Alain de Botton – 3 Q’s on life’s purpose, legacy and source of happiness

“As a writer I want to explore thoughts with a view to elevating pain… because pain comes through confusion and loneliness.” – Alain de Botton

During my senior year at uni I stumbled on a short TV series hosted by Alain de Botton called Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness. Around this time I was taking Intro to Philosophy 110 as an elective and was looking for material to grow my interest on what made people do what they do. The patient girl that I was dating would hear me ramble on and on about the latest author that had captured my mind. Most likely my tired face betrayed how many times I would wake, middle of the night, and have to work out an idea or search a thought on my laptop.

After moving to London, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Alain and ask him these questions:

1. What makes you do what you do?

2. What do you want to be remembered for?

3. What is the #1 thing that makes you happy?

If you are new to his work I recommend his 16 minute TED talk on Success and Failure  (he is fantastic at taking a complex idea and make it understandable) or perhaps his latest book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. If you are lucky enough to enjoy the grey skies of London, check out The School of Life, co-founded by Alain. Lastly, you can add him on twitter.

Do any of those 3 Q’s strike a chord? Maybe one you haven’t put much thought to?


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  • Mike Walton

    I remember watching his TED vid in the summer. It's cool to see him in a less formal setting. Nice video Filip. “Lets make sure our ideas of success are surely our own.”

  • Filip Matous

    Yeah I hear ya on the definition of success. I forget who told me but it reminds me of the fact that most of the worlds problems come through different definitions of the same words. Different ways we could view words such as: God, Love, Peace, Success, Riches, Justice, Forgiveness…

  • AngelaLeemhuis

    Interesting thoughts, I recognize elements in his thoughts of a mixture of quazy buddist and Russian soul. I'll have to read more! Thanks Filip.

  • PaulHansen

    This is my first introduction to Alain. I have watched more clips of him since, he has a refreshingly realistic view on society as a whole. What he says here about introspective is fascinating -and he is right, it is painful to look inside oneself. I think we are afraid that this searching may cause us to question our own life philosophy. But this questioning may bring knowledge, and with it freedom and happiness.

  • Zengirl


    I did not know much about him till now, now I will have to look in to him and his writings more. How did you manage to interview him? Impressive.

  • Filip Matous

    Angela – Russian soul eh? Paul – Bro I think the pain involved is what brings the happiness. Spot on. I always think that to get a good mind I have to work it out, just like a body in a gym. More pain, more gain in a lot of ways. You guys tripping through EU… lots of pain involved and hardships and souls searching… but would you trade it for a comfy time? Strongly doubt it.

  • Filip Matous

    Cheers Zengirl, he was one of the peeps on my list of must-have interviews. So many people on that list though, haha… but yeah if I hear of anyone on that list anywhere in the area I do all I can to interview them, it forces me to really learn and prepare.

  • Laura Thomson

    Really like the bit about him creating crisp 'naildowns' of the eternal human life issues – to be as relevant in 2110 as it is today…

  • Zengirl @ happy heart and mind


    Good luck, I hope you get to talk to everyone and more on your list: and please post it here so we can all learn details. Cheers.

  • Filip Matous


    Much thanks, do you mean post my dream list on here? If so, I may try to make a vid to accompany it so the message and mission of it is clearer. The list contains people who stand for something (regardless if I agree with it or not) and actively live a life with meaning – where their personal philosophy shows in all that they do.

    Similarly if you have any suggestions for people to shine a light on and share their story/philosophy please do!

  • Filip Matous

    Really is fulfilling to just get something isn't it? To just know a certain thing through and through to the point where you can teach it. I love that feeling.

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