By Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

ISBN: 1501197274

Year read: 2019

How strongly I recommend it: 10/10

This book is structured as a conversation between a young man and a philosopher. Over five nights they talk and debate the meaning in our lives through the lens of Adlerian psychology. I didn’t know anything about Adlerian psychology until this book but it struck a deep chord in me. If you feel like you’re struggling to find direction in your life or want to establish a clearer framework on how to live a fulfilling life, this book might be for you.


Don’t focus on what I don’t have. Focus on making the most of the equipment that I do have.

My past experiences and traumas don’t have to dictate who I become. I can have the courage to change my own life.

Don’t give myself the excuse that because “I don’t have this or can’t do this” that I’m incapable.

Adlerian psychology differs from Freudian psychology because it denies trauma as a deterministic event in one’s life. We have to deny trauma if we’re going to move forward from them. Not to forget it but to not let it prevent us from having the courage to change.

Being a part of a society means that having interpersonal relationships is unavoidable. We must learn to accept and deal with interpersonal relationships.

Problems in our lives emerge because we avoid or fail to deal properly with interpersonal relationships. And the truth is that we will get hurt in these relationships and will hurt others along the way too.

Knowing this, some people go as far as disliking themselves to avoid interpersonal relationships all together so they won’t get hurt. They give themselves an excuse to dislike others so they won’t get hurt.

Competition cannot be the core of any good relationship. A feeling of inferiority is healthy if that competition is against one’s ideal self rather than a comparison to others.

Part of the feeling of inferiority is accepting the “imperfect me” just as I am. When we’re learning something new – and we’re always learning – we must accept we are imperfect but that we are capable of changing that.

There are two objectives for behaviour: to be self reliant and to live in harmony with society.

There are three categories of interpersonal relationships: “tasks of work”, “tasks of friendship”, and “tasks of love”. We have no choice but to confront them when attempting to live as a social being. These, all together, are our “life tasks”.

One must not seek recognition or reward from others.

One must seek to separate tasks that belong to themselves and others.

The way to separate tasks is to ask yourself, “who ultimately is going to receive the result brought about the choice that is made?”

In addition to knowing who will ultimately receive the results brought about the choice that is made, one must allow others to experience the emotions that come with the separation that is created. You don’t and can’t own the emotions of the other person – that is theirs to experience.

It all starts by building horizontal – not vertical – relationships.

Having worth is about being beneficial to the community around you. Someone who is beneficial to their community is someone who has a concern for others, builds horizontal relationships, and takes the approach of encouragement.

The goal of interpersonal relations is to achieve “community feeling.”

If a relationship can breakdown just because you raise an objection, then it’s not the sort of relationship you should be in in the first place.

People who hold the belief that they are the centre of the world always end up losing their comrades before long.

When you feel like “I am useful to someone” it gives you the courage to live.

You can’t just build a horizontal relationship with one person in your life. Even one vertical relationship can seep through other areas of your life. You must have the courage to assert what needs to be asserted in all relationships in your life.

Self acceptance is about accepting “one’s incapable self”. It’s not about lying to yourself, but it’s also not about simply accepting the fact that you’ll always be incapable. You believe that you can change yourself but you’re not lying to yourself about your current abilities.

The key ingredient to changing your “incapable self”? It’s about courage. We don’t lack ability – we just lack courage to change what we can change.

Affirmative resignation (accepting what you are now but knowing you can change) doesn’t automatically lead to community feeling & contribution to others. The second key concept — confidence in others — is critical to recognize at this point.

From the standpoint of Adlerian psychology, the basis of interpersonal relations is founded not on trust but on confidence. It is believing in others without any set condition whatsoever.

“Doubt” cannot be the foundation of any relationship. Suppose you doubt your colleagues, friends, family, and partner? There’s no doubt they’ll detect your doubt in your voice, eyes, and demeanour. They’ll soon realize that you don’t have confidence in them. Building a positive relationship with that feeling of doubt will almost certainly prevent any deep relationship from forming. This is why we have to start with unconditional confidence in others.

Unconditional confidence is about making the relationship with the other person better and building a horizontal relationship.

The courage to overcome the fear of being taking advantage of comes form self-acceptance. We have two options: to believe or to doubt. If we’re aspiring to see others in the world as comrades, we only have one option that makes sense.

There are two objectives for behaviour: to be self reliant and to live in harmony with society. The two objectives of psychology that support these two behaviours is to consciousness that I do have the ability and the confidence in others.

For a human being, the greatest unhappiness comes from not being able to like oneself. The feeling of being “beneficial to a community” or “being use to someone” is the only way that one can feel like they have self worth.

Happiness is the feeling of contribution. You might never know how you contributed to someone’s life but that’s not important. All we need is the subjective sense that we were useful to someone.

The courage to be normal. This is what must be emphasized rather than the desire to be special.

Life is a series of moments. When we cast a dim light on the past or future, we’re forgetting to appreciate the beauty in what’s happening before our eyes.

If life is a series of moments and the goal is to dance in each moment, the objective isn’t to move forward to a destination in that moment. You’re dancing for the sake of dancing, enjoying it, and being present in that moment.

Life in general has no meaning. We must assign our own meaning to our life.

Adler’s compass – his North Star – is making sure we point ourselves in the direction of “contribution to others”. When we’re making a contribution to others, we’re going in the right direction.

Someone always has to start. Others might not be cooperative but that’s not up to you. I should always be the one to start.

The world is simple, and life is too.