View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about improving our shared healthcare system, aging, and the decades of old age now increasingly known as elderhood.

I’m Louise Aronson, a practicing geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the author of the Pulitzer-Prize-Award finalist book Elderhood, Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life, which draws from history, science, literature, popular culture – and from my own life – to weave a vision of old age that is full of ambition, humor, outrage, joy, wonder, and hope.

Please join me for my upcoming 90-minute class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Elderhood. In conversation with Kris Rebillot, I’ll share the most important lessons I’ve learned from a life devoted to improving our shared healthcare system, aging, and the decades of old age now increasingly known as elderhood. We’ll focus specifically on the most important things I’ve learned about empowering older adults to maintain their personhood and maximize their wellness as they age and how that can benefit people of all ages:

  1. Old age happens to (almost) all of us
  2. Being old is much better than people think
  3. Aging could be so much better than it is
  4. Our attitudes, policies, and systems manufacture many of the hardest parts of old age
  5. Elderhood is one of the most exciting areas of human potential and innovation

I’ll share how as a young person with no particular interest in aging, I stumbled upon the profound satisfactions and untapped opportunities of old age: After graduating from Harvard Medical School, I returned to my home town of San Francisco and began my residency at UCSF. My plan was to work with an underserved population, and like most young people, I hadn’t thought much about aging or old age. Years into my training, I realized that I loved caring for older people – their long, varied life stories, their complex medical and ethical challenges, and the fact that to take good care of them, I had to know about more than their organs and disease; I also needed to understand their living environment, their social networks, their community, and what mattered to them. 

Newly attentive to our health system’s older patients, I quickly saw that they were group most likely to be harmed by medical care and least likely to be anyone’s priority. This realization helped coalesce everything that horrified me about the medical establishment – the focus on disease at the expense of health and wellness, the payment systems that incentivize illness and hospitalization while ignoring prevention and community-based care, and treatment plans that too often left patients in worse shape than when they showed up for care. Improving the lives older adults and fixing our medical system’s failings turn out to be related issues with the potential to improve all lives. The chance to do that continues to motivate me today.

My life as a writer is also key to who I am and (to my surprise) to the latest twists and turns of my career. As a child, I dreamed of being a writer or an editor – the next Max Perkins, who was the Scribner editor of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. After becoming a physician, I finally had the confidence and security to turn back to writing, eventually earning an MFA at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers.

My success as the author of books, articles, essays and stories that explore the intersection of medicine and life helped me discover that I could be at least as useful with a pen or keyboard as with a prescription pad and stethoscope. As a doctor, I work to improve individual lives; as a writer, I work to change minds, hearts, policies, systems and communities.

If there is a single useful idea I hope you might take away from this conversation, it’s this: We would all have more fulfilling lives and less to fear about extreme old age if every time we speak of or make policy for children and adults or childhood and adulthood we also include elders and elderhood.

  • If old age seems like something that happens to other people, join us.
  • If your own old age scares you, join us.
  • If you want to find a focus for your work that offers immense opportunities personal, social, scientific and financial across all sectors of society, join us.
  • If you want to make the world a better place for people of all ages and backgrounds, join us.
  • If you want some of your most basic assumptions about old age challenged, join us.

I look forward to our conversation!

– Louise  

How to Live Better Longer

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about scientists’ remarkable recent efforts to slow aging and improve our chances of a healthy late life.

I’m Gordon Lithgow, a professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, located just north of San Francisco, CA. I very much hope you will join me for upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned about How to Live Better Longer.

The Buck’s mission is to end the threat of chronic diseases of aging for this and future generations. My work there puts me in regular contact with scientists around the world who are making exciting inroads into efforts to slow aging or improve the chances of a healthy late life. I’m eager to share with you the implications of some of our most important discoveries.

Let this be the first thing I’ve learned about how to live better longer:

Health disparities usually come from wealth disparities. Where you live matters.

I know this first-hand because grew up and was educated in Scotland (yes, I still have the accent!). Even as a child, it was clear that health disparities were a major issue. Simply put, wealthy people enjoyed good health and poorer people didn’t.  

I got my PhD in genetics in Glasgow where people’s lives are particularly cut short (“The Glasgow Effect”). Life expectancy (that is, on your day of birth, how long you are expected to live) is dramatically different between richer and poorer districts of the city. For males in Glasgow, life expectancy at birth is just over 73 years. Here in Marin County, California, men can expect to live nearly 82 years – that’s nine years difference!

In our time together, I’ll get into some of the reasons behind this depressing disparity. I’ll also share some of the thrilling results of my work at the Buck, where researchers in my lab recapitulate diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in tiny nematode worms and help move potential treatments into mouse models. We work to uncover genes and discover small molecules that promote molecular stability, something that declines with age. We are also studying numerous “natural” compounds for their effects on healthspan and lifespan.

It’s thrilling work, and our research has immediate implications for how and why we age. Some of our scientists are trying to understand why aging seems to be very slow in other species. Surely, we can gain insights from long-lived creatures such as clams and naked mole rats; we can also learn from physicians who study human centenarians to confer the same longevity to all of us. It’s gratifying to see potential treatments based on their efforts already being tested in rigorous clinical trials.

We’ll talk about all of this during our time together. Our conversation is also sure to include these other essential things we’ve recently learned about how to live better longer:   

  • Denial is not a sustainable strategy. Aging is not theoretical, it happens – but it’s never too late to pay attention and take action.
  • It’s important to understand that aging and disease are intertwined. At this point, much of what goes on in adult medicine is “whack a mole.”
  • Stress is not always a bad actor.
  • Aging is plastic. There’s a lot you can do to shape it. (Genetics do not equal destiny).

There’s much to share! Please join me and the Buck’s own Kris Rebbilot for this exciting class.

  • Gordon Lithgow

The Upside of Aging

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the ways that each of us can make the most of the unprecedented potential and possibility that awaits our coming years.

My name is Paul Irving. I am a senior fellow at the Milken Institute. Previously I was the Institute’s president and founding chair of its Center for the Future of Aging. I’m also a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the University of Southern California, Davis School of Gerontology.

Please join me for my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned about the Upside of Aging, where talking with Kris Rebillot I’ll share all I’ve learned about the great potential and possibility that awaits our aging population.

As author/editor of The Upside of Aging, I had the privilege and joy of learning myself from prominent thought leaders who understand the significant upsides arriving for health, work and entrepreneurship, volunteerism, innovation and education – opportunities that stem from a mature population ready to pursue different dreams than those of their parents and grandparents.  

In our time together, I’ll share with you what I believe to be the most important personal and social opportunities on the horizon. As I will explain, the future of aging will be different for individuals, families, businesses, communities, and societies. Now is the time to plan and to act. We need to move beyond the stereotypes of dependency and decline that have defined older age. We need to look at aging in a new way.

In our 90-minute class, we’ll talk for starters about how:

  • More years means new possibilities for work, learning, exploration, and rewarding relationships. Traditional retirement needs to be completely reinvented.
  • An exciting longevity economy is emerging across the world. It capitalizes on the experience and wisdom of older workers, and is driven by growing demand for new products, services, and innovations.
  • Despite the risks they face, older adults are more resilient (and happier) than their younger counterparts.
  • Older age has a new look: a growing number of older adults are contributing, creating, serving, and realizing the benefits of intergenerational collaboration and co-generation.
  • Ageism is a global challenge that affects all of us. By tackling it, we can live longer and healthier lives.

We’ll also talk about all you can do personally to make the most of the great changes already underway, changes that will significantly impact our additional years. As I’ll explain, there’s an upside of aging – and its available to us all.

I look forward to our time together,

Paul Irving

Writing (by Not Writing)

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how worrying less, chilling out, and reveling (a little) in not writing makes all the difference and connects me to where stories really come from.

Wait, I’m limited to five?

I spend most of my life not writing. I’m not especially proud of this fact, and for years I’ve spent most of the time I’m writing worrying about the fact that I’m not writing. You know the feeling? And yet lately I’ve found that if I worry less, the writing I do manage to do is at least slightly better. It shouldn’t have taken me twenty or so years to realize all I need to do is chill out and revel a little in not writing—but this is the truth of it.

I hope to share this with you – and all I’ve learned over my a lifetime of learning and writing – in my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Writing (by Not Writing).

In this two-hour session, we’re going to talk about easing off, and a few other things (five, six, maybe seven…) that relate to writing by not writing. None of this shitty first draft stuff. It may work for some people, I realize, but my position is that this particular advice has done a lot more harm than good. I say less can be more.

I’m going to share with you some thoughts on not writing, including the importance of close, intense, slow reading, in particular of poetry. We’re also going to focus on listening, to each other, but also to silence. We’ll talk about where stories come from and how they don’t come from rattling off words and words and words and more words on a computer. In this spirit, I’ll ask you to ditch the computer. (Wait, this is on-line?) Okay, we won’t entirely lose the computer but we will go back to basics. One of the things I’ll ask you to do is simply wander around your own neighborhood with a pen and notebook. Because yes: in this mini-course about not writing, we’re going to write—not a lot—but enough.

Enough to make a start of something.

– Peter Orner

Responding to Russian Aggression and the War in Ukraine

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about this critical time in history and how we can forcefully support Ukraine – essential lessons from my years engaging the highest echelons of Russian military and political leadership.

My name is Alexander Vindman. I’m a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, former Director for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Russia on the White House’s National Security Council, former Political-Military Affairs Officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, current doctoral student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Pritzker Military Fellow at the Lawfare Institute, executive board member for the Renew Democracy Initiative, senior advisor to VoteVets, and author of The New York Times bestselling memoir, Here, Right Matters.

I’d like to invite you to join me in my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned About Responding to Russian Aggression and to the War in Ukraine.

This class comes at a critical time in history amid a growing global struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. In our 90 minutes together, I’ll share the wisdom I gleaned from more than two decades of public service at the highest levels of the U.S. national security apparatus and U.S.-Ukraine-Russia relations. I’ll explain where we have gone wrong in both the current crisis and across decades of U.S. policy toward Russia and Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union. More importantly, I’ll tell you how we can change course in support of U.S. national security interests, Ukrainian democracy, and the Western liberal order. I’ll also present ideas on how you can offer your support for Ukraine today. Ukrainians have already mobilized a whole-of-society effort to protect their country, Europe, and global democracy from the forces of tyranny. Now, the West must do the same, and we need your support to ensure that democracy triumphs.

I plan to share my analysis of the most recent developments on the ground in Ukraine, the current trajectory of the war, and likely outcomes depending upon the collective West’s response. I will also do my best to dispel existing myths about the war and answer any questions you might have.

But first and foremost, I’ll share the essential lessons I can offer every American—from the individual voter all the up to the Oval Office—from my years of engaging with the highest echelons of Russian military and political leadership:

  1. Navigate the long road to disaster. The expansion of Russia’s war on Ukraine was not the result of an arbitrary decision from Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. Putin learned to operate with impunity over two decades in power. Time and again, the West failed to confront Putin’s brutality and blatant disregard for international law and norms. Instead, Putin had a free hand in Chechnya (1999-2009), Georgia (2008), Syria (2015-present), the U.S. presidential elections (2016 and 2020), and Ukraine (2014-present). By shrinking from the moment during these crises, the West gave Putin the impression that he could act as he pleased, Saber-rattle with nuclear weapons if anyone objected, and undermine the foundations of the Western liberal order with minimal resistance and few consequences. We didn’t end up here by accident. The road to disaster is a long one, and there were missed opportunities to deter Putin.
  2. Manage hopes and fears. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a profound and unprecedented wave of rapture over what was then perceived as the everlasting triumph of liberal democracy over totalitarian communism. The West rested on its laurels and instead of hedging against the resurgent forces of Russian authoritarianism, ultra-conservatism, and neo-imperialism. We bought into our hopes and put up the blinders to ignore any potential signs that this was not, in fact, the end of history. To make matters worse, once we finally began to wake up to the threat emanating from the Kremlin, we abandoned all reason. Hope turned to fear overnight. We forgot the lessons of the Cold War and became paralyzed during crises. Rather than controlling escalation and managing confrontations with the Kremlin, we ceded ground to Putin. The West became Putin’s prey. We were either slaves to our hopes and ignored Russian transgressions through reset after reset, or we refused to confront Russia out of misplaced fears of nuclear war.
  3. Focus on outcomes, not aspirations. Ukraine and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe were always more willing partners than Russia. Despite difficulties with post-Soviet legacies and corruption, they carved out thriving democracies and active civil societies for themselves. And yet, at the same time, the U.S. continued to privilege its relationship with Russia, a decidedly unwilling partner, over countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, and Moldova. Every foreign policy decision or national security issue was viewed through the prism of Russia. This has all been to the detriment of long-term regional stability. Our aspirations for a stable, predictable relationship with Russia were well-intended but ill-fated. If we had focused on tangible outcomes rather than pie-in-the-sky dreams that ignored shifting realities on the ground, we could have acted differently and contained the resurgence of a revanchist Russia.
  4. Don’t self-deter. Your adversary knows how to warn you off. Russia practices a doctrine known as “reflexive control” in which the Kremlin sets conditions and generates an information environment that the Russian leadership knows will elicit a particular response from the West. For instance, Putin and his cronies consistently sabre-rattle with nuclear weapons through various means in order to force the U.S. and its allies to second guess themselves and back down. The U.S. must recognize, however, that nuclear deterrence cuts both ways, and we are more than capable of facing down this inflammatory rhetoric. The answer to nuclear threats is not to turn tail, abandon our allies, and surrender in spirit to Putin. We must speak to Putin in a language he will understand, and we can mitigate the risks of escalation through deconfliction channels.
  5. Calculate risks. The U.S. should take risk-informed decisions based on probabilities and consequences with an eye toward long-term horizons. Short-term risks should not dictate policy. Otherwise, we end up with a situation like Russia’s war in Ukraine, wherein policy band-aids have precipitated a long-term crisis. No decision is without risk, and the U.S. must understand that taking risks now—for instance, by providing greater assistance to Ukraine—may buy down greater risks later.

I hope that after our time together, you will leave with a better understanding of where we are, how we got here, where we are headed, and where we need to go in Russia’s war on Ukraine. I’ll focus on practical steps that both you and Western leadership can take to support Ukraine, and I’ll give you the perspective you need to act as a well-informed voter, grassroots activist, and citizen of a just, free, and democratic world.

Turning back the tide of authoritarianism requires effort from all of us. I need you. Ukraine needs you. The West needs you. The world needs you.

Please join me in solidarity. Let’s all stand with Ukraine.

– Lt. Col. (Ret.) Alexander Vindman

The Challenges and Triumphs of Writing Biography

View the archive of our 90-minute class and discover the Five Things We’ve Learned about the ways that t biography can help us better learn about thinking, writing, and living well.

Hi, I’m Nick Buccola, the author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. I am thrilled to be hosting a series of four personal conversations with leading writers about their experience of the power of the written word.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David W. Blight will join me for this second session in this series, Five Things I’ve Learned About the Challenges and Triumphs of Writing Biography. David and I met through the study of Frederick Douglass. We share a fascination with life and legacy of Douglass and a belief that the study of such historical figures is vital to the health of our political culture. But how do we undertake such work? How do we reconstruct and tell the story of a human life? Few scholars have devoted more thought to these questions than David and in this class, we will explore his journey as a biographer in order to learn things about thinking, writing, and living well.

David is a perfect fit for this series because he has devoted his life to studying individuals who have used the written word as their primary tool to bring about social change. Douglass often described words as his “weapon” in his lifelong battle to convince Americans to live up to their ideals. In his work on the power of historical memory, David has examined how the stories we tell ourselves about our history shape our sense of responsibility in the present. And in his current work on the great writer James Weldon Johnson, David will provide the world with yet another example of how one can transform reality through the use of language.

Please join us for what I know will be an enlightening and engaging class on the challenges and triumphs of writing biography. 

Self-Transformation, by Reading Ancient Books

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the transforming power of the Great Books—and why the ideas and passions within these ancient sources still possess the power to make and remake our lives today.

My name is Roosevelt Montás and I am a Senior Lecturer in English and American Studies at Columbia University. I have been teaching the “Great Books” to Columbia students for over 20 years, ten of them as Director of Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum. I invite you to join me in a discussion with Prof. Nicholas Buccola about some of the things I have learned from reading, teaching, and living with the classics.

My recent book, Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation is an intellectual memoir about how four great writers have influenced the trajectory of my life, from the shock of immigrating to New York City from rural Dominican Republic without speaking English at age twelve, to the struggles of self-discovery as a poor student at an Ivy League University, to the experience of directing the oldest and most influential great books program in the country.

I am trained as an Americanist, specializing in American political thought and its roots in Pre-Civil War American culture. I do not read ancient texts as a specialist, but as a curious and engaged individual. When teaching them, I approach them not as scholarly artifacts or museum relics, but as living texts. The classics command our attention because of what they say about the most persistent human questions we face and because the light they shed on the fundamental problems of our time. Great books are not primarily for scholars but for curious and thoughtful readers who seek intellectual experiences that illuminate their own humanity and that deepen their sense of what it means to be alive. The great books stand out for the force with which they provoke reflection on the grand question of our lives: “what whole way of life would make our lives most worthwhile living?” (to use words attributed to Socrates). Reading these books with that question in mind and discussing them with hundreds of thoughtful individuals—students, colleagues, and friends—has shaped the way I think about the world and the person that I am. 

I invite you to join me for this conversation, as Prof. Buccola and I discuss how these books can be transformative.  Among the things I look forward to discussing are:

  • How all knowledge culminates in self-knowledge
  • “Things are never as they seem, nor are they otherwise”
  • Why education makes you free
  • How the present emerges from and is organically connected to the past
  • In order to see the world clearly, get out of the way

The work of education goes deeper than learning; it is the work of self-transformation.  I invite you to taste insights from ancient sources that can illuminate your entire life.

Best wishes,

Roosevelt Montás

America’s Past, and Its Urgent Lessons for Today

View the archive of our 90-minute class and discover the Five Things We’ve Learned about keeping connected to the voices and visions of our country’s past – and about James Baldwin’s America and its urgent lessons for our own.

Hi, I’m Nick Buccola, the author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. I am thrilled to be hosting a series of four personal conversations with leading writers about their experience of the power of the written word.

New York Times bestselling author Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. will join me for this first session in this series, Five Things I’ve Learned About America’s Past and Its Urgent Lessons for Today. Eddie and I met through our mutual love of the writer James Baldwin and it is Baldwin who provides the starting point for our conversation. Baldwin taught that history is present in all that we do and until we come to terms with our past, we cannot take responsibility for our present. In his book, Begin Again, Eddie “thinks with” Baldwin in order to better understand American history and contemporary politics. In other words, Eddie turned to Baldwin’s words in a quest to find the right words to make sense of the present. In this conversation, Eddie will share all he learned on that journey.

There is no better person with whom to launch this series of conversations about the power of the written word than Eddie Glaude. As a teacher, Eddie has inspired generations of students in the areas of theology, history, philosophy, and politics. As an academic leader, Eddie has distinguished himself as a builder and champion of the work of others. As a writer, Eddie has written seminal books in the areas of African American religion, pragmatist philosophy, and American history. And Eddie has devoted himself to sharing his genius beyond the walls of the academy, through a regular column in Time magazine, commentary on NBC and MSNBC, and he will soon be making his mark in the world of podcasts with History Is Us.

What can you look forward to in this class? My hope is that the conversation between Eddie and I will deepen your understanding of:

·      What it means to “think with” a great author like James Baldwin and how such thinking can shape your own writing and ways of being in the world;

·      The relationship between history and the present;  

·      The power and the limits of language to bring about social change.

Time with Eddie Glaude is always time well spent. Please join us for what I know will be an engaging and meaningful conversation.

– Nicholas Buccola

The Social Uses of Anger

View the archive of our 90-minute class and discover the Five Things We’ve Learned about the essential roles that rage and anger play in public life – and in our principled responses to all forms of social injustice.

Hi, I’m Nick Buccola, the author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America. I am thrilled to be hosting a series of four personal conversations with leading writers about their experience of the power of the written word.

Acclaimed writer and teacher Myisha Cherry will join me for the fourth session in this series for a discussion of Five Things I’ve Learned about the Social Uses of Anger. I first got to know Myisha through her work on the philosophy of emotions. Myisha is my kind of philosopher; she thinks clearly and deeply about ideas that can help us make sense of how we ought to live. Her thinking on anger, for example, culminated in her acclaimed recent book, The Case for Rage. In the book, Myisha argues that we too often have an oversimplified understanding of how anger can manifest itself in our social and political lives. We are often taught the anger is “bad” or “unproductive.” But Myisha shows this is not always the case. Indeed, sometimes anger is not only an appropriate response to a social or political situation, but it can even be a necessary and morally praiseworthy response.

Myisha is a perfect fit for this series of classes on the power of the written word because she has devoted her life as a teacher and a scholar to thinking in slow motion about ideas that matter and sharing her thinking with the public. Myisha is committed to the idea that philosophy ought to extend beyond the walls of the academy, to the broader culture. Through her writing, teaching, and celebrated Unmuted podcast, Myisha is changing the world, one idea at a time.

There is always so much wisdom to be gained in the presence of Myisha Cherry. Please join us for what I know will be a great class.

The Wisdom and Madness of Social Media

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how the Internet is reshaping the way we learn and think, and why, for all of its promise, seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

My name is James Surowiecki. I’m a journalist and an author, and I’d like to invite you to my new class, Five Things I’ve Learned about the Wisdom and Madness of Social Media.

About fifteen years ago, I published a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, which showed how under the right conditions groups of people could be remarkably intelligent, and smarter even the smartest person in them. The key to the wisdom of crowds, I argue, is having groups made up of diverse, independent thinkers who are able to learn from each other but still think for themselves. The paradox of the wisdom of crowds is that we’re smartest collectively when people are acting as much like individuals as possible.

I wrote The Wisdom of Crowds before social media as we know it really became a thing – before Facebook or Twitter or Instagram came to play such a big role in the lives of so many of us. And over the years, I’ve thought a lot about the way the Internet generally, and social media specifically, is reshaping the way we learn and think and how it influences what we know and how we know it, and why social media, for all of its promise, seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

The Internet is, in principle, an extraordinary tool for making us collectively smarter. It offers us access to an enormous range of information and data we otherwise wouldn’t have, and exposes us to perspectives and opinions we otherwise would never hear. But in practice, the Net, and social media in particular, often seems to make us dumber. Social media is built around the idea of influence, not independence, and as a result it often reinforces people’s biases, encourages the spread of misinformation, magnifies polarization.

So in this 90-minute class, we’ll look at how this works, and what we can do about it.

We’ll look at how we learn and how being in groups—even online ones—can shape our behavior. We’ll talk about the power of conformity and peer pressure, and the way social media works to amplify them, and about ways to combat them. We’ll look at why spreading misinformation works, how you can recognize it, and how you can debunk it without managing to reinforce it. And we’ll talk about how you can make yourself a better, sharper user of social media and the Internet.

In the process, I hope the class will help you make your time online more enjoyable and productive, and our collective crowd a little bit wiser.

I hope you’ll join me!

– James Surowiecki

Songwriting – in Five Songs

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about songwriting – through five great songs that helped give voice to my heartaches, joys, and aspirations.

Hey, Y’all. My name is Hayes Carll and I’m a singer-songwriter from Houston, Texas. These days I make my home in Nashville, Tennessee. I want to invite you to my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Songwriting – in Five Songs.

Like most of the world, I grew up loving music. The sounds and energy that the instruments created, the personality and talent of the vocalists, and the feelings, from primal to spiritual, it could elicit. But what I most connected with, and what really grabbed my imagination, were the lyrics of a song. 

When I was sixteen, I heard Kris Kristofferson’s “The Pilgrim Ch. #33” for the first time and I had an out of body experience. What I had suspected was confirmed — that songwriters had the magical ability to articulate what I felt but often didn’t know how to express. They gave voice to my heartache, grief, joys, and aspirations. They taught me about other people’s perspectives that were light years from my own life experience. Through songs I was inspired to think about family, war, religion, race, love, my place in the world, and how I wanted to live my life. 

I became fascinated with how this magic was created. What tools did these witch doctors use? What was the secret? 

I’ve spent most of my life trying to find out the answers to those questions and along the way I’ve been fortunate to turn my love of songwriting into a career. In the past twenty years, I’ve released eight records, played close to 4000 shows, and songs I’ve written have been recorded by Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Womack, Brothers Osborne, Corb Lund, Hard Working Americans, Jack Ingram, Mary Gautier, Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis, and more. I’ve also been nominated for a Grammy for Country Song of The Year, and I’ve won Americana, Austin Music, Houston Press, and American Songwriter awards for Song Of The Year.

In my two-hour session, I’ll share with you five songs – some iconic, some not as well known – and five things they taught me about songwriting.

We’ll discuss   

  • How a song can be a call to action
  • The power of narrator perspective
  • Language: Vague & poetic  vs. specific & personal 
  • Humor as a tool
  • The power of the chorus and repetition

And probably a whole lot more.

Whether you’re an aspiring songwriter, a hobbyist, or a fan of music who is curious about the process of making it, it is my hope that we’ll have fun exploring some songs that are important to me, and that you’ll leave this session with some new understandings about the craft, and a renewed appreciation for the beauty and power of a well written song.

Please join me.

– Hayes Carll

How Women Writers Thrive

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned during my nearly two decades of leading and championing women-only publishing about the ways that women writers work, collaborate, and succeed.

If you’re a woman writer, and you’re eager to find out what works for other women – and particularly if you’re open to learning more about how women can make a difference for other women – I hope you’ll join me for my live, two-hour class, Five Things I’ve Learned about How Women Writers Thrive.

I’ve been working in women-only publishing since 2004, first for beloved indie publisher Seal Press, and then striking out on my own in 2012 to cofound She Writes Press, which is celebrating its ten-year anniversary this year. With this milestone top of mind, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to all the women writers and authors I’ve worked with over these past 18+ years. I’ve thought deeply about what it is that I know—and have witnessed—about the ways that women writers work, collaborate, and succeed that is unique and special and powerful.

This is what I’ll share with you in this session—and if you’re a woman writer, you’ll discover for yourself in this class that part of the magic of being a woman writer among your female peers. Hint—support and collaboration definitely play essential roles in women’s unique brand of thriving.

In our time together, I’ll share some of the powerful success stories I’ve witnessed during my tenure as Executive Editor of Seal Press, and now as Publisher of She Writes Press. I’ll challenge you to consider your own mindset, and I’ll offer some women-tested ways in which you might lean into your inherent strengths. I’ll also encourage you to consider how and where you might get in your own way.

As a champion of women writers, I’ve seen a lot over the years when it comes to how women writers behave. I wrote my latest book, Write On, Sisters!, in part because I saw the unique challenges women writers face—as a result of social conditioning; getting a late start, historically speaking; and how our inner critics beat us up and leave even the strongest of us doubting ourselves and our capacity. 

In this class we’ll address all that head on, and we’ll unlock the keys to the thriving part—because we have the will and the agency and the strength to determine our own course of action, our own success—but we cannot do it alone.

I hope you will join me—and a whole big awesome group of women—to talk about thriving as writers, as authors, and as thought leaders. Join me, Sisters! Write on!

This is your circle. Come claim your space!

– Brooke Warner

The Healing Power of Songwriting – in Five Songs

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about song’s unique power to bring hope in the face of deep trauma – inspiring lessons from my own life and from my time with wounded veterans and frontline medical workers.

My name is Mary Gauthier. I’m a singer-songwriter, troubadour, and author. I have released ten studio albums and published one book. In spite of my lack of musical training and my somewhat belligerent nature (particularly in regards to the music business), I’ve have been nominated for a Grammy Award, four Americana Music Awards, and several Folk Alliance Awards. To my amazement, I’ve won several.

I began writing songs in my thirties, after I was arrested for drunk driving on the opening night of my second restaurant, and got sober. I credit songwriting with helping me first to stay in, and then to deepen, my recovery from addiction. It pointed me to my own story, which helped me sort through and deal with my own childhood trauma. I sold my restaurants and moved to Nashville when I was forty to become a full-time artist.

So far, so good.

Today, I am thirty-one years sober. I still live in Nashville, and have had my songs cut by everyone from Tim McGraw and Jimmy Buffett, to Boy George and Bettye Lavette, Bobby Bare and Kathy Mattea. My songs, all of them, have been born from a desire to dig deeper into my stories and to the stories of others, uncover hidden emotional truths, and make art from it.

I’ve learned alchemy, and how to turn coal into diamonds.

Music and song helped transform me, it helped grow me, it gave me a reason to keep trying, and home to return to. Far more than just entertainment, music and song saved me. Songwriting also helped me to heal.

Songwriting has also helped me to help others. For many years I participated in a program that pairs wounded veterans with professional songwriters, and more recently, I’ve been part of another that does the same with frontline medical workers. Both programs have given me the chance to apply what I learned from dealing with my own trauma and addiction in songs to help others to navigate their own trauma. Together, we co-write songs.

The result has given me a unique perspective. I have seen profound reductions in depression and PTSD in many of my co-writers, and I have seen hope return to families whose supply was running dangerously low. Something else I know for sure: resonance and empathy are two of life’s most powerful experiences. When we (both songwriter and listener), discover that there is someone who feels exactly as we do, we no longer feel alone. The heart opens, and hope follows.

Please join me for my live, two-hour class, Five Things I Learned about the Healing Power of Songwriting. I’m going to share some of the most valuable, interesting, inspiring and surprising things I’ve learned about the unique power of songs to bring hope in the face of deep trauma.

I’ll focus on five specific songs and in the process share all that I’ve learned:

  • A great song is a balance of art and craft. A simple, honest clear song about what matters, and what hurts, will connect with hearts.
  • Songs can be more than entertainment, they have the power to generate empathy, which is no small thing in todays divided world of meanness and rage.
  • Honesty is the most important thing. It does not matter if the song is fiction or if it happened. Removing falsehood, lies, posturing, clichés, cleverness, and delusion, will tear down the armor of self-protection, leaving the story and the storyteller emotionally naked. From there, amazing things happen.
  • Courage is a must, because vulnerability can be terrifying, especially for those who have served, and those who work in medicine, and well, all of us.
  • An honest song about what matters shows our inside on the outside. This is scary, but we gain agency by telling it. We get to decide how the story ends. Moving from being the story, (the paper being written on) to becoming the storyteller (the hand holding the pen) is a powerful experience.

More than anything, I’ve learned that healing is a by-product of empathy, resonance, and agency. Telling our trauma story, no matter how difficult, is a way of making peace with it. It is freeing. The telling it releases some of the poison, giving us the power to make plans and reach for goals once considered unreachable.

I’ve gained so much insight about myself through this work, and I think you can as well.

I hope you’ll join me.

– Mary Gauthier

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: What Our Government Still Doesn’t Know – and All It Does.

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about all that’s certain – and all that remains unknown – in light of the U.S. Defense Department’s continuing investigation into decades of unexplained UFO encounters.

I’m James Fox: a filmmaker, writer, director, and producer. For more than two decades, I’ve focused my career on what I’ve come to call the “parallel history“ of unexplained phenomena – a long, detailed collection of sightings and engagements so credible that in 2007 the U.S. government funded a formal program within the Defense Intelligence Agency specifically to investigate a well-established, well-documented body of UFO reports.

Again and again during this time, I’ve discovered that there’s far more to these unexplained sightings and encounters than most of us realize. In 2020, I released my most recent documentary on the subject, The Phenomenon. Long on detail, short on sensationalism, The Phenomenon has – I’m proud to say – since been hailed as the most credible and revealing look at unidentified objects ever made.

I conducted years of research for this film. In the process, I spoke in detail with figures including Senator Harry Reid, Governor Bill Richardson, astronaut Gordon Cooper, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Christopher Mellon – each of whom shared his response to both decades of reports of unidentified objects and to the more than half-century long attempt by our government to shape public perception about these encounters. I also discovered and analyzed scores of testimonies from high-ranking government and military officials whose personal experiences lend first-hand credibility to their concerns.

I’ve learned even more since the film’s release, and I’ve come to recognize how much more is understood about all we’ve been inclined to dismiss about these unexplained phenomena. For this reason in particular I hope you will join me for my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: What Our Government Still Doesn’t Know – and All It Does.

In this 90-minute session, I’ll share with you:

  • The remarkable, consistent, and still unexplained history of UFO sightings across the United States – many engagements along our nation’s network of nuclear-weapon facilities.
  • Our military’s well-documented record of actual engagement with unexplained flying objects, which – no matter the circumstance or location – all seem to move and react similarly, in ways for which there remains no technological precedent here on Earth.
  • Individual accounts of similar engagements – remarkably consistent stories of local encounters by individuals and among groups around the world.
  • The initial formation and subsequent findings of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the U.S. government program formed specifically to investigate and better understand these sightings.
  • The conclusions suggested by the scores of documents that the Pentagon has subsequently made available to the general public.

There’s a lot to digest, and an almost equal amount that remains uncertain or undetermined. As Christopher Mellon rightly suggested to me when we talked at length about these sightings , “It’s not a question of belief, it’s not a question of whether this is happening.” In fact, I’ve learned that these sightings are happening. In our time together, I’ll share exactly how the United States government and our defense department have determined – and the manner in which they’ve publicly acknowledged – that that these experiences are real.

I hope you’ll join me.

– James Fox


View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the historic roots of cheerfulness, and about how our control this essential tool of emotional life lies not in our deepest selves but in our social relationships.

My name is Timothy Hampton. I’m professor of literary studies at the University of California at Berkeley. I’m here to invite you to my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned About Cheerfulness.

I’ve been thinking about cheerfulness a lot recently. We live in very difficult times, and as I’ve struggled with the emotional roller coaster of the COVID era, I’ve been on the look out for wisdom and for emotional resources that can help guide me. I realized that there were days– sometimes many days in a row – when I needed to reset my way of looking at things, and my ways of responding to the world. I realized, too, that increased isolation and uncertainty was leaving me less open to others around me.

During this time, I read a sentence by the philosopher Montaigne, who says, “the surest form of wisdom is a constant cheerfulness.” I read it again, and I wondered, What could he mean? And, how could go about achieving the constant cheerfulness Montaigne recommends?

In Five Things I’ve Learned About Cheerfulness, I’ll share with you what I’ve found: what I’ve learned about the deep roots of cheerfulness in religion, about the concept’s changing status in the world of the European Enlightenment, and about how attention to the work of cheerfulness can help us better understand our own present-day situation.

During our time together, I don’t aim to teach you “how” to be cheerful – this isn’t a class focused on self-actualization or self-help. Rather, I’ll show how writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jane Austen, and Friedrich Nietzsche investigate cheerfulness’s power over human activity – and how their discoveries still speak to us today.

As it happens, I’ve put my time during the pandemic to use by writing a book on this topic, called Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History. In it explore how many of the greatest artists and philosophers – from Shakespeare to Louis Armstrong – have described and embodied cheerfulness. In fact, cheerfulness is often overlooked by people who write about emotional or psychological life. Unlike many emotional states, it is fleeting. And yet, it is an essential emotion. As I’ll explain, its origin lies not in our deepest selves but in our social relationships. And we can control it—we can make ourselves cheerful. And when we do so, cheerfulness becomes an essential tool of emotional life.

I hope you will join me for this stimulating and cheerful session about the history of this too-often-overlooked emotion. I want to explore with you this strange and powerful emotional state because I’ve found that contemplating cheerfulness helps us to develop resources for lighting up the emotional darkness.

As Shakespeare said, “Cheerly, cheerly!” 

Please join me.

Timothy Hampton

How We Win the Messaging Wars and Save Democracy

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about what we can do right away to ensure that America survives – and about the perspective you need to make sure your time and your attention are focused on all we need to do together.

My name is Rick Wilson. I’m an ex-Republican political strategist, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, and best-selling author. I’d like to invite you to join me in my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned About How We Win the Messaging Wars and Save Democracy.

This is an important class, and in our 90-minutes together I’ll share some of the most important and hard-earned lessons I’ve picked up in my 30+ years of long, sometimes painful experience in politics. I’ll focus on the things that each of us – every American – can do right away to help resolve the political crisis of our time. I believe it’s up to us, really: Whether America survives and remains a functioning democracy, or collapses in the wave of the nationalism, populism, and hyper-conservativism that now defines us.

This class will be more than a profanity-laced vent session. I plan to share with you my analysis of what we all can do to make sure our democracy stands.

We’ll talk first about these five essential strategies, maxims that my time in politics has taught me are more important today than ever:

  1. Drive the damn bus, don’t lay down in front of it. Frame your opponent early, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Grab the wheel like you’re what’s his face in Speed, and never let go. This also means that if your opponent has got the conversation and the mike, you’ve got to flip a table over  to get them back.
  2. Don’t bring a policy pen to a knife fight. All of us – particularly my friends in the Democratic Party – need to stop thinking that the road to glory is paved with policy. The fight we’re in will never be won on health care or infrastructure, paid leave or bunnies romping in the sunshine. Winning on policy was never true, and it will never be LESS true than in 2022. We are in a culture war. You win culture wars on emotion, and spectacle. Emotions of lift, strength, certainty and ideals–and emotions of anger, fear, and repulsion.
  3. Never catch the grenade. The Republican playbook is to lob some crazy attack on the Dems and then  just sit back, watch, and enjoy. The Dems catch a grenade like Critical Race Theory like it’s a bouquet, bobble it around giving it weeks of play, until boom, it blows off another limb. Because it’s a grenade. Instead: Make clear that every time you hear “CRT,” they’re saying the N-word. Done. Stop waffling on and on about history and curriculum and what CRT is and is not. Better to snuff out that little nuclear fire – and every one like it– at the get-go.
  4. Have some damn fun and stop worrying about everything. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching a poor gopher trying to undig its own hole, seeing one of my Democratic friends tiptoe  around making a point without offending anyone. In Churchill’s words, people feel and trust a “vital force” in a leader, someone at ease in their own skin, someone who hasn’t pre-chewed every focus grouped word like a tinned pastry. The winningest candidates and campaigns are not worrying over everything they put out there, and second guessing the message to death. 
  5. Sell your wins, and back your own. In my years, if a Republican leader said monkeys invented cotton candy, the Republican Party said to a man, “Good thing about monkeys, or there’d be no cotton candy!” Today too many Dems mumble their wins, bury their leads, and hash each other mercilessly rather than fall in line as allies against the true threat. In a fight this dire, every last standing enemy of my enemy is my unquestioned friend until further notice. More importantly: My Democratic friends need to shout their victories from the mountaintops, bite their tongues when they don’t agree, and start having a good time again.

I hope that in our time together, we’ll talk even more about how you can apply all that I’ve learned to make a difference on your own. I’ll focus on concrete, practical things we all can do to make a difference at the local, state, and national levels. And, I’ll give you the perspective you need to make sure that your time and your attention are focused on all we need to do together.

Please do join me.

We need you. Your country needs you. We’ll have some fun.

– Rick

Documenting Migration and Culture

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about photography’s power to trace, preserve, and celebrate the people and communities of the African diaspora.

My name is Lewis Watts and I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned About Documenting Migration and Culture. I’m a photographer, an archivist, a curator, and a teacher. For more than 30 years, I’ve been tracing, preserving, and celebrating the people and communities of the African diaspora, particularly in America.

I have photographed in West Oakland, South Central Los Angeles, Harlem, New Orleans, and Atlanta, and most recently in Charleston. There, I’m working on a project in conjunction with the African American Museum now under construction. I just returned from my second trip, where I was exposed to the Gullah Culture and to the history of African American Communities in existence since the civil war. My work includes portraits of artists, activist, authors, and musicians along with photographs of historical and archival objects. I’m interested in historical and contemporary representations of people in this migration. I’ve made a point to document those who have thrived and those working to make sure that their cultural history is not erased.

I have also had a chance to document migration between parts of Africa and the Middle East to Europe, which like the southern migration is caused by war, oppression, and the desire for economic opportunity. I have photographed in France, Greece, Germany and England and I’ve been looking at the “Black Presence” and its impact on those cultures and communities.

For me, the consequences of slavery and the results of the Great Migration that followed World War II begin with my own family. My father found himself in Seattle when he was discharged from the Army. He found a job and sent for my mother, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Though I grew up in Seattle, much of my childhood involved trips to the south to visit grandparents and other relatives. I am sure that these trips – and with them my many returns to the Northwest – fueled my photographic and intellectual life. I have always been interested in the things that people bring with them as they migrate in search of a better life.

It’s what I’ve learned from a life documenting from my work that I wish to share with you.

In our 90-minute class, I will show work from these projects and trace the ways my own roots are connected to a common past. We’ll talk about the conditions under which I took some of the most important photos in my life. More important to me: I’ll also share what I’ve learned during a life caring about the results of people’s travels and exploring the things they’ve carried with them.

I hope to see you soon,

– Lewis Watts

What Will Be On Our Plate in Ten Years

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how technology is reshaping our food and reimagining our food system – and what these changes mean for people who love food.

My name is Larissa Zimberoff, and I’m an author and investigative journalist. I’m a lover of food. I’m either thinking about what to eat, wondering what to pick up at the market, or, well, I’m eating. Food makes us tick. It’s why I devoted my career to covering the topic. I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming live, 90-minute class, Five Things I’ve Learned about What Will Be On Our Plate in Ten Years.

Recently, I published a book about how technology is reshaping our everyday foods–or trying to! Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat is about my journey to uncover what’s happening to our food system, and what it means for people who love food. I wrote this book for two reasons: Because I felt both like our foods were becoming ever more complex and even more unknown and that we were becoming farther removed from understanding how food makes it to our plate. And because I have Type-1 diabetes.

With my condition, I look at food in an entirely unique way. It’s this lens, this scrutiny, that I wish to share with you. Together, we’ll dive into five topics that I learned while reporting on the future of food both for my book, and for Bloomberg Businessweek, where I am a regular contributor. You’ll get a front-row seat to what’s happening to our food system, learn more about how these new foods are being made in labs, and become better acquainted with the startups that are creating them. I’ll bring you behind-the-scenes as an investigative reporter—sharing what I’ve learned while interviewing founders, eating “chicken” made by Michelin-star chefs in gleaming marble-countered kitchens, and tasting secret milk in hotel hallways.

Throughout my 90-minute class, I’ll share my take on five delicious foods that may one day be wholly reinvented: Bacon, eggs, cheese, kale and steak–each made without animals (for the most part.) What’s happening to our staples is the perfect entry point for learning what tech startups are doing, and for understanding more fully the levers being pulled  from Wall Street to Silicon Valley to promote an entirely different way of eating. Founders say they’re working to save the planet, to end industrial animal agriculture. Are their efforts good for us?

Maybe you love food. Maybe, like me, you have a complicated relationship with food. Either way, this class is for everyone who is passionate about knowing what they put in their mouth.

What you’ll learn will be interesting and weird, and, like a delicious dinner, time will fly by.

I look forward to seeing you there.


The Future of Media and Democracy

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the tenuous link between media and democracy – and what the continuing convergence of media, technology, and politics means for artists, and for us all.

My name is Jonathan Taplin. I’ve had five distinct careers. I started my working life the year I graduated from Princeton (1969) as Tour Manager for Bob Dylan and the Band. I was at Woodstock, The Isle of Wight with Dylan and toured Canada on a train (1970) with Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band and Bonnie and Delaney. Much madness ensued. In 1971 I produced the Concert For Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden for George Harrison and then went to Hollywood to produce Martin Scorsese’s fist important film. Mean Streets. In the 1980’s I helped the Bass Brother’s rescue Walt Disney from corporate raid and then became a Vice President of Media Mergers and Acquisitions for Merrill Lynch Investment banking.

In the 1990’s I returned to film production and then started the first streaming video on demand service, Intertainer.

In the 2000’s I was a Professor at the Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism and was the Director of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.

In 2016 Little Brown published my book Move Fast and Break things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. In 2021 Heyday published my memoir The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock and Roll Life.

These experiences have given me a unique perspective from which to talk with you about something I think about quite a lot these days: the essential link between media and democracy. I believe that media and democracy are so deeply connected that if one dies the other dies. I also know first-hand that media passes through periods of revolutionary change into periods of conservative consolidation. We are currently in a consolidation era, and, unless we are vigilant, the likely consequences are that the outlier artist (Billie Holiday, Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Rachel Kushner, Jean-Michel Basquiat) that has always driven our culture forward, will be silenced.

I hope you will join me in my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned about The Future of Media and Democracy. I want the class to be interactive and provocative. I want you to come away reimagining what our cultural future might soon look like. I’ll share with you some conclusions from a lifetime of wrestling with the convergence of media, technology, and politics.

  1. Today decisions about our collective art are made by businessmen. The philosopher Herbert Marcuse has said that the role of the artist is to never forget “what can be.” So artists constantly played a role in political change. From Sergei Eisenstein’s Potemkin Village to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica to Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’. But these were all personal creations, made under what I would call folk or craft conditions. But now all media is a giant business, and so the decisions as to what get’s created and distributed or not are made by businessmen. We will start by investigating the meaning of that change. We will look at journalism, film and TV, music and art.
  2. The Internet changed everything. On the positive side, the streaming media future has exposed us to great drama and great music from all over the world. So we know we really do inhabit McLuhan’s Global Village. It makes me optimistic that I can watch Korean or Norwegian dramas or listen to Icelandic music when ever I want and it is a huge boon to society. But we also need to question how we arrived at a situation in which it’s easier than ever to share your creativity with the world, and harder than ever to make a living doing so.
  3. We share few common facts. For society, the invention of the mobile Internet, in combination with new forms of social media, completely destroyed the world of shared facts that had been the basis of our democracy since Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. When I was at Princeton in 1968 I would watch the CBS Evening News every evening, where Walter Cronkite would end the broadcast with the phrase “that’s the way it is, May 16,1968.” And to a large extent, the whole country could agree on that set of facts. But Social Media changed all that. We have no shared facts. We live in our political and cultural bubbles.
  4. Volume makes a difference. Could the number of people making media (including influencers) surpass the number of people who are just consumers of media? There are 70 million tracks on Spotify. 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute worldwide. According to Mediakix.com, there could be as many as 37 million influencers online globally. This is a half–serious question, but how much of this content passes the “who cares” test? Whatever your answer, I do think the overwhelming fire hose of media aimed at us has implications for art, culture and mental health.
  5. The Metaverse is coming. As Big Tech comes to dominate media distribution, men like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have a very clear view of your virtual reality media future. The venture capitalist Marc Andreessen thinks that Zuckerberg’s coming “Metaverse” is just the solution for our current despair. “We should build — and we are building –” he adds, “online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.” But others distrust Zuckerberg’s vision of this alternative virtual reality, where you can’t skip the ads. As Rob Horning noted  “Facebook would also like to secure the ability to prevent people from any right to absence … The Metaverse is fundamentally a place you will be forced to be.” Let’s discuss if we want to live in the Metaverse.

So as you can see I’m worried. But there’s still hope and it’s unsure how it will play out. When the class concludes I hope you will have a grasp of some of the possible solutions to the five problems I have mentioned. I would like to spend the last 45 minutes addressing both your questions and your policy suggestions for the future of media and democracy.

Please join me.

– Jonathan Taplin

What Memoir Demands. And All it Makes Possible.

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about sharing my family’s stories in prose and in song – and about all that taking ownership of our most personal stories makes possible.

Hi. My name is Allison Moorer. I’m a singer-songwriter, author, and have produced a few records. I’m also a mother, wife, sister, and friend. Those details are inextricable from my work, as I regularly deal in memoir no matter the art form.

I have released ten studio albums and two memoirs. And if I don’t do this part, they’ll make me rewrite this paragraph: I’ve been nominated for Grammy, Academy, Americana Music Association, and Academy of Country Music Awards. I received the Hall-Waters Prize for Southern Writing in 2020.

The work I’ve done is the result of my desire to dig into my experiences and make art out of them. I began writing songs in my early twenties and spent the entirety of my forties (I’m 49 now) writing two full-length memoirs in which I explore my admitted obsession: the nuclear family. Life and relationships are often a mystery to me, and writing about them – in music and in prose – helps me to better see the light in my thoughts and feelings.

I hope you will join me for my live, two-hour class, Five Things I’ve Learned about What Memoir Demands. And All it Makes Possible. I’m going to share some of the most valuable, interesting, and surprising things I’ve learned from nearly twenty-five years of exploring my internal world and creating windows into the parts of my life that are most vivid for me.

There seem well more than five things to share. A list of possibilities:

  • How to figure out what your story is. What is or what are the turning points of your life?
  • How to dig down into yourself and find the juicy details.
  • How to find the universal within your individual experience.
  • Why the memory is unreliable and how to get comfortable with the shadows it casts.
  • When you are ready to do so, how you might make peace with telling your truth and surrendering to it, even if it is difficult.
  • Why becoming the teller of your own story is freeing and healing.
  • How acceptance of the events of our lives becomes more possible with the willingness to say/write our truths.

Some things I know for sure: When we write things down, they become real in a way that they aren’t otherwise. When we write about ourselves, we discover things we might not have known through any other route, and with that comes the potential to see ourselves more clearly.

I’ve gained so much insight about myself through this work, and I think you can as well. I hope you’ll join me.

Allison Moorer

Nashville, Tennessee

The Last Time I Saw Hollywood

View the archive of my 90-minute class with Richard Peña and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about Hollywood’s second golden age, and the ways that those few gorgeous years in the late sixties and early seventies illuminate the challenges shaping the film industry today.

We have to talk. 

It’s way past time to look very closely at the few gorgeous years in the late sixties and early seventies we call — rightly, I think — Hollywood’s second golden age. We know the names — Coppola, Bogdanovich, Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda, Robert Evans, Sue Mengers, Pauline Kael… — and we know the movies — Godfather, Taxi Driver, Nashville…— but what have we learned? 

Have we learned?

Not for better does the Hollywood of today bare no resemblance to the industry of fifty years ago. Can something be done about it? (I don’t know.) Should something be done about it? (Yes!)

These are themes and questions I approach time and again in my books, FosseThe Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of HollywoodFifth Avenue: 5 AM, Paul on Mazursky…all different parts of a single ongoing story, Hollywood.  

In this conversation with the great Richard Pena, I hope to do the hard work of growing from history, to first look, with honest eyes, at the past, then turn those eyes to the present, and ask, sincerely, Where do we go from here?

These are tough questions to ask about any industry, but when it comes to an art / business as complicated as Hollywood — a labyrinthine Catch-22 of personalities, technology, politics, businessmen, artists… — it is especially challenging to see a way through. 

And yet…there once was a way through. How else to explain not just one Godfather, but two? How else to explain, not just two Godfathers, but The Conversation in between? It was not an accident. We know that because it kept happening — not just to Coppola, but to Scorsese, to Altman, to Ashby…Why?

No renaissance can be explained by luck alone — and this one is no exception. 

I think I know why. In my work, over the years, I’ve learned five, maybe even ten reasons why. And with Richard’s insight, I know I’ll learn more. How lucky for me…For us…

And the time has never been more right. With today’s Hollywood in crisis, the opportunity to re-interrogate the system is very urgently at hand. No ivory-tower discussion this!

We tell film history for the same reason we tell any kind of history — the same reason we do anything. To brighten the future…the make the second draft better than the first…

Making Love Work

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about deepening my ability to love others, and the practical steps that help me build, maintain, and celebrate my most important relationships.

Hi I’m Julie Lythcott-Haims.

I’m inviting you to join me for something special: Five Things I’ve Learned about Making Love Work.

I hope you’ll join me as we explore ways to deepen your connection with the person or persons who matter most to you. I’ll share what I’ve learned about making love work – whether you’re young or older, in a new relationship, an old relationship, an off-and-on-relationship, whatever. I will share what I’ve about romantic relationships, tips that are sure to be applicable to other very close human connections. As long as you want to deepen your ability to love others and make it one of the best things about your life, this course is for you.

Why Love? Because love is essential to our wellness and longevity but often eludes us. Because we see love in movies and television and novels and memoirs but we often have trouble translating someone else’s depiction of love into actual practice in our minds, hearts, homes and lives. I am interested in the real deal and in all of us having it.

I come at this from a 33 year and counting relationship that has had its less than lovely moments over the years. I come at this because my partner and I got great advice from others that I now want to pass along to you.

Love is ethereal yet very very practical. You can get better at it. If you’ve read this far, maybe you want to?

Now, love is not a one-way street so if you are in relationship and your relationship can handle it, I invite you to join this session together. In fact it would be great if you were here together. We’ll address what matters most when it comes to love and what gets in the way. You’ll leave with five specific ideas to try at home.

It’s my hope that our time together will help you on your way to deeper, longer-lasting love. That will make me very happy. You see, I am rooting for all of us to be okay. Being able to love and be loved is the marrow of life.

– Julie

Craft, and the Movies

View the archive of my 90-minute class with Richard Peña and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the personal and professional craft of moviemaking.

I was just lucky enough to grow up in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Perhaps that sounds strange to some—lucky, in that moment?  Yes, I know, the city was grimy and scary and, at times, seemed on the verge of complete breakdown. Yet it was also bracingly alive, and in the midst of chaos, I encountered all walks of life, everywhere.  All kinds of art and music, everywhere.  All manner of behavior, all the time.  My senses were overwhelmed. 

I also saw a ton of movies.

And I’m happy to say that I saw them the right way: on film, and in a theater.  Under such circumstances, how could one not fall in love with the medium? I was exposed to beautiful and expressive and personal works of cinema at a preposterously early age, and I learned to expect that the movies could, and should, aspire to be art. In the event, I never considered films an escape.  To the contrary, they expressed emotions I could understand, and they made me feel less alone.

I am about to make my eighth feature film, and I’m significantly less certain of things than I was when I made my first.  No doubt it’s a cliché to say such a thing; but the longer I’ve worked at filmmaking, the less I know.  My efforts these days are not focused on achieving some kind of  “wisdom” or “expertise.” Now, I find myself merely trying to develop craft.  Craft is a creative person’s path toward the ultimate goal—a simple expression of intimate beauty, executed with clarity and emotion. Time and fashion always have the final say; but history and myth begin in the microcosm of this kind of personal space. 

I don’t really know all that much about other films, that’s for sure.  No matter how many I watch—and I do watch plenty!—there seems a vast ocean out there of work still waiting for me.  I am always learning.  Today is both exciting and fraught: so many people display astonishing levels of visual literacy, yet tools like the internet have both sharpened and muddied our mission.  Navigation and curation are profound challenges.

I suppose that Richard Peña and I will talk about cinema, in the guise of five topics.  But really, this means talking about virtually everything.  A movie exists in a world of culture, history, dreams.  The field is necessarily wide open.  And I am happy to talk about any and all of it.  I don’t have the answers.  I’m not even sure I know any of the right questions.  But a dialog is always a place to start.  Let’s go!

Wisdom, Bliss, and Openness

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about achieving reliable and lasting happiness during my lifetime learning and teaching the Buddha’s curriculum.

I have spent my life learning and teaching the Buddha’s curriculum, a path designed to enable any serious student of whatever faith or doubt to achieve reliable and lasting happiness. During my sixty+ year journey, I have done university teaching about Tibetan Buddhism, translated Buddhist texts, and written books that share with others all I’ve discovered about Tibetan Buddhist culture and its healing arts and sciences of body, mind, and spirit.

During this time, my personal life has been marked by initially being afraid of what I thought was a dangerous and difficult reality to feeling reasonably comfortable and occasionally blissful in what now seems to me to be a reality of sheer goodness. The five key axes of this unfolding have been:

  • That the precious opportunity of having gained the precious human life results from an inconceivably difficult evolution
  • That facing death is the key to making the most of such a life.
  • That the ethical way of body, mind, and speech is the art of skillful navigating through the ocean of evolution—goodness is practical and powerful; badness is self-destructive and weak.
  • That love and compassion are the secret art of every level of happiness.
  • That full wisdom is not only possible for a human being, but indispensably necessary for realizing the bliss of reality and the full measure of love and life.

It is these teachings that I wish to share with you in my upcoming class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Wisdom, Bliss, and Openness. One by one, I will explain. We will meditate. We will discuss.

In our time together, I hope to share many of the ideas offered in my most recent book, Wisdom is Bliss: Four Friendly Fun Facts that Can Change Your Life. I will also focus on a paradoxical expression inherited from Shakyamuni Buddha and the great Nāgārjuna – an expression that has been key to enlightenment education for at least the last few thousand years in numerous cultures and contexts: shūnyatā-karunā-garbham – in Sanskrit, “Openness the womb of compassion”-in English.

The great thing about what I’ve learned: The Buddha’s path of education is for anyone. You need not be Buddhist, you need not be religious, you need not even be “spiritual” – in fact, skeptics are most welcome. You do need to be a bit open-minded about the question of what is real and what is unreal. You need to be willing to learn, to think critically and confidently, to get rid of the idea that you can’t understand important things, and to question everything. Ultimately, to put yourself on a path of wisdom and bliss you will need to experiment by cultivating both your own good sense and your own inner intuitive experience.

One other thing I’ve learned during this time: To follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s sincere policy and prime directive not to missionize or convert anyone from or to any religion or belief system. Whether these ideas and practices are familiar to you or you’re coming to them for the very first time, is in this spirit that I invite you to join me.

I believe that you will be presently surprised by how real and applicable these teachings can be, and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Here we go!

Robert A.F. “Tenzin” Thurman

Leonard Cohen: The Songwriter and the Secret Chord

View the archive of this 90-minute class from acclaimed songwriter, producer, and arranger John Lissauer, and discover the Five Things He’s Learned about the inspiration, writing, and recording of some of Leonard Cohen’s most unforgettable songs.

“I heard there was a secret chord.

Hi, I’m Sylvie Simmons, Leonard Cohen’s biographer. You don’t need me to tell you the Leonard Cohen song that opens with those words. But I am really happy to tell you about part three of our four-part Five Things I’ve Learned series on the life, music, and legacy of Leonard Cohen. That’s because in this session I’ll be joined by someone who knows more about that secret chord than anyone – and a whole lot more: Leonard’s longtime collaborator and friend John Lissauer.

Leonard once told Billboard magazine, that John was “an important figure in my life.” I personally found out just how important when I interviewed John for I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. A composer, songwriter, producer, arranger, and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, John had no end of valuable insights and remarkable stories about Leonard – some I learned from him only for the first time. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have learned even more from John, having shared a stage with him at two events in New York, where he lives.

John’s relationship with Leonard was a long one. It dated back to 1972, when Leonard asked him to be his record producer. Over the decades it would encompass a number of projects at very different periods in Leonard’s life: Times when things were going well for Leonard, and other times when Leonard’s personal life and his music career were plummeting into the pit.

I do hope you can join John and me for Leonard Cohen: The Songwriter and the Secret Cord! I can promise you that there’ll be a whole lot of great stories in this class. Maybe a lot of surprises too. Like the story about time when Leonard – who’d given up his life as a monk, gone back home to L.A, and found another fiancée – summoned John to fly out as Leonard and his new love worked on an album together. Or the album that Leonard and John co-wrote in the Seventies, holed up in L.A’s famous Chateau Marmont: Songs for Rebecca. If you’ve never heard of the album, it’s because it never came out. John will tell us the strange story of why the album was shelved. Spoiler alert: The cause involves a producer who held a gun to Leonard’s head and said “I love you, Leonard.”

We’ll take you to Leonard’s hotel room in New York, where he sat with his guitar and played John a new song he was tearing his hair out trying to finish – an 80-verse folk song called “Hallelujah” – and what John did with the song to turn it into the anthemic, all-purpose sexy hymn we know and love. We’ll also talk about Leonard’s record label refusing to release the album on which it appeared, Recent Songs, saying the album lacked memorable songs!

John will share stories about New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which he produced, and which had its own subsequent run-in with the record label. He can talk about another woman he brought into Leonard’s life, who would go on to be his producer. And more. As much, in fact, as we can fit into our time together. So be sure to get your questions ready for John! This is going to be a good one!

See you there.

– Sylvie Simmons

Leonard Cohen: The Man and His Music

View the archive of this 90-minute class from legendary singer-songwriter Judy Collins, and discover the Five Things She’s Learned about Leonard Cohen – from her unique position at start of his music career to her current-day view of his enduring artistic legacy.

Hello, I’m Sylvie Simmons, Leonard Cohen’s biographer.

This is it! The fourth and final Five Things I’ve Learned session on the life, music, and legacy of Leonard Cohen. It’s really going to be sad to say goodbye to everyone. But the good news is that we’ll be going out on a high.

In our previous sessions, we learned about Leonard from people who knew and worked with him in the ’70s and ’80s (John Lissauer); the late ’80s and ’90s (Perla Battala); and the ’00s and ’10s (me), each sharing our memories and impressions of important periods in Leonard’s life. In this session, we end where it all began for Leonard as a singer-songwriter: The 1960s, when Leonard met the legendary Judy Collins, the woman who would in short order change his life and launch his music career.

In 1966, Leonard knocked on the door of an New York City apartment, guitar on his back, briefcase in his hand, and a shy smile on his face. He had flown in from Greece, where he was living on a small island in a little house with no electricity or running water. But the money he made as a poet and novelist couldn’t pay even for that. He thought he’d try selling some country songs in Nashville – he had no intention of singing them; no one seemed to think much of his voice. But he stopped first in New York, where there was a thriving folk movement. On the other side of that apartment door was one of the biggest and best-loved artists of the New York folk scene: The one-and-only Judy Collins.

Leonard had come to sing her his songs. She loved them, and she loved the way he sang them. Since Leonard didn’t have a record deal, it was Judy’s covers that made his first songs famous – and that led to his first record deal. We can also thank Judy for pulling Leonard out on stage, despite his protests, to sing “Suzanne” at her concert – and when paralyzed by stage-fright he ran offstage, it was Judy who encouraged him back on again.

Of all the women who’ve played a major part in Leonard Cohen’s life, Judy Collins is way up there on the list. So, I’m over the moon that she will be the star of our final class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Leonard Cohen: The Man and His Music.

I interviewed Judy for my book I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, so I know that you can expect to hear some great stories – intimate and perceptive, funny and deep. There will be stories about Leonard’s early days in New York and the people he came to know, like Joni Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix. And because Judy and Leonard remained very close throughout Leonard’s life, there’s a whole lot more she can share.

Judy never stopped covering his songs on her award-winning albums. In her eighties now, Judy still sings them. Judy also has her own new podcast called Since You’ve Asked. If Leonard were still alive, there’s no doubt that these two old friends would be on there together, talking. I’ll be sure to ask her the one question that she still would like Leonard to answer!

Please be sure to put the special date and time for what’s sure to be a remarkable, intimate session on your calendar. I do hope you will join us!

And: Have your questions ready; Judy won’t be shy about answering them. This is going to be a very special class.

– Sylvie Simmons

Love, from James Baldwin

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the meaning of love from the life and thought of James Baldwin.

My name is Nichola Buccola. I’m a professor, a writer, and a teacher. In 2020, I published a book about James Baldwin, The Fire is Upon Us, which tells the story of the 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley and considers the ways that subsequent decades-long clash between the men still illuminates America’s racial divide.

The Fire is Upon Us looks at this one, pivotal chapter of Baldwin’s life, but the truth is James Baldwin has much more to teach us. Another truth: I am obsessed with James Baldwin. It’s not too much to say that learning about Baldwin has radically changed my own life. I’ve devoted some time each day during the last decade to reading and thinking about his writings, novels, plays, essays, and speeches – and to considering his activism. For me, and for many others, Baldwin is the sort of writer who alters your perception of the world and forces you to consider and reconsider your place within it.

It’s in this context that I invite you to join me for a two-hour class in which I’ll take another, more personal, look at this writer’s life and work, Five Things I’ve Learned about Love, from James Baldwin. Baldwin once said of the painter Beauford Delaney: “No greater lover has ever held a brush.” As I hope to share, we might ourselves say of Baldwin: “No greater lover has ever held a pen.” Love was at the core of Baldwin’s philosophy, and his understanding of the idea was deep and complex.

If you’re entirely new to Baldwin, or even if like me you’ve read and re-read his work, I hope you’ll join me for this live class, and that our time together will mark a beginning for you. To travel some distance in our quest to understand Baldwin on love, I’ll share what I’ve learned about love from Baldwin by inviting you to ponder five questions.

  • What might Baldwin have meant when he called his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain, a “love letter” to his father?
  • What can we learn from David, the protagonist in Giovanni’s Room (Baldwin’s second novel), whose fatal flaw is his unwillingness to accept love where he finds it?
  • What can Baldwin teach us about what love has to do with our quest to become our best selves and our pursuit of meaningful relationships?
  • What did Baldwin mean when he described the artist as a “lover” who is at war with his society?
  • What did Baldwin mean when he said he loved his country and what can this teach us about true patriotism?

Our time together will be no mere philosophical exercise. You will leave this class with an altered sense of what love means and this new understanding just might change your sense of self, your relationships, and your understanding of how you ought to live. Don’t get me wrong, I am not interested in turning the great James Baldwin into a guru of “self-help.” But I am interested in sharing some of what I have learned from Baldwin about what living a life of freedom, love, and dignity might look like. 

As I hope to explain: love was the answer to many of the questions that Baldwin thought ought to concern us most. But Baldwin was no dogmatist. He implored us to “drive to the heart of every answer to expose the question that it hides.” So even if we figure what Baldwin meant by love, we will have many more questions to consider.

These big questions are the sort that must sometimes be pondered alone, but Baldwin also made one thing entirely clear: In our quest for self-understanding, we need one another. In fact, that is essential to what love is.

For that reason, I look forward to thinking with you about the meaning of love in the life and thought of James Baldwin. I hope you’ll join me.

Leonard Cohen: His Women, Onstage and Backstage

View the archive of this 90-minute class from singer-songwriter Perla Batalla, and discover the Five Things She’s Learned about the essential role women played again and again in Leonard Cohen’s life and music.

Hi, I’m Sylvie Simmons, Leonard Cohen’s biographer. I really hope you can join me in this second Five Things I’ve Learned session on the life, music, and legacy of Leonard Cohen.

In this second 90-minute session, Five Things I’ve Learned about Leonard Cohen: His Women, Onstage and Backstage, I’ll be joined by one of Leonard’s very close friends and collaborators: Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Perla Batalla. Perla was one of Leonard’s two backing singers during one of the most pivotal periods of his life and career: During the late 1980s, when Leonard released I’m Your Man – the album in which he transformed from the godfather of gloom to the coolest guy in the business. And in the early ’90s, when at the top of his game – and following his biggest-selling album, The Future – Leonard hung up his hat, quit the music business, left his fiancee – the actress Rebecca de Mornay – and disappeared into a hut above the snow line on Mt. Baldy to live as a Buddhist monk.

I first met Perla when I interviewed her for my book I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. We also did a panel together at SxSW on Leonard Cohen and his women. It’s no secret that women loved Leonard – and that Leonard loved women. But what’s lesser-known is how important women were to his music, particularly the female backing singers who accompanied him in the studio and onstage. 

Perla and Leonard always stayed in touch. It was Leonard who encouraged Perla to launch her career as a solo artist. Born into a Mexican and Argentinian musical family, Perla has recorded albums in Spanish and English. She was part of the famed Came So Far For Beauty tribute shows that were immortalized in the 2005 documentary I’m Your Man that also starred Nick Cave and Rufus Wainwright. That same year Perla released her own tribute album to Leonard, Bird on the Wire. She is currently playing sold-out shows on her House of Cohen concert tours.

What can you look forward to in this class? Insights into the man from a woman who really knew him behind the scenes: How he worked with women in the studio and onstage, and why so many female singers over the years have been drawn to cover his songs; what life on the road was like for Leonard, and the things he did to make it bearable, even fun; why the road in time turned out to be torture, and what happened when it became too hard; Leonard’s relationship to the Spanish language, and the huge significance this language had in his life; and the importance of Roshi, Leonard’s friend and Zen teacher, for whom he gave up marriage and, for a while, even music.  

There will be more! Including the story about the day that Leonard and Iggy Pop saw the same dating ad and …. Well, you’re just going to have to join us!

I do hope you’ll join us! Perla and I look forward to seeing you.

– Sylvie

Where Creativity Comes From

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the critical tools innovative thinkers use to nurture their creative practice – and the five key questions consistently innovative people ask themselves most often.

About a decade ago, I published a book about creativity and innovation called Where Good Ideas Come From. The book deliberately took on a wide-angle view of the creative process, documenting the kinds of environments that encouraged breakthrough ideas — everything from city neighborhoods to the design of offices to new software platforms to the neural networks of the human brain. And it drew from an equally wide range of disciplines, with historical stories of innovative thinking in computer science, jazz, urban planning, architecture, chemistry, and many other fields.

In the years that I have passed since I wrote Good Ideas, I’ve spent thousands of hours talking to people around the world about these patterns of innovation. Many of those conversations have sparked new ideas in my mind, suggesting new techniques for cultivating creativity that weren’t in my original book. But over that period, a broader concept also came into focus for me, something that was, I suppose, implicit in Good Ideas but never fully spelled out: That people who are interested in having more original ideas — which should be most of us! — need to deliberately build a kind of creativity practice, something that you actively plan out and organize, like a diet or an exercise regime. Whatever field you are in — whether you are a teacher, or a health care worker, or an architect, or a writer —  you need to curate the tools and the environment (social and physical) where you nurture and refine new ideas.

And this creative practice is something that requires updating and review. I’ve started a routine where every few years, I block out a couple of days to sit down and review the techniques I’m using to discover, organize and develop my ideas, to see if there’s something that can be improved upon. Maybe it’s some new note-taking software that’s just been released; maybe it’s something in my daily routine that needs to be re-organized.

Some of the techniques and the tools that I’ve developed over that time draw directly from the research that I did for Where Good Ideas Come From; some of them have emerged in the years after the publication of that book. But until now, I’ve never tried to formalize what I’ve learned about maintaining a creative practice and the whole idea of an “innovation review.” And so for this session of Five Things I’ve Learned, I’m going to do just that.

No matter your discipline or focus – whether you’re a creative writer, a software engineer, a scientist, or just someone who is interested in nurturing more innovative thinking in your life – this two-hour class will give you critical tools to develop your creative practice, structured around five key questions I’ve found consistently innovative people ask themselves most often. I’ll tell some stories that illustrate why these questions are so important, and talk about a number of powerful new tools that have come on the scene in the past few years that augment our creativity. I hope that when we’re done, you’ll be better equipped as a result of the time we spend together make the most of your own efforts and potential.

One of the key lessons of Good Ideas — and in fact of almost all my books — is that creativity is inevitably the product of networks, not singular geniuses, and so I want this session to reflect that principle. I’ll be sending out emails to everyone who signs up for class beforehand, to solicit their own experiences and creative workflows, and will weave some of that material into the session as well. And after the class I’ll share a document with resources and further reading that summarizes the collective wisdom of the whole class.

I hope to see you there!

– Steven

Listening to Bob Dylan

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned from a lifetime of listening to the greatest songwriter of our time: How some of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs work, and why he remains as urgent and important as ever.

Hello. My name is Timothy Hampton. I’m professor of literary studies at the University of California, at Berkeley and the author of the recently published book Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work.

I’ve been deeply engaged with Dylan’s music since I first heard it on a scratchy bootleg, smuggled into my high school English class by a friend, back in the late 60s. It has never failed to amaze, delight, and challenge me. It speaks across the years to all of us. I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned Listening to Bob Dylan.

In the past decade Dylan’s status as the great songwriter of our time has been cemented by his reception of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. This was the first time that the Nobel had been given to a composer of songs. But beyond the Nobel prize, Dylan has increasingly been recognized as a unique figure in our national consciousness. He is a chronicler of national spirit, a wise explorer of the nooks and crannies of our musical, literary, and social history. And he is also a great moralist, a tough minded codger who clears away the fog of hypocrisy while enchanting our imaginations. At the present time, some 60 years after his first recording, his work remains as urgent and important as it has even been.

In our live 90-minute class, I’ll share insights I’ve gathered from studying and teaching Dylan’s music and lyrics. I’ll sketch out some approaches to his work and present ways of exploring the wealth of meaning that we find there. Some of these ideas will surprise you: I’ll argue, for example, that we should not begin by focusing on the words of the songs at all, but by listening for something else–something more mysterious and deep. I’ll go on to explain why people who talk about Dylan as if he were a poet get it all wrong. I’ll talk about Dylan’s moral vision, what it is, and why it matters today. And I’ll remind us that though Dylan is most original of artists, originality is the least important thing we should expect from him. 

Along the way we’ll peek under the hood of some of Dylan’s most famous songs to see how they work. And we’ll discover together the mystery of his art. 

I’m very excited about this collaborative exploration of the work of one of our greatest artists. I think we’ll learn a lot and have a lot of fun. I hope you’ll join me.

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