At the Existentialist CafeI started reading At The Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell this week. The subtitle is “Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails.” I am loving the book.

Ms. Bakewell tells the story of foundational existentialist philosophers (e.g., Sartre, Heidegger, Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, etc.), their work, their lives, and the impact on her own life.

Her definition of existentialism struck me as clear and highly relevant to great creators in the work world.  Here is her definition verbatim—


  • Existentialists concern themselves with individual, concrete, human existence.
  • They consider human existence different from the kind of being other things have. Other entitles are what they are, but as a human I am whatever I choose to make of myself at every moment. I am free
  • and therefore I’m responsible for everything I do, a dizzying fact which causes
  • an anxiety inseparable from human existence itself.
  • On the other hand, I am only free within situations, which can include factors in my own biology and psychology as well as physical, historical and social variables of the world into which I have been thrown.
  • Despite the limitations, I always want more: I am passionately involved in personal projects of all kinds.
  • Human existence is thus ambiguous: at once boxed in by borders and yet transcendent and exhilarating.
  • An existentialist who is also phenomenological provides no easy rules for dealing with this condition, but instead concentrates on describing lived experience as it presents itself.
  • By describing experience well, he or she hopes to understand this existence and awaken us to ways of living more authentic lives.

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Something to think about this week. The freedom to choose, the anxiety that choice creates, and the power of being truly in our current reality making clear observations—allowing a more authentic life experience for ourselves and others.