’t helping employees achieve mastery and might even have been doing harm. So, yes, gradually we’re seeing a refashioning of the motivational architecture of some firms. There’s still a long way to go, but progress is happening.
Q: How did ‘extroversion’ become a cultural ideal?
[Susan Cain] Extroversion has not always been our cultural ideal. In the 19th century for example, we lived in what historians call a ‘culture of character’ where people valued each other based on what they perceived were each other’s inner worth. It was a time where people knew each other quite well, and lived inside small communities.
At the turn of the 20th century, we had the perfect-storm of industrialisation, urbanisation and the rise of corporate life. People left their small communities, and moved to the city to look for jobs in these new corporations. Suddenly people questions how they presented themselves to those they didn’t know, and how they could make a good impression when they only had a few minutes to do it. Questions of magnetism, charisma and social dominance therefore became much more important.
This was also the time of the rise of the cinema, and so people were thinking about their own magnetism, charisma and social dominance during the week- and at the weekend, they were going to the cinema and seeing these actors and actresses portraying the characteristics they wanted to achieve themselves.
Historians call this shift the ‘culture of personality,’ and the ‘extrovert ideal’ is the cultural legacy of that shift, which we still live with today.
Q: How do difference cultures deal with introversion vs. extroversion?
[Susan Cain] If you compare the UK with the US for example, the UK has traditionally been viewed for having ‘dignity in reserve,’ while Americans are often perceived as ‘loud.’ Even for the UK however, the culture of quiet dignity is crumbling and you’re seeing more and more, the need for extroverted self-presentation.
If you look at cultures of the East, particularly Confucian cultures such as Japan, Korea and China- the ideal is one of group harmony, where it’s important for no one individual to call too much attention to themselves, as it would cause disharmony to the group. In these cultures you have aphorisms like ‘the wind howls, but the mountain remains still.’ These are societies where strength is about keeping your own counsel, and where weakness is where you vocalise every thought that enters into your mind.
Recently, even in eastern societies, you are seeing a double-consciousness. There is a deep heritage of valuing quiet-presentation but at the same time a dominant western ideal of being ‘loud and proud.’
Q: What is the science behind introversion and extroversion?
[Susan Cain] One of the fascinating new developments in the neurobiology of personality has found that the neural networks in our brain become activated by dopamine when we’re doing something rewarding; that could be a social interaction, a business deal and so on. Extroverts tend to have stronger reward-networks than introverts, and that’s perhaps why we unconsciously associate them [extroverts] as being active and having ‘good cheer’ and introverts as being more contemplative.
Introversion overlaps with the traits that psychologists call ‘high sensitivity’ meaning you are sensitive to all aspects of your environment. This is not true of all introverts, but a lot of introverts are more sensitive to all emotions. They may feel the beauty of a sunset unusually deeply, similarly they may feel the pain of a difficult interaction more deeply.
Mental health issues interact with all personality types in unique ways. For sensitive introverts for example, there is a tendency to feel anxiety or sadness. For extroverts, there may be a tendency to impulsivity- there are data for example that show extroverts get into more car accidents, rack up more gambling debt, take more drugs, and are more likely to have extramarital affairs. Some of this will- of course- come from the ‘go for it’ reward-network based profile which drives these individuals to drive-forward without really contemplating the consequences.
Q: How do introversion and extroversion manifest in the workplace?
[Susan Cain] For centuries, people instinctively understood that solitude was a crucial ingredient for creativity, it was self-evident.
In the past decade, it has come to be very fashionable to push the idea of a ‘lone genius’ to the side-lines, and everything has become about ‘loud collaboration.’ This came about for interesting reasons… the rise of the internet has shown us the incredible benefits of collaborative output with things like Wikipedia, but the great irony is that the people who created these systems were largely introverts who were using the internet to ‘work alone, together.’ These nuances have got lost and people have decided to put workers in a single room, chatting and exchanging ideas all-day-long.
There’s a mountain of evidence that shows the problems of open-plan offices showing they lead to a decline in productivity. There are data too which show that when you put people together in a group to brainstorm, they produce fewer creative and fewer good ideas than if they were brainstorming alone.
Thinkers build upon each other, you do need people around you- but we need to strike a balance where we give people the time they need alone, and yet get them to contribute and voice their thoughts in groups. In a typical meeting for example, only 3 people end up doing 70% of the talking….
Q: How can introverts and extroverts better communicate?
[Susan Cain] I believe the discussions between introverts and extroverts about their needs must be normalised and socially acceptable, especially in our workplaces and in our schools.
We’ve been working with companies like GE, Proctor & Gamble and Linkedin to give them the tools they need to talk about this stuff!
Until now, it’s not felt socially permissible for an extrovert for example, to say to an introvert colleague that they feel underserved, or if they don’t care when they go off for hours to work alone and don’t express enthusiasm. It’s also not been socially permissible for introverts to say to extroverts that they feel aggressed and unable to do their best work when they have to jump from one meeting to the next. Why can’t we say those things in the workplace? This should be the stuff of everyday conversation in the workplace! We should be able to have these conversations normally, without fear that someone’s feelings or work may be hurt! People’s lives would be happier, and our teams would run better.
We need bring this discussion into the social structures that matter the most in our society, our workplaces and our schools.
Q: How can we teach the world to embrace the power of quiet?
[Susan Cain] All of us are feeling under pressure, we’re living in a world that is so 24/7 and so overstimulated, that we’re more ‘on’ that we’re designed to be. We’re all feeling the overload and the burnout.
It’s no accident that the past decade has seen a growth in things like yoga, meditation and mindfulness; we’re all hungry for that.
Q: Can people be introverted and extroverted?
[Susan Cain] Firstly, wherever you can, you have to operate as yourself and not try and be a chameleon. You have to draw on your own natural strengths and bring those to your task. I think here about Douglas Conant, who was the President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company and identified as introverted. He wanted to connect with his employees, and used to write personal letters of thanks to employees who were performing well- and in his tenure as CEO, he wrote over 30,000 of these letters- that’s not the way an extroverted CEO would have approached the same task, and his employees came to treasure these letters as they meant so much. It was a solitary act of social generosity.
There are always times however, where you have to go outside your comfort zone and do the things that aren’t natural to you. The great personality psychologist Brian Little came up with a schema whereby we all need to figure out the endeavours in our lives that are most important to us, this is the ‘core project.’ What is the work you really care about? What are the relationships you really care about? In the service of that work, and those relationships- you will (and should) step out of your comfort zone. You may be an introverted husband who throws his wife a surprise party for example, it’s hard for you but you know it will make her happy. You might be an extroverted CEO who goes off for a week to do some solitary reflection on the direction of your company. These are things are not comfortable, but they’re relevant in pursuit of your wider goal.
The second step then is to build restorative niches into your life to allow your personality to get back to equilibrium. Brian Little for example, is an extreme introvert whose core project is teaching. He travels around and gives talks to students and others, and when he’s on stage- he gives it everything. He’s a world-class speaker. As soon as he’s done speaking, he won’t come to the cocktails or networking events, he retreats to some alone-time as that’s his restorative niche.
We need to have the self-awareness and sense of entitlement about that self-awareness, to really be who we are. That allows us to step outside our comfort zone when we have to because we are going to step back inside it to get our balance back.
Q: How would our world be different if we embraced the power of quiet?
[Susan Cain] Embracing the power of introversion would unlock a tremendous amount of talent in our world. We do see already, many introverts contribute incredible things to our world because of their quiet, thoughtful temperaments not in-spite of them.
The world needs extroverts and introverts. Extroverts have an amazing ability to think out loud, think on their feet and react quickly. Introverts often feel frustrated at the end of the meeting, but that longer, deeper processing pathway can create more profound insights.
If our world nurtured its introverts properly, we would have twice the number of creatives, innovators, change-makers and leaders that we do; but instead, we seem to send them the message that they need to be this ‘other’ person- leading to a colossal waste of energy, happiness and a huge amount of psychological pain.
Q: How can you find hope in your life?
[Eric Thomas] You need to have vision.
For most people who aren’t successful, it’s an issue of vision- they don’t see themselves doing it.
Too many of us accept the life that’s given to us. There are people who figure that because their parents didn’t have a certain type of life, or make certain types of decisions, who are they to do that? It’s an issue of vision.
You can’t accept the world that’s been given to you. You have to create your own world, your own future, your own identity.
My family didn’t go to college; I didn’t let that stop me. My family didn’t write books; I didn’t let that stop me from writing books. Nobody in my family had a PhD; I didn’t let that stop me from becoming a PhD.
You have to create your own world; you cannot accept the world that’s given to you.
Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” That’s the difference between people who are massively successful and those who are not.
Success is not about where you were born, it’s not about the resources you had when you were born, it’s not about the side of town you grew up on.
People who become successful create a vision for themselves, and they wake up every single day of their lives and go after it.
Q: How can you conquer your fears?
[Eric Thomas] All of us face fear, that’s the truth.
There was some anxiety for me going to college, during my masters and PhD. There was anxiety getting up in front of 10,000 people, there was anxiety travelling around the world speaking.
I’m not a person that has not had my share of anxieties, but my why is so strong that it focuses me.
My why says, ‘Eric, you have to do this for your children… you have to do this for the people that look up to you.’
We all have anxiety and fear, but what paralyses one group is that they have nothing to get over the fear for. They have no reason to conquer their fears, to challenge the obstacles they face.
For those of us who have family members, friends, mentors and mentees- we have no choice but to get over our fears, why? Because we have people who count on us.
Q: How important is mental-health and mental-endurance in survival?
[Bear Grylls] It is paramount in any survival situation and more than often can game change the entire outcome. Our greatest weapon or survival tool is our mental strength and courage, that spirit and fire inside that drives people on against overwhelming odds and adversity. It is the key weapon in our arsenal to look after and protect.
We do that by exercising the mind, understanding that we can determine our own feelings, and focusing on positivity and gratitude, which are so key to the survivor.
My Christian faith has also been a big part of developing mental strength – to know that the Almighty is for me and beside me, not because I am good but because He is good. To be able to climb and do all this stuff with that strength and presence inside is the most powerful thing I have. That light inside that is hard to explain. That knowledge that I am weak but He is strong.
Q: How can we find our true gifts?
[Robin Sharma] Start where you are planted. In The Leader Who Had No Title, I teach people how to become leaders within their current work (whether that’s being a receptionist or an astronaut) and within their personal lives. We don’t need to leave our current roles to find our gifts and talents. We just need to reframe the opportunity each day brings.
Every day at work (and on the street), delivers a chance to model honor, do great work that wows, push our best creativity, transcend fears and in some way lift the world.
I also have found that writing in a journal every morning breeds much greater self-knowledge of the talents that make us special. You know my “5 am Club” concept that I’ve been teaching for 20 years (I’m writing my new book on it). So get up early and make the time to reflect on paper. Consider what makes you special. What people say you’re great at naturally. What you’d do if you weren’t paid.
Q: What is the purpose of our lives?
[Sadhguru] The basic fundamentals that are necessary for life to be pleasant have been turned into high-level goals! To be peaceful, to be joyful… these are fundamental needs we have, not goals for our lives.
These days, even so-called spiritual leaders talk of peace of mind being the highest goal in life. But if you want to enjoy your dinner today, if you want to enjoy the people around you, you have to be at least peaceful and probably joyful. If you want to enjoy a walk on the street, you must be at least peaceful if not ecstatic.
Peace is a fundamental requirement for life, but people have raised it to the status of heaven in such a way that people now may only rest in peace.
If your body is pleasant, we call it health; if it becomes very pleasant, we call it pleasure. If your mind is pleasant, we call it peace; if it becomes very pleasant, we call it joy. If your emotions become pleasant, we call it love; if they become very pleasant, we call it compassion. If your very life energy becomes pleasant we call it blissfulness; if it becomes very pleasant, we call it ecstasy. If your surroundings become pleasant, we call it success.
To be pleasant within yourself, in body, mind, emotion and energy is a fundamental requirement to live your life sensibly.
I don’t know if you will climb Mount Everest, run faster than Usain Bolt or become the richest man on the planet, but at least your experience of life on this planet should be pleasant. This is something every human being deserves, and which every human being is capable of. Unfortunately, today in society we are not providing the necessary tools for humans to create a pleasant life within themselves. We are ripping the planet apart in pursuit of our happiness, and we’re not getting any closer.
90% of human energy is spent on the pursuit of sex and money, and it just shows how joyless people are. If you are very joyful, both these things will diminish in value, becoming parts of your life like many other things.
The religions of the world put a taboo on sex and wealth, and that’s a problem. If you tell someone not to think about something, what do you expect they will do? They will occupy their mind with it!
Sex is good if it’s in your body, but if it gets into your mind it becomes a perversion. Money is good if it’s in your pocket, it can make your life comfortable, but that also can become a perversion if it’s in your head.
People are always looking for meaning and purpose in life, but they are just psychological needs. Suppose right now, you were bursting with ecstasy within you, would you be wondering what the meaning of life was? No! For a whole lot of people, life has become burdensome, so they look for meaning. They want a heaven to go to when they mess up.
There is no meaning to life; it is a purpose unto itself. The only people that seek meaning in life are those who have not tasted it fully.
For most human beings, 99% of their lives are just thoughts and emotion. Your thoughts and emotion are not life, they are a drama you create, unconsciously. And because you create these dramas unconsciously, you think they are happening. They’re not! It is an evolutionary problem – you have been given an intelligence, which you don’t know how to handle.
Q: What do we- as human beings- strive for?
[Marina Abramovic] The most important thing to develop in human beings is a sense of love, and an understanding of unconditional love. I’m not talking about the love towards a specific person, but love in a general sense; for life, for the planet, for purely existing. We completely forget how temporary we are. From the moment we are born, we are closer to death- and death can happen anytime, anywhere, unexpectedly; you don’t need to die from sickness, you could just go- that’s it… This uncertainty should make our lives more beautiful, appreciated and rich, but we forget this- and instead, we spend our time on bullshit. We spend our time wasting time instead of understanding our purpose on the planet.
People, especially the younger generation, are losing purpose. They don’t see clearly. Everybody is here for a reason- and sooner or later, we will find that reason. If someone was born to be a great baker and make the best bread in the world, that is purpose! If someone was born to be a mother, that was purpose! same for someone who was born to be a politician, gardener or artist. The Dalai Lama once summed up the problems of the western world to me… He described how we go to the supermarket to buy toothpaste, and we are confronted with hundreds of choices; and we can spend our whole lives trying different brands… It’s the same with religion… Right now, there are hundreds of spiritual and personal-development agendas, and you will constantly lose your time trying to find the right way. Whatever you find though, you have to go for it…
Anyone can find their purpose in life, you just have to look deeply inside yourself. We don’t look deeply enough because we are so overwhelmed with our culture. The world turns us into consumer junkies, we consume too much of everything… too much television, too much internet, too much phone and text, too many goods we don’t want or need. This gives us such little space to be with ourselves, that it’s hard to find purpose.
Q: What does art ‘do’ for us?
[Alan Bean] Art does for the mind what music does for the ears. Some people like music, some people seldom listen to it, some like rock-and-roll, some like easy-listening and it’s the same way with art. When I go to an art museum and look, there are certain kinds of paintings I like to look at- not for inspiration, I’m not into ‘inspirational’ art but there are colours, shapes, and concepts that I like.
Q: What questions does art answer?
[Antony Gormley] Art doesn’t answer questions – art is a form of asking them. Great art is a threshold to the unknowable, the ineffable, the infinite.
Q: How can art help our understanding?
[Alan Bean] Art shows things in a different way. Fine art is different from a video, the written-word and photographs. Those are wonderful primary records, but you know what? The few of us who went to the Moon aren’t going to be around much longer and I hope my paintings show some things that maybe connect with people in a different way.
For example, in my piece ‘Kissing the Earth,’ – if you read the story behind it, I made it as homage to Winlsow Homer’s ‘Kissing the Moon.’ I imagine Homer, who had those fishermen in a boat with a wave coming up making them feel they could touch the moon, would never have imagined than an artist would be at the moon and make that painting in reverse!
One of the things I learned flying airplanes and in the space business was that you can only ever do a little part of what needs to be done. You have to have confidence that the people who built the rocket, did it right. You have to have confidence that the people at mission control give you the right numbers to put into your computer. I’m doing the best I can to celebrate this great human adventure. I don’t know what will happen with it, but I’m just doing the best I can.
Over the years, I’ve done a number of speaking events and I’ve learned that all you can do is tell them the things that are the most interesting to you, that you imagine they will like. In truth? You don’t know how they will feel about it. You have to accept that some people won’t be interested, and some will want you take a different approach. Some people may want to hear about A when you talk about B. In my paintings, I tell the stories I think are the most interesting. I’m telling the stories I think are interesting, and while someone may like a particular image, someone else may not, and that’s OK.
Q: Who is the artist?
[Anish Kapoor] What a good fortune to be able to spend a life as an artist!
Art has to come from beyond the artist. The artist is after all a mediumistic being. What I know is of relatively little interest, what I don’t know is of real interest. The artist’s way of speculating is most powerful when it is in the space of the unknown.
The artist is often an idiot, exploring foolish ideas which may have nothing to say or may, on the other hand, reveal deep mystic truth. This is the important speculation of art.
Q: How did art come into your life?
[Alan Bean] I started taking art lessons and making art when I was a test pilot in the Navy. My dream as a boy was always to be a Navy pilot! I became an aeronautical engineer, became a pilot, and became a test pilot so that I could fly all kinds of planes. Maybe in my mind I thought, ‘wow! This is as good as it gets! You’re flying every plane the Navy’s got, you’re good at it, and maybe this is the best job for a guy like you!’
In the background, there was something else going on in my mind. I’d always looked at art, and looked at some of my friend’s art on their walls and thought I could do just as well! I enrolled in night school at St. Mary’s College near the Naval air test centre and started doing watercolour and painting classes. It became my hobby! Other people played golf at the weekend, and I painted and took classes with nearby artists in my neighbourhood.
After I returned from my Skylab mission, and was backing up the Russian missions… I was training to fly the Shuttle and thought, ‘hey… there’s a lot of young men and women around here who can fly the shuttle as well as me, but none of these people have been given the gift to go to the Moon and walk on its surface.’ This motivated me to make art, perhaps as a legacy to tell the stories of my journey, to share the interesting images in my mind from what we saw up there. That’s how I got started, and how I am where I am today.
If I look back on my life? I was always a bit of an arty guy, though I never looked at myself like that. When I got my first car in college, I didn’t care what the performance was! I got the one which looked the best. When they ran a competition in the squadron to do a paint job on new airplanes? I came in with models and ideas that no other pilot had! I thought it was unusual… but it never connected that I was more interested in art than other people.
Later in my life, when I travelled to places like Paris, I realised that I never hung out at the same places other guys did, I wanted to go to the museums and galleries! Even then…. It didn’t connect that I liked art a lot more than other people.
I’m the same guy I was then. I can’t fly airplanes any more, but I can make paintings and I love that.
To be a test-pilot, you have to be left brained to stay alive…. But I was also a right-brained guy mixed in with that. I didn’t realise that at the time, but I know it now.
To what extent do we understand ourselves through the objects in our space?
[Antony Gormley] Everything that we share our living space with is an indicator of our values and our needs. We share our cities with cars, we share our houses with implements and ornaments. What’s the difference between an ornament and an instrument? Duchamp has shown that you can transfer one into the other very quickly: a bottle rack or a bicycle wheel can be used as an object of contemplation just as well as a Madonna or an abstract painting. I would make a distinction between art objects that make life more difficult and design objects that make life more liveable.
A Berber tent has a floor which is the surface of the earth. In an open-sided tent, the world is limited by the horizon, not by walls. Each pot, rug, rope or piece of wood is an object that expresses a need. The empty desert of the Bedouin is similar to the snow-covered world of the Inuit; every object, sledge, pot, skidoo, is – in expressing a need and a life -also a conversation with absence, distance and space at large.
Q: What is the nature and purpose of sculpture?
[Anish Kapoor] Ultimately the picture is a window into an imagined reality outside the room, beyond the space. Culture is the picture frame, it is here with us, in the same space as us and yet– if art is any good, it isn’t just describing what is, it’s has another time, or another dimension.
For many years, in my own practice, I’ve felt that objects in themselves are not enough. The non-material, which is part of the object, is important and must be given form. This raises the question of how one gives form to non-form. I’ve found strategies- from dark, pigmented objects which appear as holes in a space to creating mirrored objects that support or propose a fiction that they are not present.
The darkness we hold inside ourselves is much darker than any dark that exists in the world, yet we keep looking out there. Can we create objects that are in this strange in-between space of what is within and what is outside? It is this ‘in-between-ness’ of objects that is fascinating, just as we- I suspect- are objects of ‘in-between-ness’ ourselves.
[Antony Gormley] Sculpture has been made since time began. The exhibition Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind at the British Museum in 2013 displayed a lion-headed human form from 40,000 years ago, the Venuses of Willendorf and Lespuge, as well as animals evoked with complete empathy. The body has been in art for as long as it has been conscious. We have re-made our bodies and the bodies of other creatures to understand them better, and through them, to understand ourselves.
Sculpture is very distinct as an art form because it is a thing in the world. Unlike painting, it does not depend on shelter or even a wall; it is an independent thing in the world and as such, implicitly changes the world. It’s an opportunity to make an object that exists in time and space independently of a frame. Sculpture has an ability to confront us. Sculpture talks directly with the world. It encourages first-hand, palpable experience. You come across a sculpture – it doesn’t make sense. You walk around it, you touch it, you examine it, you assess its mass, volume and materiality, and in the process, you also begin to experience your own body through the way that this object has begun to modify your behaviour. A sculpture can exist as an image in space at great distance but can encourage exactly the opposite: intimate connection – an embrace, a touch. Sculpture’s ability to be both an image and an experience is its magic. For me, making sculpture is implicitly an act of hope – showing that we can put something of the world that wasn’t there before – and this is a paradigm of our ability to change the world itself. The primary sculptural gesture is to take a lying stone and stand it up to become a marker in space and time, as something we can measure ourselves against but also measure the world in which we live.
Sculpture has time; we have consciousness. It waits like a trap for our attention, for our feeling, for our freedom of movement. Sculpture is the most archaic, atavistic and resilient of art forms; it is also the most transgressive, revolutionary and anarchic. In its silence and stillness, it declares its independence from music, theatre and painting; in its materiality, it declares its connectivity to the world. Sculpture attempts to stop time and provide a space of transformation. Of all art forms, sculpture can make you change your mind.
Q: What is the role of sculpture in culture?
[Anish Kapoor] There are many things going on in sculpture that are fundamental.
Some of the great advances in the intellectual discourse surrounding art and civilisation have been made through the object and not through the image.
Objects are wonderfully singular; they also have a propensity to the communal. In an age where we must lament the loss all ideological positions, we need to discover or rediscover objects that can display and symbolise a public role. This is why I am interested in bigness and in public space as a part of my work. Public objects that we own together which involve us all in symbolic, public activity.
Making sculpture is extremely difficult to do well because of the challenge of making something in real space that evokes and contorts the space in-between.
Q: Can sculpture change the world?
[Antony Gormley] Sculpture in the last century and a quarter has become a means by which the world is investigated, deconstructed. Nouns can become verbs and actions things. The fact is that since the early sixties, sculpture has become the most challenging and transformative of all the arts, involving performative as much as materialist principles. The twentieth century released sculpture from the duties of service to power and allowed it to become a way of contesting value and meaning. Sculpture, by implication, changes the world by changing its form, albeit on a limited scale. The ambition of sculpture is to use the material to communicate the vital. Its primary function is to provide an imaginative level to experience. In the hands of some of the greatest of its proponents: Joseph Beuys, Carl Andre, Louise Bourgeois and Richard Serra, it has been the most revolutionary of all art forms, inviting us to contest and deconstruct the forces and materials at work in our world.
Q: How does sculpture relate to architecture and the built environment?
[Antony Gormley] It has become independent of it. There was a time when sculpture was a necessary component of the built environment but architecture has become more sculptural and sculpture, more architectural. The twentieth century was not the most successful in providing imaginative objects in collective space because art was determined to find its own spaces. Hence the mid-sixties to mid-seventies push into the desert regions of the mid-West of America to articulate this potential of sculpture. One of the duties of contemporary sculpture is to offer the freedoms back to the viewer that were previously taken by artists, and to allow these spaces of relief and release to exist within our collective realm: open spaces of imagination.
Q: Should everyone inject some outdoors into their lives?
[Bear Grylls] Adventure and the outdoors bring people together in a totally unique way. In the wild you form very real, honest and vulnerable friendships with people. It breaks down barriers and creates lasting connections.
I often think we are all a bit like grapes: its only when we are squeezed can one see what we’re really made of. . I think it’s also so important to understand that adventure really is for everyone and that you don’t need to tackle Everest to find great outdoor fun. We set up the Bear Grylls Survival race last year to get as many kids and families racing and adventuring together and it has been so inspiring to see this take off. Likewise our Survival Academy which helps people really develop in more depth some of the key survival self-rescue skills and attitudes.
Q: What do paintings give us that photographs or other media cannot?
[Alan Bean] I hope that what I leave behind adds to what is already there. We have books, video, photographs and so many things and I hope that my art adds to this celebration of one of the great advances in human kind. The Lunar Missions were a wonderful event in history, and I got lucky enough to be a part of it.
I often think, wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Magellan had taken an artist along… or if Jesus hadn’t picked out so many fisherman, but perhaps took an artist too…
Q: What is aesthetic?
[Anish Kapoor] Barnett Newman, an American Modernist, once said, “Aesthetics is for the artist as ornithology is for the birds.” That is to say, irrelevant.
The aesthetic problem is irrelevant. The artist doesn’t make a thing be as it is because of how it looks. As artists, we are not interested in how an object looks- curiously, as the very thing we’re doing is to do with how it looks. This approach must be right.
As humans, we’re so easily beguiled by how something looks… Artists are not like Louis Vuitton… we don’t make luxurious objects. We look for something else, we recognise beauty when it’s there, but we don’t concern ourselves with how something looks.
A return to the fundamental position that affirms that a thing ends up as it is because there’s no other way it could be. This is challenging. How something looks has no poetry, how it IS and how it has BEING is true poetry.
Q: What were some of the most powerful or beautiful experiences you had during the lunar missions?
[Alan Bean] During the Apollo missions, I (personally) did not become sensitive to the aesthetic of our surroundings. During those 10 days of the Lunar mission, I had a job to do and I was focussed on thinking about what I had to do next, and making sure I did it right and to the best of my abilities. I had to think about what I had to observe in the mission context, which was mostly geology. My mind was not thinking about amazing sites that I saw, although there were a lot. One of the feelings I had was that you really ought to stop every hour and spend several hours thinking about what you saw and experience. In reality though, you couldn’t do that – you had to keep moving forward.
At the end of the launch, which was one of the more amazing things in my life, I had to quit thinking about that and start thinking about getting the spacecraft ready to head towards the moon. I was not in a mode to think about the beauty, the philosophy and the art of what was happening.
Then you get back… and then you have more time to remember your experiences, and think about the things which were most interesting or exciting for you.
People have had amazing experiences on earth frequently. They climb a mountain they want to climb, get on top and see things they couldn’t see before. They go to a city and go to the top of a skyscraper and have a similar experience. Maybe the first people that flew on airplanes had the same feeling…. They were up-high and looked down for the first time onto the world. When those first pilots went above the clouds? people asked them if they saw God, and they said, “we looked for him, but we didn’t see him there!,” and now flying is commonplace.
In the same way, there will come a time in our lives where going to the moon is is commonplace and people will do it and while it was amazing for them, it may not change them.
What I observed of other astronauts was the same. None of them ever came back different from what they were when they left. If they were a strong Christian? When they came back, they were probably stronger. If they were a strong Atheist? They may have come back a stronger atheist.
There are no answers to life ‘up there,’ the answers we need are within us, in our own hearts. We have amazing experiences in life, but then we connect them with our hearts, and that’s how we make sense of life.
Q: Is there any aesthetic in dark experiences?
[Marina Abramovic] To look at someone being decapitated on the internet for example, is hugely disturbing- there is no aesthetic. I simply feel incredible sadness that here- in the 21st century- human beings still need to kill each other and commit these terrible acts. We have so much pain expressed in the world through the hell of war, and I am much more interested in changing the human spirit.
The Dalai Lama once observed that only when human beings learn to forgive, can they learn to stop killing. This is what we have to do… we have to learn to forgive and stop these messes. Look at our politicians? We don’t have figures like Gandhi or Mandela anymore; we are voting for terrible people and reflecting our imperfections into them. Why can’t we create something else?
Only individually, if every human being can change their consciousness, can we change the world.
Q: How can we thrive through pain?
[Robin Sharma] It’s starts with rehearsing and practising a new belief: pain can become fuel for power. And what hurts you can build you.
I recently watched Mandela, the film. Mandela could have become a victim and spent the rest of his days after 27 years in prison being bitter. Instead, he reframed what he endured as an opportunity to free his people. And became a heroic leader.
That’s the difference between a victim–and a leader. The victim blames what happened to them and uses it as an excuse to play small. The true leader LEVERAGES the event to grow as a human being. To become wiser, stronger, more creative. And a more graceful, dignified human being.
We all have this choice. Relatively few see it as a blessing.
Q: What are the roles of pain, darkness and negative experiences in our lives?
[Sadhguru] There are two kinds of pain, physical and mental.
Physical pain is a natural phenomenon, and it’s a good thing! In London, in the name of fashion, people are piercing themselves and getting tattoos all over the place. If it wasn’t for pain, they would have pulled out their intestines, slung them over their shoulders and walked around. Fundamental self-preservation would not happen without pain, so physical pain is good.
However, what is happening in your mind or psychological state is your drama. You are causing these pains to yourself, which means you are on self-help! Your thoughts and emotions are your psychological drama, it’s just that you’re such a bad director of this drama, that it turns against you. You’re just a badly directed drama, that’s all.
You can make literature, music, poetry and philosophise all you want – but it’s simple. The drama we have as human beings comes from our immense ability to remember, and our enormous ability to imagine. Human beings suffer what happened 10 years ago, and already suffer what will happen the day after tomorrow. People are not suffering because of life, they are suffering because of their memory and imagination.
It took millions of years of evolutionary work to bring you to this level of evolutionary and cerebral capability, and you are suffering the consequences of that. If you had the brain of an earthworm your life would be quite peaceful!
Q: What is the role of sex and love in human experience?
[Marina Abramovic] I’m tired of looking at art as only being a reflection of reality. Our reality today is fucked up, I don’t need to reflect it; I can see it on television and in the papers. I’m only interested in what I can change and what I can bring that’s different.
Human life always has the same themes: First, we are temporary- and afraid of dying, we are scared of pain, we fall in love, we have melancholy, and we seek out sex. If you look at art from beginning to end, you find that many artists find their own way to express these same subjects.
Q: What does failure mean to you?
[Bear Grylls] To achieve anything meaningful we have to take a few risks and accept that failure is highly likely along the way. Failure, in truth, is never failure, until we stop trying.I like to see it instead as a key stepping stone to success. Get out there and fail your way until you get there. That’s the key. Don’t be scared of it but embrace it as an essential component to getting anywhere good.
Q: What are the roles of intelligence, success and failure in education?
[Sir Ken Robinson] Intelligence is obviously a central concept for education, however most education systems perpetuate a very narrow conception of it. There are two western derived systems that dominate the cultural ideas of intelligence; the first is IQ and the other is academic ability. Both of these are important and interesting. IQ was an idea developed in the early 19th century, building on the work of Sir Francis Galton (a cousin of Charles Darwin) who was accounting for a way of accounting for the different circumstances of the wealthy and the poor. He observed that wealthier people seemed to be more intelligent than poor people and wondered if there was some causal relationship between these two things; and looked for a way of measuring intelligence. What he overlooked of course was that wealthy people could afford to educate themselves! Separately work was being undertaken by Binet in Paris who was looking to help kids who weren’t doing well in education because of special needs of various sorts; he was looking for ways of commenting objectively on different levels of ability. Historically, this idea of an intelligent quotient was picked up by other people (and institutions) very quickly and became a measure for social-processing, coinciding with the growth of mass public education. Versions of IQ tests were used as screening tools for people that wanted to migrate to America at Ellis Island; and also for the military. Because IQ has become part of the public-conversation on intelligence, people tend to think it’s an unproblematic idea and feel that if you take the test, and answer a set of questions over half-an-hour, that you can determine how much intelligence you have, and give it a number! Well of course, this idea is absurd… there are all kinds of ways that intelligence can manifest, quite apart from those measured by IQ tests. I know all kinds of wonderfully smart people who don’t do terribly well on these tests, and others who do very well in these tests but who aren’t very smart in other ways. IQ is a measure of something but people do treat it like a blood-test; which (unlike IQ) gives you biological facts.
The idea of academic ability is also important. People, often in America but also in Europe, use the word academic as if it were a synonym for intelligence. Academic ability is very important… I taught in universities for years, and I’m not here to say it’s not… however- it is very particular. Academic intelligence refers to the capacity for certain types of deductive reasoning, and is rooted in propositional knowledge, analysis and certain types of discourse. It’s mostly conducted in words and numbers; and that’s important. If all we had as human beings was academic intelligence, then most of human culture would never have happened.
Intelligence is wonderfully diverse, we think about the world in all kinds of different ways.
There are some things we can only think about in words and numbers; it’s a point Richard Feynman made when he noted that you need mathematics to understand quantum physics- you can’t get to it in blank verse. If you want to tell someone how much you love them, for example; write them a poem! don’t give them an equation! We think in sounds, images, movement and in all the ways our senses and mind allow us to conceive.
I was at a meeting with a senior education official in Austria, and was talking with him about the diversity of intelligence. He asked for the evidence of this diversity! I told him to look around him! We were sat in a beautiful 17th century building, in a room that was ornately panelled with Oak and adorned with fantastic paintings with Mozart playing in the background. Our meeting took place around an intricately designed Mahogany desk, sat on a beautiful woven carpet… and on this desk was an iMac, we also had a multi-channel high-definition television on the wall and I said to the man, “…where do you think all this came from? this isn’t the result of essays! these are things people have conceived of, made, designed and brought to together with a tremendous array of intellectual capacities, aesthetic judgements, skills and traditions…”
We have ended up dividing the world into academics and non-academics, and this means that people who feel disengaged with academia are classed as ‘non-academic’ which is often used as a synonym for not being very ‘bright.’ This is why so many people go through education thinking they’re not very bright after being stigmatised at school for not being good at the things that schools have come to prioritise.
Success and failure are important concepts. I’m not living in some wacky romantic commune here in Los Angeles where failure doesn’t exist, there are of course things that don’t go very well! There are catastrophes, problems and allsorts. In most processes however, and in most practical purposes, having a harsh distinction between success and failure often isn’t terribly helpful. I chaired a national commission in the UK on creativity and education. One of the people on the panel was Professor Sir Harry Kroto, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on nano-chemistry. I asked him once how many of his experiments failed, and he reckoned around 90%! He said that failure wasn’t the right word, what you are in fact doing is discovering what doesn’t work. All scientific processes involve trial and error, nobody gets it right the first time unless you’re lucky. It’s a recursive incremental process led by hypotheses, it’s what Karl Popper described as being a process of conjecture and reputation, what Thomas Kuhn described as shifting scientific paradigms; we don’t always move in a straight line, but convulsively from one way of seeing things to another in heuristic leaps. Michael Polanyi talked a lot about how the heart of science is a leap across a heuristic gap which you don’t cross logically, but jump across with intuitive acts of imagination which are then back-filled with experiments and testing. ‘Failure‘ is an inherent part of this. Have a look at the manuscripts of musicians, they’re laden with crossing-out and reworking, this is why they invented the cut and paste feature in Microsoft Word. Trial and error is a good way to think about thinking. Thinking in terms of success and failure misrepresents the real way that people think, work and the way that progress always comes about.
Q: What is our role in nature?
[Sadhguru] The very breath you take is a gift from nature. Your body, your life, these are nature… and not external to you, you are a part of it.
All the ingredients you need for the upkeep of your body, and the well-being of your life, are suffocated by disconnecting yourself from nature. For example, by not walking on the land, you are disconnecting yourself from nature. It is a piece of earth you are carrying with you as a body, you had better understand this now. But even if you don’t, you will when the maggots get you one day. People spend their days in high-heeled shoes, on the 10th floor of an air-conditioned building without any exposure to natural elements…. It’s sad. Slowly, the less you expose yourself to nature, the less you will be experiencing life. You will become more of a psychological drama, and less of a living being.
Today a 10-year-old child can see the cosmos… but instead of looking to the sky, he does so on his phone screen.
Q: What does danger teach you about life?
[Bear Grylls] Danger has been a constant companion to much of my life and I have learned to treat it with ever growing respect. In the wild you only get it wrong once.
From snakes, to white water, parachutes to avalanches. It is all about respect and picking your battles – as well as having the wisdom when to advance and when to retreat. Resourcefulness is also key – to be able to find ingenious other ways around the dangers.
I remember when I climbed Mt Everest I fell 200 feet into an icy crevasse at an altitude of 19,000 feet. I should have died. But my best friend Mick & a Nepalese climber called Nima were able to hold of the rope and pull me to safety. That also taught me the power of a team in the extremes. No man can survive as an island forever.
I also broke my back in a free fall parachuting accident whilst I was serving with 21 SAS and should have been paralysed. I was very lucky and it took many months of rehabilitation before I could walk properly or climb again. Again, the team helped patch me up. Together we are always stronger.
A life time of exposure to danger and near misses taught me a gratitude for life that has never left me. Danger always sharpens the mind to the important things, and my main goal always is to get home to my family safe and in one piece – that’s the light through the darkness always for me.
Q: Are you scared of death?
[Bear Grylls] Survival is all about doing whatever it takes to stay alive- and as the founder of scouting once said back in 1905: never say die until you are dead! As a team we are always aware of it though, and in the adventure community no matter however strong or determined someone is, no one is invincible. We have almost all lost good friends to the wild and it shakes you to your core. But it doesn’t mean stop. It means be smart, be respectful but keep living with spirit and courage. The wild rewards that.
Q: What is death?
[Sadhguru] With one exception, every event in your life may or may-not happen, death will definitely happen.
We know we’re mortal, but we don’t seem to be able to come to terms with it and so we live our lives in a foolish manner. If you are conscious of your mortality, and you don’t know whether your life will end today or tomorrow, you will live very sensibly. You won’t have time to quarrel or fight, you won’t have time to wage wars, you will only do what truly matters and nothing wasteful. Right now, humanity- somewhere in it’s mind- thinks it will be around for an eternity, and you see the consequences of this everywhere.
If you understand the mortal nature of your life, then spirituality will be a natural consequence. If you are truly-conscious that you will die, then to ask those big questions about your origin, purpose and destiny will become natural things. We have destroyed these questions with ready-made answers! We tell people that you come from heaven, that you will go back to heaven, that this will happen, that something else will happen….
Every culture has fed its people with their own stories, and these ready-made answers have destroyed individual spiritual possibilities, making humans wanton upon this planet. If you were conscious of your mortality, you would not have a single moment for anything that was not truly meaningful to you.
Q: What is the role of individual religions, for example Hinduism?
[Sadhguru] The word Hindu is a geographical identity. The land that lies between the Himalayas, and the Indu Sagara – now called the Indian Ocean. This land we called Hindu in reverence to these geographical features which gave us 6-8,000 years of uninterrupted civilisation and development.
When the rest of the world was nowhere near doing it, we [Hindus] developed an immense amount of astronomy, maths, physics, human intellect and philosophy. Why? External invaders never crossed the ocean or mountains. Out of our gratitude, we called ourselves Hindu. Even an earthworm that is born in this land is a Hindu earthworm! You may laugh, but don’t you call an Elephant that was born in Africa an African Elephant? The word Hindu is that geographical. It was only people who came from outside that coined the word Hinduism… There is no Hinduism, and because of this, in every house, people are given the freedom to choose which God to worship! The reason we have so many Gods and Goddesses to worship in India is because there is no aspect of creation in which the source of creation is not present. It is the source of creation that you refer to as God.
There is not a single atom in the universe that can function without the source of creation. We have every kind of God to tell people the simple truth that everything is worth your reverence.
Q: What are your concerns and hopes for the future?
[Sadhguru] Right now, many people in the world think it’s fashionable to talk about terror. I’m saying fashionable because nations have been reigning terror upon each other for centuries, it’s nothing new… It’s just that they have new competition [as terrorists] now which they don’t like. The world in many ways is more peaceful now than it has been for thousands of years; however, our weaponry is getting more dangerous.
We have been doing terrible things to each other for centuries, and we seem to always find ‘good’ reasons. Somebody may be fighting for their nation, for wealth or for their God. It doesn’t matter what we’re fighting for, the truth is we’re still doing terrible things to each other.
If you’re fighting for wealth, and are reminded of your mortality, then you’ll figure it’s not worth fighting for too long, and you’ll make a deal. If you’re fighting for money? If the fight goes on for too long, you’ll make a deal. If you’re fighting for your God? There’s no way to stop it.
Human intellect is sparking like never before. There hasn’t been a time in the history of humanity where this many people on the planet have been able to think for themselves – whether they’re thinking straight or not is another question! At least they’re thinking….
When the human intellect is switched on, then solutions in heaven will not be accepted by people. In my estimate, I think in somewhere between 70-100 years, this phenomenon of organised religions, which offer solutions in heaven, will become defunct. People will want to know what is here, not somewhere else. Before this happens however, we need an active, logically correct, scientifically provable spiritual process…. Something that will stand the rigour of academic review, and fit into the logical mind. Humanity is finding it cannot relate to anything that does not make logical sense, and in another 60-80 years, we will reach a point where – for the whole of humanity – unless something makes logical sense, it will be dismissed. When this happens, religions will not make sense.
In a world where religions make no sense, unless you can bring about powerful spiritual process that allows you to turn inwards and find something better than heaven within you, the only option remaining will be drink and drugs.
In this generation, we have to raise human consciousness in a way that people know this. Today I can proudly say that there are millions of people around us who can cry tears of ecstasy if they close their eyes. We need humanity to be blissful and ecstatic by its own nature, not relying on religion and other means. Unless we do this, the whole of humanity will move to drink and drugs. We shouldn’t be surprised if 99% of our civilisation become addicts unless we deliver a scientifically provable, logically correct spiritual process.
We need inner engineering! A technology that works for you. Just like your iPhone, if you know how to touch the screen, it works!
Q: Is there a purpose for God in society?
[Sadhguru] What is your God? It’s whatever society has taught you God is.
From your childhood, if I tell you something about God, whatever I tell you becomes a reality for you, because you believe it. Essentially, belief means you are making your assumptions concrete. It means you’re not straight-up enough to admit you don’t know…
“I don’t know,” is a tremendous possibility. The longing, wanting and seeking to know, and possibility of knowing are tremendous possibilities for you. If you believe the things you do not know, then those beliefs are only culturally relevant.
Can I tell you a little joke to illustrate this?
In New York City, a little boy came home from school one afternoon to his very progressive mother…. “Mama, is God a man or a woman?” he asked. Well, she thought about it and wanted to take into account the gender politics and issues attached to that, so in the end she said, “Both.” The boy went into deep thought and then asked, “Mama, is God white or black?” Well, again she went into all the racial politics in her mind and said, “Both.” Again, the boy went into deep thought and asked, “Mama, is God gay or straight?” She thought again about all the politics, the rights issues, and said, “Both!” The boy jumped with joy, “I got it! I got it! God is Michael Jackson!”
Everybody has their own idea of God, and ultimately this is because nobody has a good-enough explanation for creation. There is so much creation all around you, so much you can and cannot see, there is too much of it! Who did this!? The simple childish idea is a big man sitting up there doing it… If you were a Buffalo, you would surely imagine it was a big Buffalo!
Q: How do you begin your creative process?
[Anish Kapoor] Creative process comes out of a longer, deeper, investigation.
I’ve been in psychoanalysis for 25 years, and one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s not always about discussing the issue at hand. The issue is very often not the problem! It takes weeks and weeks of understanding and work to discover the real problem, which sits alongside the question or issue we had initially brought to our minds. I see this also in my studio practice, I often think I’m making something when, indeed, I’m making something else.
There are quantities, concepts, and things such as scale which are profoundly mysterious, poetic and inexplicable.
If I refer to my piece ‘Cloud Gate,’ which sits in a plaza in Chicago and is a relatively attractive thing to look at… When the sculpture first opened, it was hugely popular and this terrified me. What had I created? Have I made Disneyland? Have I just made an attractive, big, shiny ‘thing’? After spending a few days with it, watching people interacting with it, I realised that it confounds one’s sense of scale. When you’re in the sculpture it’s huge, but when you step away from it? It can appear tiny… Cloud Gate has no joints, seams or reference points for scale. It draws in the buildings, sky and people around it all at the same scale. The object shifts our perception of scale, and this challenges us because we think of scale as consistent- and that’s the poetry of this sculpture.
Q: How can the objects from our lives become art?
[Alan Bean] I use artefacts from the Lunar missions in my art. The fact that there are actual moon-boot prints on the painting connects my work with what I was doing, then. Some people may think it’s distracting, but that’s ok.
In my opinion, using the moon-boots, making hammer prints with the same hammer I used on the Moon, these things connect the piece with the mission and what we did on the Moon. Putting moon dust in a painting is obviously good marketing, but I didn’t do it for that reason. I wanted the painting to be as special as I could, and that made it more special. I also used some of the charred heat-shield from our command module and some of the foil from our command module that we went-through to get to the Lunar module. If somebody could send me something else related to the mission that would make the paintings more special? I would put it in!
We all care deeply about Apollo and what we were doing, and we risked our lives to do it. I hope the paintings I do are consistent. They’re not as good as the Saturn V being on display, but they’re as good as I can do- and I’m going to do them so that someone like me, who played a little part in these Moon missions has the chance to share what they thought was important, and adds a little bit to our human record of what happened.
Sure, the Saturn V and mission control are amazing artefacts from Apollo… but the only reason Saturn V exists is because we, insignificant little pieces of humanity, decided we needed a machine like that. And we, insignificant little creatures, put that machine together.
Coming home from the Moon, Pete said to me, “look Al, we can see the stars, the Earth, the Moon… look how small we are! People on Earth, with the best telescopes, can’t see us. Look how big the universe is, and look at us, we’re grains of sand…” Well, I thought about it that night, and the following day we looked out of the window. I pointed to the Moon and said, “…there’s the Moon, we left there two days ago. We know exactly where the Moon is limited to be 200 years from now. We know the gravity, the velocity and with the right computer program? We could tell exactly where the Moon would be even a thousand years from now…”
The only thing that we know in this universe that is unpredictable is humans. We may be small physically, but we have been given the greatest gift in the universe. We have unlimited potential, and unlimited imagination. Here we are, we’re small but we’re great if we want to be. Working together, humans can achieve impossible goals, period.
That’s the number one lesson from Apollo… not the rocks, not the technology, but the fact that it changed our belief in what was possible. That was the great gift of Apollo to humanity.
Q: What have been the most important moments in your life?
[Bear Grylls] I was so honoured to become the youngest Chief Scout when I was aged 34, and this has been one of the greatest honours in my life. The Scouts are the greatest youth movement on earth and it is such an inspiring worldwide force for good. From the stories of courage in Syrian refugee camps to the inner city workings of volunteers, the commitment and values that the Scouts stand for is amazing.
My main goal is always to encourage those who might not normally get the chance, to get out there and experience their own adventures, and the Scouts does that in spades, as well as inspiring great life values and life-long friendships.
That, and being honorary Colonel to the Royal Marines Commandos, which is also very special to me. To be able to encourage young Marines in their incredible endeavours is always a privilege and it keeps me honest when I am down in the mud with them at Lympstone, Commando Training Centre! Heroes.
Q: What have been the biggest breakthroughs of your life?
[Robin Sharma] I’ve had many breakthroughs many because I do my best to grow as a businessperson, influencer and human being daily.
Having The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari discovered by the president of Harper Collins was a big turning point. That meeting inspired me to leave my career as a litigation lawyer and teach leadership and personal mastery.
Also–understanding that all success reflects our self-identity and personal story was a key insight. Our income, impact, productivity, enthusiasm and overall behavior is always a reflection of the thoughts we are thinking and the emotions we are feeling.
If these are weak and toxic, then our behavior creates a life of victimhood, drama and pain.
So, working on your interior world is the first–and best–way to a world-class external life.
Q: What would be your one piece of advice to a child born today?
[Sadhguru] Between a parent and child, who is more joyful? The child! So, if the child is more joyful, who should be a consultant for life?
When a child enters your life, it’s not time to advise or teach, it’s time to learn.
Q: What would be your advice for the next generation?
[Marina Abramovic] Everyone has their own path and their own truth to follow, and we become the product of many things- our parents, our environment, and so on. It’s very important to make sure that you understand, as early as you can, who you really are- and what you want to do in life.
You can’t follow the wish of your family, or fashion. A young kid came to me and said he wanted to become an artist, I told him you are not an artist… You cannot ‘want’ to become an artist, you either are- or you are not- it’s part of your DNA. There are so many professions where you feel that way, and you have to be in touch with yourself to find it.
I would very much like to introduce meditation into the school curriculum, and to engage this whole different way of study. I want to show people the truth about society, how perverse our advertising is… I want to show children the truth about life, which is often masked by the kaleidoscope of their existence.
You have to be a very strong character to survive life. How can a child, with such little strength, fight a world that is so fucked up? We can’t change the child, we have to change the world and realise that we’re born alone, and we die alone.
[Sir Ken Robinson] There are very few things that set us apart from other forms of life on Earth. Other creatures are not on telephone calls like this, surrounded by technology and speaking in articulate languages. These are things that human beings get up-to…
Human beings have very powerful imaginations; and we don’t live in the world in the same way that other creatures seem to. We don’t live in the world quite so directly, we live in the world of ideas… we have concepts, artefacts, languages, music, images, theories, philosophies, faiths and values which we work-on, inherit, construct, challenge, change and form. We end up living in the world virtually through the ideas that we conceive. These powers of imagination manifest in all kinds of creative outcomes. Creativity is applied imagination, it is the process of putting your imagination to work. Every human being has creativity, it comes with the kit! It does however, need to be worked on.
Every single human being on the planet, since the first emergence of man, has a unique biography. We all create our own lives which, in turn, are the most important act of creativity we ever undertake. We create our lives through the judgements we make on the world around us, we constantly reframe and remake our lives and we can recreate too. The Psychologist George Kelly once said that nobody need ever be painted into a corner by their own history, nobody needs to be a victim of their own biography. The great march of human history has been the development of new ideas and seeing things in a fresh light. Our species is now more connected than ever before, this brings benefits but also fragility; there are countless examples of how much more interdependent we have become, and how fragile our civilisation now is- these are challenges we have never faced before. We are 7 billion people, heading for maybe 12 billion by the end of the century. We will meet or not meet these challenges by the power of our imagination, courage and insights.
We create our lives, and we can recreate them too. Your biography is not your destiny.
[Dan Pink] If you look at the research, the recipe for satisfying life is pretty simple. Form close relationships — make sure you have people you love and who love you. Make errors of commission rather than omission. That is, people tend to regret the things they didn’t do rather than the things they did — so go out and try stuff. Find work that you like more than you dislike and that uses your strengths. Try to make a contribution to the world. You don’t have to end hunger or solve the climate crisis. But if you do things, even small things, that improve your own corner of the world — that make it better, fairer, cleaner, more beautiful, whatever — you’ll be happier and so will others.
[Bear Grylls] Never giving up and don’t listen to the dream stealers.
We all grow up with dreams but life kicks us around a bit and we then leave school, get busy, and sometimes life or people rob us of these dreams. The game changers of society are the ones that hold onto these dreams and they fight their way through the mess of life and stick to their visions.
To live boldly, follow your dreams, look after your friends & not to back down when the mountain cuts up rough. That’s the journey.
Q: What is the nature of our existence?
[Anish Kapoor] In the end, our existence relates to whether we take solace in ideas like redemption. Is there redemption? Is there something which sets us free?
Modernity allowed us to believe that there is no need for this redemptive solace…. That we live, we are meat, and we die… that there’s very little one can do about it. Art, music and love are our only moments of redemption, isn’t that tragic?
One can’t help but feel that existence is tragic and that perhaps the greatest form of expression is the lament.
[Antony Gormley] Our duty as intelligent, reflexive beings is to understand the nature of being itself through being.
Q: How can we find greatness in our lives?
[Eric Thomas] Everything you need is within you.
The people and resources you need will come to you if you are willing to invest in you.
If you are willing to wake-up every single day and believe. If you are willing to wake-up every single day and grind, and work towards what you believe. If you are willing to be inspired…
If you totally invest in you, everything you need to make your dreams become a reality will come to you. If you make a full commitment, if you go full out and give every fibre of your being, your heart, your mind and your soul. If you give everything you have, everything will work itself out.
If you don’t invest in you? Nobody else will… but I promise you, if you believe it, and you’re willing to work for it? Everything will work itself out.
The disconnect between education and self-discovery came largely as a result of socio-economic pressures that required the world to produce a population with the prerequisite knowledge to function productively, as a collective. Deep thinking and self-discovery were tasks largely left to the intelligentsia and societal leaders in the spheres of religion, politics and nobility.
As our species has progressed technologically, it has also become protean in nature. A citizen is no longer defined by ‘what’ they do; but rather exists as an individual who is able to learn, to question and to grow. Our new diffuse culture has also created the opportunity for humanity to innovate; we can explore who we are and what we are capable of in more dramatic ways than could ever be imagined. In the 1950’s for example, it would have been impossible to conceive the total sum of human knowledge being contained within a man-made computer network, that we would have the technology to decode our very DNA, or that billions could be educated digitally in communities that still lack basic access to food and water; but less than half a century later, those things are taken for granted. The pace of change socially, culturally and technologically in our world is increasing rapidly, meaning that the shape of humanity even a decade from now will be significantly different to today; and invariably will require a different set of cognitive, emotional and spiritual apparatus to that which we wield today.
Even the fundamental question of what we are when we refer to ‘I,’ is fraught with doubt.
Every day our body is changing and regenerating (physically) and developing (mentally); it’s unlikely for example that you have many cells in your body now which were present at your birth, and the connections in your brain will be vastly different now than even a decade ago. When you refer to the self, you are really talking of the experiential continuity that has brought you to this present moment; you are in effect the result of your own idiosyncratic path through the gamut of reality, and the fact that those experiences are unique to you creates the self as an individual- the you- that exists as a phenomenon in time irrespective and apart from any other individual. “We are born, we die, and our lives are constituted by what we do and experience in the time between these two termini.” (Self: Philosophy in Transit, Barry Dainton – 2014)
Understanding the self in this way is important. You are a unique and beautiful living experiment that is conscious enough to observe itself. The experiment of you is informed by a constant process of learning, given context by our education.
To put it another way: we live, we learn