A Masterclass in Riding the Waves of Life — “The School for Good and Evil” Creator Soman Chainani

A Masterclass in Riding the Waves of Life — “The School for Good and Evil” Creator Soman Chainani

What's to come (00:00:00)

Who is Soman Chainani? (00:01:06)

  • Soman Chainani introduces himself as a specialist in the teenage mind.
  • He connects with young people and fantasy lovers through his young adult fantasy novels.
  • He has been writing for the past 10 years.
  • His notable works include:
  • A movie adaptation of The School for Good and Evil was released on Netflix.
  • Beats and Beauty is being adapted into a TV show.

Follow the flow. (00:02:20)

  • Soman Chainani believes that creative decisions come naturally and cannot be forced, emphasizing the importance of letting go and allowing the creative process to unfold organically.
  • Chainani describes a feeling of certainty and passion when he finds the right idea, even if it's not the most commercially viable option, and emphasizes the importance of following one's intuition.
  • Despite skepticism and discouragement from others, including his publisher and agent, Chainani remains unwavering in his commitment to his current writing project, driven by a deep personal conviction and confidence in its value.
  • The upcoming project is a work of "predictive fiction" that contains elements that will resonate with current events and societal issues.

Give stories away. (00:11:48)

  • Soman Chainani's creative process involves sharing his ideas with others and waiting at least three years to determine their longevity. He believes in giving away stories and ideas to ensure they are timeless and have staying power.
  • Chainani distinguishes between ideas that others won't pick up because they're bad and ideas that require his unique perspective by considering whether someone else could execute them effectively.
  • Chainani's unique storytelling style sets his work apart from others, even when many similar books were released simultaneously.
  • Tim Ferriss relates to Chainani's experience, having recently rediscovered his readiness for a writing project after several attempts to give it away.
  • Marcelo Garcia, a renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, embraced a unique approach by sharing his training footage online, despite the risk of competitors using it to prepare against him.
  • Soman Chainani advises young writers to only pursue projects that are 100% aligned with their own voice and passion, rather than taking on mercenary jobs for money.
  • Chainani shares an example of a short story he was commissioned to write for DC Comics, which ultimately fell through after a frustrating process of editorial changes that compromised his creative vision. He interprets this experience as a sign from the universe that he should stay true to his own frequency and not deviate from his authentic path, even if it means sacrificing potential financial rewards.

Your bull might be gay. (00:21:14)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," lives in St. Louis with his partner, a farmer who owns a goat and cattle farm.
  • Chainani noticed that a new bull on the farm showed no interest in impregnating the female cattle and instead spent time picking flowers and socializing with a male calf.
  • Despite testing confirming the bull's healthy sperm, Chainani suspected it might be gay, which would have significant financial consequences for the farmer.
  • Chainani believes in preparing for the worst possible outcomes, even if they are statistically unlikely, while his partner thinks it's a waste of resources.
  • Chainani outsources his worry to his assistant, who is tasked with identifying and insuring against potential worst-case scenarios.

Indispensable assistance. (00:28:24)

  • Soman Chainani discusses the concept of outsourcing worry and its therapeutic value, emphasizing the importance of training assistants to handle complex projects and worst-case scenarios.
  • When working on complex projects, Chainani provides broad instructions and allows his assistants the freedom to structure and execute the project.
  • He involves his team members in important tasks and presentations, allowing them to take ownership and showcase their abilities.
  • Chainani manages his own email inbox and sorts through various types of messages, while his assistant handles scheduling, school visits, negotiations for speaking engagements, and other tasks involving calendar dates.
  • He prefers speaking to teenagers and finds it more challenging to engage with adults, and he has guidelines in place for speaking engagements, including budget considerations.

Art appreciation: Christopher Marley. (00:34:09)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," recommends the unique art of Christopher Marley.
  • Marley's art involves preserving and creating art from rare animals he finds in remote locations, showcasing the fantastical beauty of nature.
  • Chainani was captivated by Marley's originality and background as a former supermodel when he first encountered his art at a museum in North Carolina.
  • Marley's talent lies in creating visually stunning art using preserved animals, making his work both impressive and thought-provoking.
  • Chainani encourages people to explore Marley's art on Instagram under the handle @christophermarleystudio and plans to follow him.

Coach Alpha. (00:38:19)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," believes that Generation Alpha teenagers are facing a mental health crisis due to existential dread and technology addiction.
  • Chainani proposes the idea of being a "Coach Alpha" who can help teenagers identify their true interests and passions, providing them with the support and guidance they need to thrive.
  • Chainani suggests the need for a third-party support system for teenagers, similar to AA meetings, to address mental health issues.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of having a backup plan while pursuing creative endeavors, as it allows for greater risk-taking and freedom in artistic expression.
  • Chainani advises parents not to acknowledge or praise their children's initiative and self-motivated actions, as this can discourage them from continuing those behaviors independently.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of understanding what characters want at the deepest level when writing, using this technique in his own writing and to help teenagers write college essays.
  • Chainani criticizes the negative impact of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, arguing that they provide the wrong inputs for individuals to find their true desires.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of seeking input and guidance from others, believing that it can significantly impact the outcome of one's actions and potentially prevent negative consequences.

Mike Regula’s Course of Action. (00:48:50)

  • Soman Chainani recommends Mike Regula's company, Course of Action, which helps men make proactive changes in their lives using Navy SEAL concepts.
  • Course of Action focuses on various aspects of personal development, including psychological well-being, nutrition, fitness, and emotional growth.
  • Chainani believes Course of Action creates a safe space for men to work on self-improvement, especially in today's world.
  • Chainani was introduced to Mike Regula through a former high school crush named Noah.
  • Noah, who is now married with children, was unaware of Chainani's teenage infatuation with him.
  • After reconnecting with Noah, Chainani was introduced to Regula, and they instantly bonded.
  • Chainani admires Regula's dedication to helping men, drawing parallels to his own passion for revitalizing the teenage mind and soul.

The catharsis of being an intermittent pop star. (00:51:34)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," organizes a large-scale performance every two years at the YALLFest, a major book festival for teenagers in Charleston.
  • Despite the significant financial investment and personal effort required, Chainani compares this practice to Julia Roberts' acting strategy of alternating between mainstream rom-coms and independent films to maintain longevity and interest.
  • Chainani finds more enjoyment in the preparation and anticipation leading up to the performance rather than the actual event itself.
  • He sees his performances as a personal embodiment of the Japanese concept of "Misogi," which involves stepping out of one's comfort zone to find reinvigoration in life.
  • Chainani believes that without these performances, his life would lack the energizing and high-stakes nature that comes with the possibility of public embarrassment.
  • He describes the experience of riding waves as being high-stakes and immediate, unlike writing, which involves constant revision.
  • After six weeks of surfing, Chainani feels mentally and physically in incredible shape.

How ketamine changed Soman’s life. (00:58:42)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," underwent ketamine treatment during COVID-19 to alleviate anxiety and emotional numbness.
  • The treatment involves six IV ketamine sessions over 12 days, followed by regular booster sessions every 10 weeks.
  • Ketamine therapy has profoundly impacted Chainani's life, awakening dormant parts of his brain and providing glimpses of his potential.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of avoiding solo ketamine use and recommends against recommending it to others due to its challenging and introspective nature.
  • Ketamine has shown promise in treating resistant depression and chronic pain, as evidenced by Tim Ferriss's personal experience of reduced back pain after ketamine infusions.
  • Experts like John Krystal and Andrew Huberman have recently discussed ketamine's therapeutic potential in-depth.

The Shadow Self vs. The Double (refereed by Kelly Clarkson). (01:08:16)

  • Soman Chainani proposes a new perspective on the concept of the shadow self, suggesting that it may actually be the true self, while the better version exists independently.
  • He explores this idea in his fiction through the use of twins, representing the struggle to determine one's true identity.
  • Chainani experienced this concept personally when he overcame panic while appearing on The Kelly Clarkson Show, realizing there's a better version of ourselves that can handle any situation.
  • Techniques like IFS therapy and ketamine treatments helped him explore and work with different parts of himself.
  • He encourages letting go and allowing the creative force within to guide us, rather than relying solely on conscious thought.

Thoughts on Netflix’s Quarterback. (01:14:16)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," found spiritual revelations while watching the Netflix series "Quarterback," which follows NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Kirk Cousins.
  • Chainani relates the position of a quarterback to life, suggesting that we should be in tune with the flow of life and execute the "plays" that come our way.
  • He emphasizes the importance of being present and adjusting to the reactions of the world, rather than focusing solely on making decisions.
  • Chainani draws a parallel between surfing and life's challenges, highlighting the importance of staying relaxed and embracing opportunities without overthinking or questioning.

Career lessons from Taylor Swift. (01:18:26)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," draws inspiration from Madonna and Taylor Swift's ability to constantly reinvent themselves throughout their careers.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of stepping outside one's comfort zone and embracing new challenges, as demonstrated by both Madonna and Taylor Swift.
  • Tim Ferriss, after the success of his first book, "The 4-Hour Workweek," chose to write "The 4-Hour Body," a book about physical fitness and health, which was a different category from his previous work.
  • Ferriss believes that the principles and frameworks he used in "The 4-Hour Workweek" could be applied to other areas of life, including physical health.
  • He emphasizes the importance of paying attention to what people are asking for and using that as inspiration for new projects.

Recommended reading. (01:25:30)

  • Authors Donna Tartt and Hanya Yanagihara prioritize quality over quantity, releasing books every 8-10 years.
  • Their immersive and emotionally resonant books, such as "Goldfinch" and "A Little Life," have gained popularity despite infrequent releases.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of commitment and dedication in creating enduring literary works.
  • These authors' ability to tap into primal emotions and create intense reading experiences sets them apart.
  • Chainani recommends "A Little Life," "Conversations with Friends," and "The Secret History" for impactful and emotionally engaging reads.
  • "A Little Life" is emotionally intense and should be avoided when feeling vulnerable.
  • "Conversations with Friends" accurately portrays the emotions and experiences of young women in their 20s.
  • "The Secret History" offers excellent writing and transports readers to a meticulously crafted world.
  • "Hanya" is recommended for emotionally impactful reads, while "Sally Rooney" provides prose comparable to a Taylor Swift album.
  • The three recommended books are interrelated and complement each other.

Cross-collar dating. (01:31:48)

  • Soman Chainani introduces the concept of "cross-collar dating," which involves dating someone from a different professional background or social class.
  • Chainani believes that cross-collar dating can create a better balance in a relationship, as partners bring different perspectives and strengths to the table.
  • He suggests that people should avoid dating within their own professional circles to prevent competition and comparison.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of finding someone with different neuroses and interests to create a harmonious relationship.
  • He believes it's not ideal for writers to be in a relationship with another writer due to the intensity of their commitment to their craft.
  • Chainani suggests finding a partner who has an equally intense commitment to their own different field, such as a famous pop star and a football player.

The language of couples. (01:37:22)

  • Couples often develop their own private language, with words and phrases that only they understand.
  • This language can include made-up words, repeated phrases, and even accents.
  • It can be a way for couples to connect and feel closer to each other.
  • Breaking up with a partner can lead to feelings of anger or aversion when the new partner starts using the private language.
  • Soman Chainani and his partner use the word "malinky" to describe something that is on its way to being totally messed up.

Hookups. (01:39:15)

  • Soman Chainani reflects on hookup culture in New York and Austin.
  • He questions the purpose of hookups and realizes he was trying to extract something from others.
  • He compares hookups to fishing, where one tries to catch something without any real connection.
  • Chainani recognizes that his motivations were often based on wanting to be like the other person or to obtain something they had.
  • He concludes that this approach is not good for the soul and ultimately leads to failure and dissatisfaction.

St. Louis vs. everywhere else. (01:40:54)

  • Soman Chainani, the creator of "The School for Good and Evil," found New York City too stimulating and moved to St. Louis for a period of growth and self-discovery.
  • He now splits his time between the two cities but prefers the peace and focus of St. Louis, which he describes as a quiet, manageable, and family-oriented city with potential for growth.
  • Chainani compares St. Louis to Austin, Texas, praising its good weather, great people, good food, easy accessibility, and lack of traffic.
  • He believes St. Louis is an undiscovered gem with the potential for a future boom and is excited to start making friends there.

Dodgy allergies. (01:45:45)

  • Soman Chainani and Tim Ferriss discuss the concept of "no-fly zones" in relation to food allergies, emphasizing the importance of testing and verifying perceived allergies to ensure accurate dietary choices and avoid potential health risks.
  • Chainani shares his personal experience of believing he was allergic to cranberries and eggplant due to past negative reactions, but later questioning the validity of these beliefs.
  • Ferriss recounts a personal experience of developing a severe allergic reaction to eggplant after initially having no issues with it, highlighting the unpredictable nature of allergic reactions.
  • Despite extensive allergy testing, the specific allergen in eggplant remains unidentified, raising concerns about potential pesticide sensitivity.
  • Chainani highlights the psychological impact of allergies, citing examples of extreme reactions on airplanes to peanut and alcohol allergies.
  • He questions the increasing prevalence of allergies and suggests that childhood exposure to farm environments may play a role in reducing their occurrence.

Babysitting the fully formed. (01:51:54)

  • Soman Chainani recommends keeping an eye on Anna Koppelman, a 23-year-old standup comedian and writer known for her sharp and mature voice.
  • Chainani admires Anna's versatility in writing, standup comedy, and novel writing and believes she has great potential for future success.
  • Chainani emphasizes the importance of encouraging young talent and fostering their ideas without discouraging them, citing Neil deGrasse Tyson's example of allowing children to explore and experiment without fear of making mistakes.
  • Chainani encourages individuals to observe and appreciate things without feeling the need to add their own opinions or comments.

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