Shared Inspiration #4: Life Lessons Gleaned from Jane Austen

Most will agree Jane Austen is a rockstar.  Her books are hilariously funny, easy to relate to and choc-full of character and wisdom to guide you along your path.

I came across a post (via @GuyKawasaki) by the Huffington Post’s literary critic and Austen aficionado, Bill Deresiewicz which  provides a snapshot into his new book titled A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter. 

This post offers 12 very funny, if not brutal life lessons gleaned from Jane Austen.  Here goes:

  1. You aren’t nearly as special as you think (from “Emma”):  You may walk around like the heroine of your very own novel, but you’re no better than any of the minor characters. You know — those dull, ordinary, conventional people you’re forced to be surrounded by.  Take a good look at them: that’s you.
  2. Gossip is the highest form of wisdom (from “Emma”): The most important things in life are the small, trivial, everyday events, the little moments of feeling, that people like to gab about. That’s what the fabric of our years really consists of. That is what life is truly about.
  3. Humiliation is the fastest way of growing up (from “Pride and Prejudice”):  You’re not as wonderful as your mama told you, and the way to grow up is to realize that. Growing up, in other words, means making mistakes. Only it’s not enough to make mistakes: you have to feel them. Those moments of excruciating shame when you really screw up? Cherish them.
  4. Your feelings are not necessarily right (from “Pride and Prejudice”):  Feelings are always about something, and that “something” is not itself a feeling. It’s an idea, a perception of a situation. And because ideas can be wrong, the feelings that are based on them can also be wrong. So relax a little bit.
  5. Don’t believe everything you think (from “Northanger Abbey”): We do not come to things with open minds, we come with all the ideas we’ve already acquired, and we can’t wait to project them onto everything we encounter. Instead of discovering the truth, we end up with a very elaborate theory that bears no relationship to what’s actually going on in front of us.
  6. Keeping your eyes open is the best way of staying young (from “Northanger Abbey”): Forget Botox. Staying young means continuing to be open to the possibility that life can take you by surprise. Curiosity is the true source of joy. If you think you’ve already seen it all, you have.
  7. Too much money makes you miserable (from “Mansfield Park”): Being able to get whatever you want makes you awfully unhappy when you can’t get what you want. And if everything is easy, then nothing really matters. The only people who can feel are those who have a sense of what it means to do without.
  8. Listening to people’s stories is the nicest thing you can do for them (from “Mansfield Park”): A person’s story is the most personal thing about them, and paying attention to it is just about the most important thing you can do. Our stories are what make us human, and listening to someone else’s stories — entering into their feelings, validating their experiences — is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity.
  9. Friends tell friends when they’re screwing up (from “Persuasion”): The true friend wants you to be happy, but being happy and feeling good about yourself are not the same thing. Being happy means becoming a better person, and becoming a better person means having your mistakes pointed out to you in a way you can’t ignore.
  10. Men and women can be friends, because the sex thing doesn’t always get in the way. (from “Persuasion”): Harry and Sally were wrong. Men and women can talk to each other, sympathize with each other, even share their intimate thoughts and feelings with each other, without having to be attracted to each other. Men and women can be equals, so men and women can be friends.
  11. Love is never at first sight (from “Sense and Sensibility”): Lust at first sight, a whole train of fantasies and projections at first sight –sure. But to love someone, you have to get to know their character, not just their body, and that takes time. True love sneaks up on you. You never see it coming until it’s already there.
  12. Arguing is the best thing about being married (from “Sense and Sensibility”): If your spouse is already just like you, then neither one of you has anywhere to go. A friction-free relationship would be a desert. Conflict is good; disagreements are good; even fights can be good. Committing yourself to someone doesn’t have to limit your growth: it can be the door to perpetual growth.
I’m adding a 13th that I reckon Bill may have overlooked:  
13.  There is no Mr Right: No one is perfect, everyone’s got something which
will annoy the living daylights out of someone else.  Mind you, if Mr Right Now comes in the form of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, my advice is to settle – it’s pretty much as good as it gets.
Mmmmmm Mr Darcy – caio for now, I’m off to watch P&P on DVD.


You can read Bill’s full post here.  If this is anything to go by his book is a must. Can’t wait to read it.