Iconic designer and New York Magazine cofounder, Milton Glaser's work has been seen everywhere from the halls of global industry to, social movements to local pubs, the Museum of Modern Art and the Georges Pompidou Center. That famous I ♥ NY logo, that was him. The generation-defining, rainbow-haired Bob Dylan poster? Glaser, too. In 2004 he received the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum lifetime achievement award, he's taught for more than 40 years and, amazingly, discovered his vocation when he was 5 years old. Milton Glaser didn't know the "how" or the precise path. But he did know he had to create, which he keeps doing to this day. This “Best Of” conversation from our 2013 archives is a powerful prompt to nurture the creative impulse that exists in all of us.
You can find Milton Glaser at: Website | Instagram | Facebook
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This month. Best of conversation features iconic designer and near magazine, founder milton glaser. Now, ninety years old glaser discovered his vocation when he was five years old and never looked back, he didn't know how or the precise path, but he Didn'T-
he had to create to draw design to make year.
and to life lasers body work
stunning in its breath its depth and its impact, the famed I heart and my logo yup. He did that new york magazine. He founded that iconic bob Dylan, a wreath of franklin posters. He was them
who created them? Brooklyn brewer logos, so many other identities, all of those two and thousands of other works of art, posters, brands, products, packaging,
things that so many of us recognise and had been sort of a part of our own mythology, but had no idea, maybe unless we were in the world that these came from his unique mind and big heart
his work, has been seen everywhere from the halls of industry to local pubs?
mama in two thousand, for he received the cooper hewett
national design, museum lifetime achievement award, and I had the incredible opportunity to spend some time with him at his studio back in two thousand and thirteen where he was deep at work on a new show. We talked about his really incredible journey.
The teacher who validated his choice of happiness over safety. What drives him to continue to create how he chooses who and what to work on the difference between the urge to make and the disease
or to create beauty, the role of formal art, education and the difference between the calling and a career beside a fascinating conversation about the role of computers and technology and art and design
and how its affecting and maybe even constraining our ability to create whilst simultaneously creating a world of
opportunity, he has an unusual, take care and glaser. He uses
computer every day, but actually never touches them. You'll have to listen to understand his death and generosity of thought. Left me not only
reexamining my own choices but yearning to reconnect with something that's kind of laid all too dormant in me for far too
and that is my own desire to make with my hands- not just media but actual physical, tangible stuff, and that has been a huge difference.
I'm so excited to be able to bring this best of.
Recession back out of our archive,
many of our new or listeners over last couple of years. I have never heard this, but is an incredibly powerful and important conversation
You'll also noticed the audio is a little bit different because we actually originally film this. You will hear towards the latter part right. Next,
his design studio, new york city is a wonderful primary school with the playground and you'll hear you'll catch little glimpses of kids laughing angle.
I m playing in the background, which I think is really fitting for the conversation so excited to share it with you. I'm Jonathan fields- and this is good life project-
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How does a I even work? Weird
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So we're sitting here today in a room surrounded by credible, are incredible design
Probably years and years of work
and it's interesting because almost don't know where to die then, but when my curiosity says-
Where did this all come from? And I'm curious in one
think about your body of work,
going way way way back before there was a body of work. My way you like as a kid. What is this? Where does the seat of this come from.
Are you going to continue to ask me questions that can't be answered that I'll do my best, but I have no idea where it comes from. The only thing that I do know is that after awhile
The you begin to realise a how little you know when everything and to have ass the brain is and how they compasses everything you can imagine. But more than that everything you can't imagine and what is.
what is perhaps central to this is the impulse to make things which seems to me to be a primary characteristic of human beings. The desire to make things whenever they turn out to be and then supplementary to that is the desire to create beauty which is a different but analogous activity. So the urge to make things, probably you re survival device, the urge to create beauty or something else
but only apparently something else, because, as you know, there are no unrelieved advancing human experience. Beauty here. I've said this before, but beauty at the creation of it is a survivor mechanism. There was something about making things beautiful and we sometimes call that art that has something to do with creating a commonality between human beings.
So that they don't kill each other and that whatever their impulses are wherever it comes from, it certainly is contained within every human being. I've ever met, and sometimes the opportunity to articulate will occur sometime. It remains dormant for a lifetime. You just don't get the shadow
but I've been very lucky. I imagined myself
as a maker of things for the age of five. I realise that to make something was maria
Alice and I never stopped by just kept making things up my life, whatever they were, wherever category you chose to put them in,
or whether they attain the status or official status of art is another story, but that is a set above the convention, but the desire to make things is a profound human characteristic. I completely agree was there
something that happened at the age of five or was it a gradual awakening around then that you seem to really keen on a moment. Well, I have a chance story about
which is why I feel the reluctant to tell it to get back up until the somebody thought sometimes on film. But what really happened that this was the end of it
my parents were going out or grew in the bronx, my parents were going out to sea.
ceremonial occasion and left me at home to be taken care of by my cousin, who must have been sixteen or seventeen years old? Who came to the house? My parents left.
And he was carrying a brown paper bag and after we sat down,
living only said he was he a bird emma. I thought immediately that he had a bird in the back
They said yes, and he reached back any pulled out a pencil.
And he drew a bird other cited the bag and for one reason or another I think, was the first time
My ever seen, anybody draw something:
I had booked like the object depicted, I mean I'd, seen kids in kindergarten, drawing things that didn't look like a bird, but I suddenly realized that you could create life, that you could create life with a pencil and a brown
bag and they was truly a miracle in my recollection, although people always
namely the memory is just the device to justify your present
I really it was like receiving the stigma that I suddenly realized tat. You could spread your life in my life and I never stop said that at five my course was that they never deviated. I never stopped aspiring were working in a way that their that provided the opportunity to make things that if you did right, move people
interesting suleiman, because you know you grew up in such a post, oppression and world war, two in the bronx and
there were certainly ample need to create moments that touched people and and work that touch people
but also, I wonder at that time in our country's history. Whether and in your mind whether
doing. This was something we said. This is something that I could get paid for and build a career around, or this is just. This is what I need to do, and this is my service. Well,
characteristically I had a very good dynamic, my mother
was relentlessly approval of anything. I did. I just thought everything I did was marvellous and my father
I was worried about my making a living. It was very reluctant to even think that I might choose a life in the arts cause. He wanted me to pursue a life that would basically have some financial security and a kind of simple idea, but during the depression very prevalent. But there was a time when
making a living was really tat. He had a dry cleaning sore and I used to deliver orders. They often that consisted of carrying forward the codes
up six vice upstairs and getting a nickel tip
I couldn't imagine that the life of an artist would be much more difficult, but burma, at any rate, be the combination of my father's resistance, and my mother's support was the perfect violence cause.
Learn to overcome resistance and
was convinced by my mother that I could do anything
I ideal, psychic environment, for accomplishing something in the world.
What led you to run.
In your mind, your creating art, do, you remember, showed the first glimpse of the the experiences
of I'm doing this for me and I love it and there's something that I just drawn to.
Verses people are responding till it s, interests and complicated question, because.
I began using my drawings
by means of ingratiating myself with other
people I mean I was. I was the class authorised so designated when
I was six years old, but it's funny
All true were happy school. I was always the class iris with funny idea and I would do drawings as a kind of service activity for my friends, mostly drawings, of beckett girl,
at a time when we didn't quite know what that was, but I always saw myself
as has a facilitator of other people's needs in that.
Very primitive way. I like the fact that I had status a position in life
and I could also be of service in a stranger, although I never thought.
If is bigger than man than I did something that gave me some privilege in that group. That designation,
It was a useful want to me in terms of developing biosensor, who I was still went.
We reach a point where,
You decide that what this is something that I could potentially do beyond high school. This is something I can build. My life around us
Like you had already in your mind-
That decision, when you were five or six, then you have to work out the details. Absolutely there was no
There is no doubt in my mind what I was going to do ever. Have you come to the place of deciding what that outlet is gonna, be? How do I take this end
and I'm on the class artist. You know- and I know this is in my soul in somewhere or I have to make I have to create after I have to make, and I have to create beauty. This is what I'm here to do, and there are a lot of different directions. You could have gone with that
you couldn't gonna find out. You can go on so many different direction, though. What led you to choose the right path,
you think you're asking questions that are fundamentally unanswerable about. I would
I would say that it didn't matter to me as long as at the at categorical distinction between the artist nonsensical stupid, in fact, but useful to society for one reason or another have I might have become a painter I might have become address designer. I might have become an architect favorite, all those possibilities. I knew I wanted to make things and then circumstances began to intervene and
interrupt that they decision and opportunities which I was willing to seize, regardless of whatever the consequences. So I am.
To tell you the story which has a very instrumental in that decision ever, even though it is a part of my official range of stories, it was so profound. I I have to tell it just it.
to express. How were how twenty seconds can change your life when I was in junior high school, had the opportunity to take the interests examination to either brung science, which is a great
the school or the high school music art is another great new york school,
neither of which are sufficiently appreciated file they shape the city over. These are both incredibly important institution in terms of new york's population and environment.
And the I have a science teacher who was very encouraging for me to enter into science. I was very good science and he wasn't made to go to bronx science.
And there I was a base of about that, because I didn't want to tell him that, but the day of the entrance examine bait
Appearing on the same day, I took the entrances affirmation device for music about.
and the next day when I
back to school,
He was in the hallway, as I was walking about, and they said the I want to talk to you. I saw the jig is up he's he's gonna find out. I took the wrong exam at exit, come to my office,
sit down, and, as I was sitting here, he said I hear you took the exam for music and art, and I said, oh yes,.
And then he reached over and he reached into his desk and pulled out a box of french conte crayons fancy expensive bucks.
And he gave it to me, they said, do good work and there
can't tell story where I cry, because it was such a profound example of somebody who and adults authority figure
sophisticated man who was willing to put aside his arm
desire for something in their direction for my life and recognise,
me as a person who had made a decision and he was instead of just simply acknowledging it. He was encouraging it with this. Incredibly gracious and generous gift, and I never forgot that story. I you know I was about forty.
dinner is all but that kind of the thing about it that always astonishes you your light is that moment I couldn't have taken more than two minutes was totally transformative about my view of life, my view of others by view of education
My view of acknowledging the other and that it was a very important moment for me. It's,
It's interesting to me also apparent because.
You know met everyone says: what does a parent want for their child, what they want them to be happy or but but above that, I think before that we want them to be safe,
Sure you now and then we want them to be happy anything. So we have this kind of ongoing,
conversation in our heads. This may make them happy, but this may mean
That is why we're gonna make them safe. You know,
so and there's this risk that words are going and and and
So it's interesting when you share the story, because I think of that person you're playing,
a similar role and saying you know what I choosing happiness and whenever will have will happen, rose you'll. You learn more more that everything exists at once with its opposite, so the contradictions of life were never ending and their somehow the mediation between
These opposites of the other game of life hm asked often
and I'm sure you are also through your teaching. What, if I choose wrong, what what, if I choose wrong
And then you know what a fine, what if that wasn't the right in and anything
just in conversation, because you know, I think the more
Think about it and the more I explore life.
Less and less. I believe there is a wrong choice.
no, it's more is more important to choose.
And just see what happens
I you can also develop.
Around understanding by saying what choices you may then. You know some people, you know.
simply complaining about their life, wrong choices. They made them at one point: you say them stop making those stupid choice.
Man, some first acknowledged that you make stupid,
It is and then see if you want to do something about baby. Don't, and evidently you don't know
so be satisfied in your stupid chosen. I mean without being arrogant about it, but you realize that the the first step is always in the buddhist sense, to acknowledge what is and that's very hard to do,
it s very hard to do, then, is what it's about Lee. Drawing an attempt at this is one of the ways to do that. I made the great benefits of drawing, for instance, is that when you look at something you see it for the future,
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it is interesting that has as your share
miss in the background were starting to hear the voices of children.
playing outside is the perfect compliment or like this topic, because you're, what better representation of being here and seeing what's in front of you than when you're this big and if we could carry that forward. But for so many people I feel like it.
Some way. We we lose that or we do and and you'll have to I mean I do I I I I I can sound as though I
I know the answer that you say I don't know the answer to anything made it to constantly be attentive to what you deflect and life and what you don't pay attention to and all the things that you can
see and all the preconceptions that you do have about everyday and those preconceptions. Basically,
blow your vision, it's very hard to see. What's in front of you.
Yeah, I I I remember hearing once when I told them that I couldn't draw the the response that it's not that you can draw it's that you can't
everyone can draw out it's it's about. Can you actually see?
in front of you, rather than seeing sort of like the image that has already been planted in your mind about what it's supposed to reflect. The true remember.
It's a shame that, educationally that I've been teaching for an awfully long time and because of its size and the technology, the computer and so on, and the concern to mass of programmes and saw that this most fundamental.
Act of anyone in the arts, which is the desire to understand what they're looking at, which involves looking seeing the brain transformation. The neurological path that,
It was from the brain to the hand. Someone said the hands
Thinking yes from at the have a book called drawing your speaking and.
That has been omitted from our legislation in most places that more places at a great loss to work
understanding. Even when you manage the technological.
needs that you have to work to produce.
Thanks for the society, the idea that
drawing is a way of developing your ability to think doesn't seem to be sufficiently conclusive.
Yeah- and it's so interesting for me also as a writer for lunch,
I will do my riding on a computer and then
had a playwrights, tended to step out and then start
taking out a little mosque in but with me, and I would just sit somewhere in a part that would go to your bar just sit and just right longhand at an at first
and start to eight, because I'm really long muscle ass to be able to actually layer and then, when I start
I realize was that that that change actually really change my output, the? What can't what channel threw me onto the page when I was writing by hand was very different creatively than what came through my fingers onto the keyboard, and that's that surprised me. It really did absolutely, but everything changes over there.
No independent ben semi theirs. I use a computer everyday now, ideas I am about the computer, but I never touched
I mean I have somebody at my side by side, make a big and make them, but I also use a computer right down to issues of prince for show but help next year and I use a computer like eight lit the graphic press I spent years doing without referred, and I just think of the computer as you press that operates at a different speed, because when you do a little graphs you have to
Do a drawing at cit prepare a stone, transfer the stone print. The proof look at the proof that it's an olive which will take you a day at an order to get five different. Color proves that it'll take your money to do a print. I can do all that in a day on the computer, by simply being able to determine what color goes on, what color name on the computer itself rather than the old technology. But if I didn't know that old technology the computer be useless to me, so it's a dead. The interaction but also the need for speed is a separate issue entirely because in the case of
work that you do on the computer. Speed is a factor because it's an economic factor, but the world of high speed is irrelevant tonight. So you have two very different objective
So now I mean it's interesting. I recently there's a letter press shop out in brooklyn,
and I recently went out there and took a glass to learn how to use his letter present.
Maybe they had to go and find from the fifties and bringing them yet like really good machines and theirs,
when you sit there and choose the paper and you'll lay the blocks. You know and ink the waller and the he just. Let your wallet ruin your lower back and hold it up, and you feel it it's it's
Different process, and so on, if you like,
a different answer dearly. Its is very wrong thing. That's
I spend all day- writing are trading on your computer, but I won't get that the you know. So it's it's an amazing thing to to move back to to these sort of ways to make it is, or the virtual world has created a very different kind
nervous system for people who spend their life.
in the world and produces a different sets of appropriateness of time.
A morality, ethics so behavior. I was there I cited this before, but I was at dinner with my wife and we sat next to a table.
with four people? They each had cell phones and they were all talking to somebody outside the restaurant cans nursing.
What's going on there, I mean why would you be talking to somebody outside the restaurant at not even looking at the people at your table and when did that become appropriate if you were on the telephone for a meal with four different people talking before others also eat
When I was growing up right you, it would be incomprehensible and not only as a comprehensible. Now it's unavoidable
I mean what else could you want if the phone rang and the family was having dinner, you didn't pick up the phone wrote you know. So what shifted that perception of? What's the right thing to do, and it's there's something really weird about it- that we, who are all these people at this,
its talking too, were in the middle of traffic as they try to cross of it. What is it that makes every positions,
so urgent that it can't wait till they stop the crossing. I don't get it and you know I I, but I think, like a cause. I agree. I think what that technology does, on the one hand and connect it flattens the world which is wonderful. I can talk to people on different continents absolutely, and so it opens up this cultural divide, but at the same time it often disconnects us from the people at the dinner table right in front of mature and
and you know what you are talking about. People constantly on is that you know to me meant that the biggest creative act, the biggest ideas, don't come to me when I'm working hard getting them to come on and step away from the work,
You know what I mean when I'm in the woods when I'm just when I pray, passes and my day
Sound they cause were feeling every possible pause with interconnected
and what is it going to do to what were capable of creating the well? Well, we don't know
I mean that the data thing we don't understand. You never know fish water.
No it's and water. We don't know what this is doing to the human psyche at even behaviour at any level.
We know it's changing the window, it'll be a profound change.
We'll be what it was, but we don't know what the nature of that will. Finally be it probably have some benefits said significant drawbacks, but it is just emerging, be a you: are creating undo
Kind of person, they're agree and literally rewiring the brain,
a curious when you, when you look at the work that you are creating,
and when you, when you start to make decisions about,
am I gonna do I'm not gonna? Do what what's important to you about what you choose to work on? What is termed the qualities that they draw? You too
catch up, that light you up- and this is something I wanted I wanna do- will be involved in.
Well, that's a year a cushion easel mars
I myself. If somebody came with a project, you know, and as yet
as a person, you've got limited time and you need to say yes or no, and so it yep. My curiosity, is in your head. What is it about? Is it about a project? Is it a product or work, or is it the team or the individuals or the opportunity for you to.
explore something just yourself that may not be related even to it. That makes you say. Yes, it's a dialectic. I don't think it's whimpering. I don't think that's over one thing, it's like: why do you like this person like this this and that? But I don't like this. That said, I always say the question of human affection is so complicated. Why do you like certain people who don't like other people go into
when they say yes, yes, yes, no! No! No! You already made up your mind. We go
I went over. You chat, enabled
sort of in my book principles of my ten principles were the first one is always work, people alike and that's it.
I really simple minded but fundamentally profound by me. You can't aids
and this is not entirely true- you can't work with people- you don't like, sometimes there's a kind of dislike that urges you to overcome.
You're, only imitation sums were able to a certain extent. I would say that
Getting work is always a combination of factors. One as a first thing is if the work is harmful, I dont do it I mean do no harm, is, I think, a principle that does not only apply to the medical profession, which you said to urge people to do what is harmful to them. As such
But I don't feel comfortable doing at the other thing is well, they there's really an opportunity to make something good out of it is supposed to fulfilling a task. Professional life is very often at the technical to artistic life, because in professional life you basically repeat what you already know your preacher previous successes as like marketing marketing
we gotta be apart, because it is always based on the past, but that our art is always based on the future. But it's very often based on transgression, so when you do something that basically is guaranteed to succeed, you're basically closing the possibility for discovery. So there's that- and I do judge
golly purely for professional reasons, as I know how to do certain things that will be
that will work on that
serves me as a professional and then I do
I don't know what I'm doing the projects where I don't know what I'm doing I'm doing that now
They show that gonna help in Cincinnati next year.
Cited to do a series of landscape prince
doing them on the computer in part and taking drawings and there's subjecting them to the computer
to see if I can produce something that doesn't look as though was generated by the computer, pursue the computers it
interest instrument because it shapes
pass it on to send what's possible to computer is is like a apparently submissive.
servant that turns out to be a subversive that ultimately gains control of your mind. The computer is such a powerful instrument that it it defines after what what is possible for you and what is possible.
Is within the computer's capacity and while it seems at the beginning like this incredibly gifted and talented service and actually
That's a very limited intelligence
the brain is so much faster than the computer, but
tunas, variances about what it's good at
before you know what it's like being with. Somebody has bad habits. You sort of followed through the bad habits
and it begins to dominate the wave of what is possible so now, because I never touched a beer and taking advantage of it to have by doing things that are uncomfortable for to do so
the more relevant treating it like it were. A printing press instead of like an advanced electronic instrument but always fascinating, sounds essentially.
River aluminum role reversal there.
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people are being trained. There's been a lot of really interesting, pushed back these days against art school form on education,
somebody who's in order to design the teacher curious just what your feelings are,
that will be made by push back the biscuit, meaning people, science, it's not necessary decisions, yeah, lesser formal art, education- that for what purpose,
for in order to become gonna, your craft become good enough
that you can build a living doing it. You have to separate making a living which is
activity and one that everybody has to face within.
charging one sunday
Sadly, the world,
Instrumentality for people to have
as I said earlier, a common purpose and a sense of transformation.
I went up to the morgan library the other day, having shown its scope of master drives home mastered,
I saw a terrorist fantastic, their bad, never seen pencil of more a color of landscape,
And though I was transformed,
My world was a large at this ancient age, I'm so capable of astonishment of feeling, my god. I've never had this experience before, and that is what the us provide. The sense of at large
I the sense that you have come to the end of your understanding, either of yourself or of other things so,
that's why I was in bed and that's why practitioners have occasionally spirits in making such objects feel that they are part of,
larger issue than the immediate context of their life. Their part of human history bears thinking
Recent Gaza friend had recently died a it's the field that you left something behind when you.
Which is a vast name, because.
Some forty, seven and married have a daughter, and
It's interesting that I find myself now thinking about legacy. You're still believe in that have many decades left to create work, sure
by its creeping into my every day and so
in a surprising and in an odd way. Well, you don't I mean I I eat you, don't necessarily have to think of it as
some say right, but overtones and rabbit.
But he isn't sure that I like what we're doing good work. I mean there's something about that: the simplicity of that statement and the I think, I'm not sure, but I think it was freud who said, love and work. That's all there is.
pretty much drew near emanating on that.
There. I need to spend more time on its interests me. So,
send in the name of this project is, is the good life project and it's an exploration of you know: do we know what any of the pieces are and and one of the questions that always ask when I, when I have an opportunity to sit down somewhere like yours, in in your experience when I offer the term to live a good life? What comes up a significant blow.
Well, first significant to whom a man there.
If you are thinking in terms of the history of the world as one thing, everything in terms of the family that manage to grow up and support itself in
however, for life do no harm. Every life is significant.
some more than their heroic figures in history.
Chosen, either for real
well heroism or real importance, or for some illusion of status. I was thinking about the pope, this unexpected modesty. Ah, who am I to judge in a condemn another human being or another, about gay people, and I was thinking yeah, that's a good quit. Who are you to condemn anybody else? May we elevate these people to heroic roles or significance
rose. Just another guy living tried to make sense of getting old and dying. That's it. I mean we're all in the same boat so, but it was shocking to hear that coming from someone who had been anointed with this.
False illusionists stick idea that this person-
somehow was more knowing that every other you and I'm sorry.
it's a self serving delusion, but obviously useful, because it persists that much an kirsty,
Do you see a good life and a significant life as one and the same are you're very suspicious of some words like work, but also what they link to prior? I guess I feel about you can't take everything at first.
Well, you have to go beyond the superficiality of existing believe my favorite quote assert.
There's a closing of the mind, and so I don't know what a good life is. A good life for me said lady, has has been the things that I think are important friendships and I have people I love it.
a marriage studies endured and continue to endure, teaching children dying from up well over half a century, the feeling that
as you know, has a possibly being transmitted and shared.
Outside of that, I would know how to define and good luck
as you know, some people seem to be there.
some men heroes to another. I mean by that
What's so interesting to me and said, I asked this question now were over a year into the exploration.
and then initially, I would have guessed that after about ten,
then twelve conversations there would be a lot, a repetition fastened, the poorhouse messengers which it will it's been fastened
to me said the wines is, so you need to everybody's equal. What is the most recurring idea, though, on service,
is in various ways we live out there. I am not only for my sincere gratitude in various under by various men, sir, there two things that I refer indifferent
Yeah less well, and one may certainly in terms of gratitude, I feel it normally grateful for the life I had left. I bet it extraordinarily easy life. I would say
I'd benefited enormously from the generosity of others and have been able to live well and do what I aspire to do. Make some things that I think are useful and
you have to be grateful, or especially when you realize the about the pain and suffering that the world is full of angry
Well, I thank you so much for this conversation, I'm grateful to you for your time and your your wisdom and your illness or for your series goes well. Thank you. I a piece in it
Thank you so much for listening and thanks also to our fantastic sponsored who helped make this show possible. You can check them out in the links we have included in today, show notes and while you're at it, if you ve ever ask yourself what should I do with my life
we have created a really cool online assessment that will help you discover the source code for the work that you are here to do. You can find it add, spark a type dot com, that's s, p, r, K e t, why p dot com or just
the link in the show notes, and, of course, if you haven't already done so be sure to click on the subscribe button in your listening app. So you never miss an episode and then share share the love. If there's something that you've heard in this episode, that you would love to turn into a conversation, share it with people and have that conversation, because when I do
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Transcript generated on 2023-06-24.