Melbourne has long been renowned as a foodie haven (more on that later), but it has also become a centre for food for the soul, thanks to its penchant for pushing the cultural boundaries.

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Its latest offering is the only Australian campus of philosopher Alain de Botton’s The School of Life (although a Sydney version is emerging as I write). I recently partook in the school’s EQ Intensive, which was quite possibly the best personal development course I have ever undertaken, and simply the only valuable way to kick-start the New Year (apart from deciding to detox until Easter)!

Over the course of five days, 26 participants from all over Australia, representing all walks of life, ranging in age from 20 to 60+ years, and fairly well spread across both genders, engaged in lively debate, expertly guided by the course facilitators.

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I can hear you moaning at the thought of spending a week in the holiday frenzy of January cooped up in a small room with strangers, contemplating our navels, but I can assure you that it was surprisingly nothing like that!

Think engaging content, interactive discussions, trendy environments, practical activities, free coffee (!), delicious food, life changing epiphanies…and you get somewhere close to how the week unfolded.  Whilst most workshops took place at the Bourke Street HQ of The School Of Life (TSOL), complete with eclectic bookshop and cafe, we also decamped to a cosy mind room, an iconic pub, an historic home and to various city centre locations as part of a Sensory Adventure, during which we focused on each of our senses at a time, learning how to be mindful and present in a very unique way. Whilst topics for the week included How to Realise Your Potential, How to Make a Difference, and importantly, How to Make up Your Mind, it really was the combination of course content and discussion with interesting others which enriched the experience.

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Being a school of philosophy, there was regular mention of various philosophers’ writings, as well as a deep dive into a few philosophers as part of breakfast and evening sessions. So, not only did I come away with a greater sense of self purpose, but I also fed my brain with new, worthy information and a hunger to find out more. Combined with my new-found knowledge of brain plasticity, I can assure myself that my brain isn’t yet full and there is plenty of room for much more enlightenment!

So what were my main takeaways from the week?

I learned a few idiosyncrasies, such as the fact that research has shown that if you lose your sense of smell you fall out of love with your partner, an affliction which had devastating consequences for the likes of Michael Hutchence of INXS fame.

But perhaps for me, apart from formulating a philanthropic seed project to empower women, one of my greatest learnings was that confidence is simply your commitment to a purpose.  In our society today, we place so much emphasis on the need to be confident, to know everything there is to know about seemingly impossible subjects, such as the google algorithms which will help us with our Search Engine Optimisation, as well as an unrelenting optimism that we will succeed, that the potential to win seems indecipherable from the potential for spectacular failure.  We are faced with a constant onslaught via online media of others’ lives which seem so much more interesting, valuable, fun, successful and insta-worthy than ours, that our fear of delusion and failure can be crippling.

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I have a quote on my wall, which I refer to almost daily, to keep the failure wolf from the door, from Thomas Edison, of light-bulb and other inventions fame. It keeps me going when that voice inside my head tells me to give up NOW:

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Another quote, from Benjamin Disraeli, which was mentioned in the course of the week, has also inspired me to continue on my personal and professional journey:

“I have brought myself, by long meditation, to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment.”

So there you have it, I have a purpose, therefore I am…I have officially taken confidence off its pedestal and feel so much better for it!

So, back to TSOL and all things cerebral and intestinal in Melbourne…there will be another EQ Intensive in July and Evvoke can help put together an itinerary for you and your friends/family/colleagues – or just you on your own!  Here is a sneak peak of what it could look like.

I will be writing a few blogs on the eating places and other things I did in Melbourne and surrounds whilst there, including staying at the iconic Hotel Lindrum, so watch this space for more enticing and authentic travel ideas!

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested to read my other blogs on all things Melbourne:

In Pursuit of Lifelong Learning

My 5 Top Melbourne Restaurants

Is There Life in Melbourne After the Spring Racing Carnival?

If you enjoyed this article please feel free to like, comment and share on social media.  If you would like more of the same, contact us at contact@evvoke.com.au for help with organising a bespoke itinerary, special event or travel/food article, or sign up for our newsletter from the Evvoke home page.