Oprah: So what advice do you give kids who are in school?
Daniel: Ultimately, it's about following your intrinsic motivation. What are you here to do? What are you uniquely good at?
Oprah: Do you believe that the paradox of prosperity is the reason we're seeking meaning more than ever?
Daniel: I think that's part of it. All this abundance has liberated us but not fulfilled us. So people are using their extra time and energy and money to lift that level of satisfaction. The yearning to understand what it's all about is a human yearning. When we were on the savanna evolving, running from saber-toothed tigers, we didn't have the luxury of thinking about why we were put here. Prosperity has freed us to consider what's fundamental about being human and to ask, 'How am I connected to everything else?' I think people get satisfaction from living for a cause that's greater than themselves. They want to leave an imprint. By writing books, I'm trying to do that in a modest way. And apparently it works, because some of the Stanford grads you gave my book to have sent me e-mails.
Oprah: What have they said? Tell me, tell me!
Daniel: Some have written that the book made them think about why they're here. And, interestingly, a lot of students tell me that they're going to give A Whole New Mind to their parents. One student is passionate about art, but his mom wants him to get an MBA and become an accountant.
Oprah: You've said that the new master of business administration is the master of fine arts.
Daniel: After that statement, I'm sure I'll never get invited to speak at a business school! Here's the point: Financial firms are sending their back-office jobs overseas. But what do fine artists do? They create something new, unexpected, and delightful that changes the world. MFA abilities are harder to outsource and more important in an abundant world.
Oprah: How does abundance affect us in the conceptual age?
Daniel: Abundance is one of the most significant things going on in the country. My grandparents were middle-class, didn't have a car, and neither of my grandmothers ever learned how to drive. My kids find this surprising, but at one point in this country, a car was a luxury; now we have more automobiles than we have licensed drivers. There are huge stores brimming with products and an entire storage industry devoted to housing our excess stuff. In the early '70s, I grew up going to the tiny Eastland Mall in Columbus, Ohio.