The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
Anything essential is invisible to the eyes
The Little Prince is a children’s book written for adults with themes relating to Existentialism and spirituality. It might seem strange to call something like this a “self-development book”, but let’s not have a failure of the imagination. Self-development is about personal growth to achieve the most fulfilling life possible. From that definition, questions of philosophy become extremely important.
The general plot of the book is that a young prince from a different planet falls in love with the only rose from his home. After traveling to other planets to learn and grow, he discovers that there are planets with many roses exactly similar to his. After initially being crushing because of the loss of significance of his rose, his realizes that love for his rose is not about what he gets from the rose, but a choice he makes and what he can give to the rose.
Why it’s Awesome
A constantly theme throughout this book is being open-minded. Grown-ups are depicted as people who lack imagination and are stuck in their way of viewing the world. If you want to practice self-development, this cannot be you. Constant growth means constantly learning and updating your beliefs about reality.
The fact is that people cling to old beliefs out of fear. The world is beyond ambiguous; its uncertainties and complexities are so intense that it’s extremely threatening to people who are used to operating a certain way. Thus we will keep repeating the same patterns in our life even if we know they aren’t useful.
Consider the fact that humanity has made incredible mistakes in the past about how the world works. Only a few hundred years ago it was commonly believed that the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved around us. Consider the fact that the vast majority of beliefs you have are simply the result of the culture and time period in which you grew up in. Consider the fact that all knowledge is based on some assumptions, no matter how trivial, taken on faith.
If you do this, you’ll start to see the severity of the situation. People who claim to “know” things are kidding themselves in order to avoid the void of ambiguity. Yet this void is exactly what the self-developed person must learn to love.
This books also talks about the importance of ACTION when it comes to spiritual growth. Yes, there’s a time for self-inquiry and reflection. But we live in the world of form. Taking real action leads to truth because reality will constantly shove your misconceptions about it in your face. When you think “people shouldn’t steal” and then someone steals from you and it causes you pain, that’s you misunderstanding reality. The reality is that stealing happens. You can either choose to accept this or kick and scream that it isn’t true like a child. But realize that if you choose the second option, you’ll be kicking and screaming for a long time because reality always wins.
Another theme is the trap of materialism. The Little Prince at one point in the story meets a businessman who is so lost in his desire to get riches that he fails to even realize why he is doing it. That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with wealth or becoming wealthy. In the end, all end goals are pointless and getting rich is better or worse than trying to save the whales. The trap of materialism is that materialism causes you to forever look outside yourself for happiness and spiritual growth.
Finally, we have the biggest lesson of the book: love is about what you give, not what you get. After The Little Prince discovers that his rose is not unique, he realizes that it’s within himself to give his rose importance. She becomes important because she is the object of his love.
This really is the perfect metaphor for guys who are looking to improve your dating life. When you’re in scarcity with women, every woman seems perfect because she is all you have. But then you start to have success with different women and your perspective flips. You realize no one is perfect, no one can give you happiness, and no one is so unique that you couldn’t replace them with someone else. Soulmates are a myth.
This sounds like a horribly depressing discovery for anyone who is still in the Soulmates paradigm. It sounds like you’ve become jaded. But what I’ve come to realize is that when you think a girl is your “Soulmate” and place impossible standards on her, you aren’t really in love. You’re just needy and think your neediness is the same thing as a real connection. You can’t even see the girl for who she truly is without mentally warping it. It’s only when you drop these tricks of the mind that true feelings can emerge.
Besides dating, you can think of the rose as a metaphor for life. The truth about life is that there is nothing objectively significant. It doesn’t matter if you murder millions of people or become Ghandi, in the end everyone and everything is going the same place. However, as human beings we have the ability to look at the obvious significantlessness of life and CHOOSE to find happiness and purpose anyway.
Why Does It Suck
This book can be a bit confusing or even depressing if you’re a beginner to self-development. You don’t want to think about all these complex philosophical issues, you just want simple answers like that getting money = good. And you know what? I agree. When you’re new, this shouldn’t be your focus because it will confuse you. Stick with the foundations and come back to this deeper stuff once you’ve solved some of the basic problems in your life.
I also question whether or not this idea of choosing to find meaning in life is just an ego distraction from doing Enlightenment work. But it’s beyond me at the moment to say.
The Wrap Up
The Little Prince is a beautifully written story that will likely bring you to tears by the end. It’s also the third best-selling single volume book of all time. I highly recommend getting the written version because the illustrations add a great element to the book.