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Alain de Botton and Stefan Sagmeister at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes from Session 1

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It’s time for TED! Alain de Botton begins with a meditation on snobbery. What is a snob? He defines it: “Someone who uses a small part of you to come to a global conclusion about who you are.” But he points to a basic desire of ours to ascribe moral values to those who are less and more succesful than we are. In the past, rich people would call the poor “unfortunates” — implying that fortune had not smiled on them through no fault of their own. But now, at least in America, we call them “losers.” But the belief that we merit what we get, whether good or bad, success or failure, is dangerous.

Designer Stefan Sagmeister has just returned from a long sabbatical in Indonesia. He stayed as busy as a bee, it’s clear, but it was a busyness that cleared his mind, refocused his vision and led to a renewed excitement in his own work. And, he says, everyone should try it. Add five years to your planned working life, and plan to take a year off every 7th year. He does it, and here’s why: It’s good for your work and your life. In 6 words: “My job became a calling again.” He shows some work from his post-sabbatical period, including astonishing new furniture and the opening titles from a work in progress called “The Happy Film” — created by pigs, ducks and monkeys. To do: If you haven’t yet taken a sabbatical, find someone who has (Stefan’s straw poll shows that about 5 percent of TEDsters have taken sabbatical) and ask them how they did it and whether it was worth it. Then start to make your own plan.