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    It would instead do something far kinder – and, incidentally, far more conducive to the kind of courageous, entrepreneurial optimism our societies currently ineptly try to foster.

    Our culture would be continually presenting us with charming non-tragic tales of riches to rags stories, stories in which people lost money, partners and social standing but ended up coping really rather well with their new lives.

    One of the characteristic flaws of our minds is to exaggerate how fragile we might be; to assume that life would be impossible far earlier than it in fact would be.

    We imagine that we could not live without a certain kind of income or status or health; that it would be a disaster not to have a certain kind of relationship, house or job.

    He was reminding himself that it wouldn’t ever be so bad to lose pretty much everything – so as to free himself of nagging worries of catastrophe. He never worried so much about what might happen if a deal went wrong because, at the very worst, he’d only be back on the kitchen floor next to the dog basket, which was – in the scheme of things – OK. By continually renewing our acquaintance with our own resilience – that is, with our ability to manage even if things go badly (getting sacked, a partner walking out, a scandal that destroys our social life, an illness) – we can be braver because we grasp that the dangers we face are almost never as great as our skittish imaginations tend to suggest.

    But he made a habit of regularly sleeping on the floor of an outhouse and eating only stale bread and drinking lukewarm water.

    But we forget our resilience in the face of the risks we face.

    The cumulative effect of our innocence is to make us timid.

    We’d see them moving out of the penthouse into a humble cottage and having really rather a nice time tending to a small flower-bed and discovering tinned food.

    Our culture would not be recommending such scenarios, just lessening the grip upon us of certain deep but misplaced fears that so often hold us back from trying and succeeding.

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