The School of Life has produced 500 films
and written 5 million words. This is an enormous
To stand any hope of remaining in anyone’s
mind, ideas – even very good ideas – need
to be brief and reduced to an essence.
That’s why, for the sake of our followers, or scholars as we playfully call them,
we’ve summarised everything we believe down
to eight key points, if you like: the credo of The School
It goes as follows:
- ACCEPT IMPERFECTION
We are inherently flawed and broken beings.
Perfection is beyond us.
Despite our intelligence and our science,
We are all, from close up, scared, unsure,
full of regret, longing and error.
No one is normal: the only people we can think
of as normal are those we don’t yet know
Recognising that we are each one of us weak,
mad and mistaken should inspire compassion
for ourselves – and generosity towards other people.
Knowing how to reveal our vulnerability and
brokenness is the bedrock of true friendship,
which we universally crave.
People do not reliably end up with the lives
embrace the concept of tragedy: random terrible
things can and do befall most lives. We may
fail and be good – and therefore need to
be slower to judge and quicker to understand.
- KNOW YOUR INSANITY
We cannot be entirely sane, but it is a basic
requirement of maturity that we understand
the ways in which we are insane, we can warn
others we care about what our insanities might
make us do, early and in good time and before
we have caused too much damage.
We should be able to have a ready answer – and
never take offence – if someone asks us
(as they should): ‘In what ways are you
Most of the madness comes down to childhood,
which will – in a way unique to our situation
– have unbalanced us. No one has yet had
a ‘normal’ childhood; this is no insult
to the efforts of families.
- ACCEPT YOUR IDIOCY
Do not run away from the thought you may be
an idiot as if this were a rare and dreadful
insight. Accept the certainty with good grace,
in full daylight. You are an idiot but there
is no other alternative for a human being.
We are on a planet of seven billion comparable
Embracing our idiocy should render us confident
before challenges because messing up is to
be expected it should make us comfortable with ourselves,
and ready to extend a hand of friendship to
our similarly broken and demented neighbours.
We should overcome shame and shyness because
we have already shed so much of our pride.
- GOOD ENOUGH
The alternative to perfection isn’t failure,
it’s to make our peace with the idea that
we are, each of us, ‘good enough’. Good
enough parents, siblings, workers and humans.
‘Ordinary’ isn’t a name for failure.
Understood more carefully, and seen with a
more generous and perceptive eye, it contains
the best of life.
Life is not elsewhere; it is, fully and properly,
here and now.
- BEYOND ROMANTICISM
‘The one’ is a cruel invention. No-one
is ever wholly ‘right’ nor indeed wholly
True love isn’t merely an admiration for
strength, it is patience and compassion for
our mutual weaknesses. Love is a capacity
to bring imagination to bear on a person’s
less impressive moments – and to bestow
an ongoing degree of forgiveness for natural
No one should be expected to love us ‘just
as we are’.
Genuine love involves
two people helping each other to become the
best version of themselves.
Compatibility isn’t a prerequisite for love;
it is the achievement of love.
- CHEERFUL DESPAIR
We are under undue and unfair pressure to
smile. But almost nothing will go entirely
well: we can expect frustration, misunderstanding,
misfortune and rebuffs. We should be allowed
to be melancholy. Melancholy is not rage or
bitterness, it is a noble species of sadness
that arises when we are open to the fact that
disappointment is at the heart of human experience.
In our melancholy state, we can understand
without fury or sentimentality that no one
fully understands anyone else, that loneliness
is universal and that every life has its full
measure of sorrow.
But though there is a vast amount to feel
sad about, we’re not individually cursed
and against the backdrop of darkness, many
small sweet things should stand out: a sunny
day, a drifting cloud; dawn and dusk, a tender look.
Despair but do so cheerfully, believe in cheerful despair.
- TRANSCEND YOURSELF
We are not at the center of anything; thankfully.
We are miniscule bundles of evanescent matter
on an infinitesimal corner of a boundless
universe. We do not count one bit in the grander
scheme, that should be a liberation.
We should gain relief from the thought of
the kindly indifference of spatial infinity:
an eternity where no-one will notice, and
where the wind erodes the rocks in the space
between the stars. Cosmic humility – taught
to us by nature, history and the sky above
us – is a blessing and a constant alternative
to a life of frantic jostling, humourlessness
and anxious pride.
A final point:
We know – in theory
– about all of it. And yet in practice,
any such ideas have a notoriously weak ability
to motivate our actual behaviour and emotions.
Our best knowledge is both embedded within us and
yet is ineffective for us.
We forget almost everything.
Our enthusiasms and resolutions
can be counted upon to fade like the stars
at dawn. Nothing much sticks.
For this reason, we need to go back over things.
Maybe once a day, certainly once a week. A
true good ‘school’ shouldn’t tell us
only things we’ve never heard before; it
would be deeply interested in rehearsing all
that is theoretically known yet practically
That’s why we should keep the eight rules
in mind – and why the next step is to subscribe
– and to return here often.