Even if being a “very stable genius” who went to “very good schools” can land you the most powerful job in the world, emotional and social intelligence are still the crucial ingredients to performing it well. Enter The School of Life.

Occupying a space between secular church and self-help outlet, The School of Life is an international organisation dedicated to developing emotional IQ, and exploring the meaning of life through art, culture and philosophy. Founded in London in 2008 by influential pop-philosopher and author Alain de Botton – of books including The Art of Travel, Status Anxiety and The Course of Love – its Melbourne campus is launching a new curriculum this week.

With classes such as How to be Serene, How to Fail and How to Enjoy Life, the new program is a series of 12 individual units and four full-day workshops examining success beyond the metrics of money and material wealth. Classes are available as one-off experiences, but Australian managing director Eleanor Gammell recommends taking in the units as a linear experience.

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“We have focussed our curriculum on the key domains in our lives – love, work, self and others, and culture and meaning,” says Gammell. “Our curriculum will literally take you from the insight of Donald Winnicott to the wisdom of Esther Perel, the stoicism of Seneca and the humour of Monty Python,” she says. “Our approach is to draw from all manner of cultural reference points to help participants ask better questions of, and navigate wisely, the challenges of modern life.”

Alongside the new curriculum, a program of thought-leader-run events will kick off this month. Nigella Lawson and social psychologist Hugh Mackay will be exploring Why Food Matters, and famous author and emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Irvin D. Yalom will ponder the meaning of life. More slots are yet to be announced.

According to Gammell, we live in an era of unrealistic expectations, clinging to romantic narratives of fate and divine intervention as conduits of happiness and love instead of finding ways to become better at achieving these ends ourselves.

“Life and love, like flying a plane or becoming a surgeon, are skills we need to develop,” argues Gammell. “Learning how to live well and love well are both things we can upskill ourselves in. While this may seem a little odd at first, it makes for far fewer arguments over the laundry in the long run.”

The School of Life Melbourne’s 2018 curriculum starts Monday January 15. To book a ticket and find out more visit theschooloflife.com.

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