The James Altucher Show: How Feeling Melancholy Can Boost Your Creativity with Susan Cain
Do you know that feeling melancholy can actually boost your creativity? Listen to the full episode here where @JamesAltucher and Susan Cain talk about the benefit of feeling melancholy and also how to cultivate them!
1. Who is Susan Cain?
SUSAN CAIN is the author of the bestsellers Quiet Journal, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which have been translated into 40 languages, spent eight years on The New York Times bestseller list and was named the #1 best book of the year by Fast Company magazine, which also named Cain one of its Most Creative People in Business. Her new masterpiece, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole, is forthcoming from Crown on April 5, 2022.
LinkedIn named Susan the 6th Top Influencer in the world. Susan partners with Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, and Dan Pink to curate the Next Big Idea Book Club. They donate all their proceeds to children’s literacy programs.
Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Her record-smashing TED talk has been viewed over 40 million times and was named by Bill Gates as one of his all-time favorite talks.
Cain has also spoken at Google, PIXAR, the U.S. Treasury, P&G, Harvard, and West Point. She received Harvard Law School’s Celebration Award for Thought Leadership, and the Toastmasters International Golden Gavel Award for Communication and Leadership, and was named one of the world’s top 50 Leadership and Management Experts by Inc. Magazine. She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School. She lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband, two sons, and golden doodle, Sophie. Visit Susan at susancain.net.
2. Why people are more drawn to sad and melancholy music?
It makes you feel a kind of sense, of transcendence. It's a kind of state of communion with all the beings that have known the sorrow that That music is expressing. And then there's a sense of awe that the musician is able to transform sorrow into beauty
3. We Underestimate Melancholy in our lives
Melancholy is almost like a superpower in terms of surviving moments of grief and connecting to others and finding reasons to live and so on. It's also connected to our ability to be creative!
4. You should keep a diary
Because Susan does feel like it's important to get into the habit of telling the full truth in a way that's much harder to do.
5. Do you think the US and maybe it's the world but it definitely seems like the US specifically has this tyranny of positivity?
When we became such a business-oriented society throughout the 19th century, what started happening is that you clearly had some people who were succeeding and Some people who were never succeeding or maybe they would succeed, and then they would blow up in some spectacular bankruptcy, which kept happening in the 19th century.
And so like, when this question started to be asked over and over again, which was, you know if someone fails at business, is it because of bad luck? or external forces? Or is it because of something inside the character or soul of that person that predisposes them to failure?
And increasingly, if that question was answered by saying, yes, it's something inside the person.
And this is when you start having like, the language of winners and losers, and, and the word loser has increased in usage, you know, kind of like, going up all the time.
And if you start looking at yourself, and everyone around you through this prism of is that person a winner or a loser, then, of course, you're never going to want to talk about melancholy, or loss, or sorrow, or longing or anything like that, that seems to be kind of the lost side of the ledger, you know, you want to be projecting the emotions that seem to be associated with winning, and these complexities of holding happiness and sadness at the same time, and where the sublime places that could lead you, those, those quickly get dispensed with. So that's where we are. And that's what we have to reclaim.
6. Why do older people in general, according to the studies have less stress than younger people.
The appreciation of life's fragility.
And that as an older person, you're like intensely aware of how fragile it all is because you only have a few years left. But she ended up finding that when she looked at younger people, who also had been made to feel life's fragility, maybe because they were living through political instability or some other kind of crisis, those people had these same other emotional benefits of feeling less stress and being more focused on meaning and depth, and in-depth relationships and all of this.
So it's really fragility itself, or the awareness of fragility itself that seems to carry all these benefits.
And I think that's the thing that I have felt instinctively, all my life when I listened to that kind of music, because that we started talking about, you know, what that music does is it puts you in mind of fragility, and it makes you aware of how intensely precious everything is. gets you into this deeper state.
7. How can we cultivate the state of melancholy in ourselves? Because, again, in the very short term, you'd want to cultivate this feeling if you want to be creative because there's evidence that this is linked to higher states of creativity.
Listen to melancholy music, interact with beauty, the stoic practice of Memento Mori like remembering death, looking at art social media accounts.