All about life at The School of Life

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When IRMA heard about The School of Life in Paris, she discovered not only an exciting new way to think about different aspects of life but also a perfect meeting place for like-minded thinkers and believers, a great spot to exchange ideas and maybe to even find new ways to develop her career. We had a chat with School of Life director Fanny Auger in Paris, who wants to give her students “good ideas for everyday life.”

IRMA: How, why and when did you decide that you wanted to bring The School of Life to Paris?
Fanny Auger: I had heard about TSOL a couple of years ago, through some publications, until one day I discovered the place during a visit to London. The School of Life London was opened in 2008 by the philosopher Alain de Botton. Then, every time I was going to London, I used to take a class there, and I was always amazed, not only by the content, but by the discussions going on there.
Never have I seen such a collective intelligence: people thinking together, exchanging ideas, coming up with new ones… At the end of the class, I wanted to keep in touch with each and every participant.
On another hand, I noticed that there are many workshops and classes in Paris, but none on the subjects that really matter: the big questions of life.
This is how I realized I had to bring TSOL to Paris: French people love culture, but do not have the chance to exchange ideas in a safe environment. My first start-up, Lettres d’un Inconnu, was about exchanging beautiful life stories among strangers. It was natural to come to a real place where people exchange stories and ideas. I opened The School of Life Paris in April 2014, almost 2 years ago, and our classes are always full! It was an immediate success, and an immense buzz with the public and in the media. We also work with a lot of big companies who want to develop and inspire their employees differently.

IRMA: What does the School of Life brings to its audience?
Fanny Auger: I think we offer a unique angle, a new approach to the big questions of life: with the help of culture, and interactions among people, we develop emotional intelligence. People are amazed to see they’re not alone, share their questions with other adults, and try to find their own questions. 
It is written on our windows: we do not have all the answer. We simply offer “good ideas for everyday life” (it is written on our façade), and the opportunity for people to think by themselves.

IRMA: Who comes to your courses?
Fanny Auger: We are open to everyone. We welcome every evening people from different backgrounds and environments. From the age of 15 (for a class on confidence) to the age of 78 (for a class on conversation!). Right now we have more women than men, between 27 to 45 years old, but we aim to have 50% men within a year, by developing new classes on innovation, music, etc.

IRMA: How do you choose the professors?
Fanny Auger: That’s the hardest thing! And one of the most interesting at the same time. My job is to meet with interesting and passionate people, who are willing to share and take a subject to life!
The professors are not professors: they are makers: philosophers, start-uppers, entrepreneurs, writers, authors, journalists, photographers, DJs, singers, comedians,… Their common qualities are benevolence, the will to share and think out of the box. And of course, an expertise on the subject. I always ask myself: would I be willing to listen to this person, and get stimulated by her or him, after a day spent in the office. At first, I thought we needed speakers, teachers or coaches. Now I just follow my gut.

IRMA: Can I only take part in a seminar on a special subject like for example “how to get more self trust” or does it makes sense to attend the class of the same subject several times?
Fanny Auger: Our idea is to give a boost, a quick shot of inspiration, deep and intelligent, but short and inspiring. And invite people to explore further on their own. The day after the class, we send a “homework” to people, with books, videos, museums to explore in order to continue the momentum.

IRMA: How many classes do you have per week?
Fanny Auger: We used to have 3 to 4 classes a week, from Monday to Thursday evenings. And we are launching soon workshops during the day, and on the weekends.

IRMA: Which classes are your bestseller?
Fanny Auger: “How to find a job you love”, “How to have better conversations” and “How to be more confident” are our absolute best attended classes, already for a long time.

IRMA: Do you think that it would be important to integrate these kind of courses to high school or university?
Fanny Auger: Actually, we are regularly being asked by universities or schools to come and make a conference, in order to inspire and talk differently to their students. Our realistic but yet inspiring approach is very much appreciated by young people. On top of that, I definitely think schools and university should explain to their students why they learn some things. At first, some might seem remote, and cut off from reality. But in the end, everything makes sense, and an approach a bit more holistic might be useful.

IRMA: Thank you, Fanny!