The Eight Rules of The School of Life – Free Ebook

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
of Life.

It goes as follows:


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

very well.

  1. Friendship

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
they deserve.

We should
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.

Be kind.


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.


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.

    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.


‘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.


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.

    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.

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