‘A superb study … brilliant stories, hilarious observations and jaw dropping revelations about so many figures in public life we thought we knew – but never understood’ EMILY MAITLIS Loss and adversity are part of the human condition, but an imperfect past isn’t always an indicator of what’s to come. ‘A superb study … brilliant stories, hilarious observations and jaw dropping revelations about so many figures in public life we thought we knew – but never understood’ EMILY MAITLIS Loss and adversity are part of the human condition, but an imperfect past isn’t always an indicator of what’s to come. This book traces a pattern: why is it that often the people with the hardest beginnings in life – children who experience displacement, disease, financial ruin, abandonment or bereavement – become the most successful adults? And is there something to learn from those people, who perhaps have the strongest sense of what matters most?Of Britain’s fifty-five prime ministers, twenty-five lost one or both of their parents as a child and 69 per cent suffered some form of serious childhood trauma. For their acclaimed podcast Past Imperfect, Thomson and Sylvester spoke to some such prime ministers, as well as pioneers and poets, CEOs and chefs, actors and archbishops, sports stars and Nobel prize-winning scientists. How did Richard Branson overcome severe dyslexia? How did Daphne Park, born in lonely, rural Tanzania, become one of Britain’s top spies? How was diver Tom Daley driven on to win an Olympic gold medal by being bullied at school and his father’s early death?This book brings together psychological research with scores of intimate, fascinating interviews. The resulting narrative is full of hope, and might help us all towards a better understanding of resilience, motivation, perspective and courage.PRAISE FOR WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN WHEN I WAS YOUNG‘This is a superb study of the way strength can emerge from childhood trauma – brilliant stories, hilarious observations and jaw dropping revelations about so many figures in public life we thought we knew – but never understood’Emily Maitlis‘A punchy portrait of how character is forged in adversity. As an idiosyncratic, wide-ranging study, it works. Sylvester and Thomson have succeeded in avoiding “pity porn”; their book is provocative and even uplifting’The TimesPRAISE FOR THE PAST IMPERFECT PODCAST‘I promise not to praise Times podcasts unless I really like them. I’ve been recommending Past Imperfect to friends so it would seem unfair of me not to recommend it to readers. In Past Imperfect the paper’s crack interviewing team of Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson talk to politicians and celebrities about their pasts. Their theory is that all successful people are driven to achieve by childhood trauma. As a keen armchair psychologist I am fully behind this premise … Excellent’James Marriott, The TimesThe Inspirational New Book About the Art and Science of Growing Up from the ‘Past Imperfect’ Podcast HostsRachel Sylvester is a political columnist at The Times. She started writing about politics in 1996 and was a lobby correspondent on The Daily Telegraph before becoming political editor of The Independent on Sunday. She joined The Times in 2008. She is Chair of the Times Education Commission.Alice Thomson is a columnist and interviewer at The Times. A former Times trainee, she became a foreign correspondent, feature writer and political reporter for the paper before moving to The Telegraph as a columnist, restaurant reviewer and leader writer. She returned to The Times in 2008. She is the author of The Singing Line.Rachel and Alice host the Past Imperfect podcast together.The Inspirational New Book About the Art and Science of Growing Up from the ‘Past Imperfect’ Podcast Hosts• BASED ON THE BELOVED PODCAST. ‘Past Imperfect’ is a The Times podcast hosted by Rachel and Alice. Their guests are A-list and diverse, spanning entertainers, artists, business people, politicians and sporting figures. Their experiences range from losing parents to facing addiction and abuse to poverty to fleeing their countries.Included are: rapper Professor Green, former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair, retail guru Mary Portas, scientist Paul Nurse, diver Tom Daley, writer Cressida Cowell, Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, artist Grayson Perry, Booker winner Hilary Mantel, comedian Russell Brand, Vogue editor Edward Enninful, businessman Richard Branson, poet Lemn Sissay, footballer and activist Marcus Rashford, spy Daphne Park.• LIVELY, READABLE, GIFTABLE BOOK. This will be a book one can dip in and out of, browsing and absorbing fascinating, wise, varied stories about life, hardship, success and happiness.• STRONG OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH ORGANISATIONS ROOTED IN EDUCATION/OPPORTUNITY: Speakers for Schools, Sutton Trust, the Social Mobility Foundation. Speakers for Schools support the podcast and share inspirational content with pupils in disadvantaged areas.Competition: How to Fail;Please Yourself;If I Could Tell You Just One Thing;You Don’t Understand Me;Did Say That Out Loud;Own the Room;How Women Rise;Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before. Elizabeth Day;Richard Reed;Tara Porter;Fi Glover;Jane Garvey;Viv Groskop;Dolly Alderton;Emma Gannon;Philippa Perry;Julie Smith
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