Kaj (pronounced Kai) is a father, husband, trained historian, civil engineer, arts lover, indoor-soccer devotee, passionate North Melbourne fan, and the Director of The School of Life (TSOL) Australia. He lives in Melbourne’s inner-west with his wife and son.
What is The School of Life?
The School of Life (TSOL) Australia is a secular organisation that is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We run classes, workshops and major events, publish books, create films, and produce a range of objects & tools that can assist you in the quest for a more fulfilled life. Throughout our work we explore themes like how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change the world. We also run a consulting and training service for business that is designed to enhance emotional intelligence and psychological maturity in the workplace.
What is emotional intelligence and why does it matter?
Emotional intelligence really is the critical ingredient for all positive relationships. It is made up of four key elements, including:
Self-Awareness – the ability to appreciate and understand your own emotional condition and how it affects others;
Self-Management – the ability to control your response to a particular situation, tuning into your emotions but not being driven off course by emotional impulses;
Empathy – the ability to walk a mile in another persons shoes and appreciate the world from their perspective; and
General Social Skills – managing relationships, conversational ability, building rapport, managing networks.
Happily, if someone is open to it, studies consistently show that emotional intelligence can be developed and improved over time. We can become more empathic, less anxious, more self-aware and more resilient. TSOL exists to support people to do this in a playful, community-oriented environment.
Is it true that Melbourne was the first international location for The School of Life, its HQ being in London?
Yes, and it’s a credit to this city that we responded so well to the concept! The School of Life was founded in 2008 by philosopher and entrepreneur Alain de Botton and since then we have grown to encompass 13 branches: Melbourne, London, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Istanbul, Paris, São Paulo, Seoul, Taipei, Tel Aviv, Zurich and most recently, Sydney. We share content and ideas between branches, but each location is distinct and locally managed.
We saw you at Highpoint recently. What were you up to?
The School of Life popped up at Highpoint in a purpose built creative cube – you might have seen it outside David Jones on Level 2. We ran a series of mini-classes as part of the THINK WEST festival to introduce more people to our ideas and explore some common concerns that we all share. We also sold our unique range of books, stationery and learning tools, and enjoyed talking to everyone that stopped by for a look.
As a local Westie, you must have a few favourite haunts. What are your favourite spots?
Yes, I am local who is passionate about the inner-west. It really is a thriving community full of wonderful organisations and so many different cultures and backgrounds. I live in Newport and for coffee we can’t go past The Pint of Milk. If we’re in Footscray then we love The Happy River Café at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, which is great for young kids. For a retreat from the busy inner city, we head to the extraordinary Newport Lakes – a truly hidden sanctuary from bustling everyday life.
What do you love about the West and why did you choose to live here?
My wife and I gravitated towards the west originally as my wife's family has roots here, but stayed because of the connected community and cultural diversity of the area. We love the vibrant arts and culture scene, the bustling café life, and with Port Phillip Bay so close, a genuine connection with nature.
What is your personal philosophy and how do you use it guide your life?
I believe in the idea of life-long learning and I believe in the power of art and culture to support us through the significant transitions in our lives. However, the greats of philosophy and culture tell us that personal happiness and flourishing comes from the selfless service of others. I have no doubt this is true.
Put simply: keep learning, serve others and be humble. Think West brings together key organisations across culture, education and the arts with a thought-provoking program that’s been especially curated for the community. Proudly developed by The School of Life Australia and Highpoint Shopping Centre, the inaugural Think West festival program runs from 6 – 20 November 2016, and is produced in association with a broad range of organisations with a connection to Melbourne’s inner west.