The Hidden Power of Sad Songs and Rainy Days | Susan Cain and Min Kym | TED | Summary and Q&A

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The Hidden Power of Sad Songs and Rainy Days | Susan Cain and Min Kym | TED


This content discusses the power of longing and how it can lead us to a place of beauty and wonder in the midst of a flawed world.

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Key Insights

  • 💼 Many people sacrifice their dreams and ambitions in pursuit of stability and success in their careers. However, sometimes unexpected events can disrupt these plans and force individuals to reevaluate their priorities and make significant changes in their lives.
  • 💔 Often, people become infatuated with individuals who represent something they deeply desire or long for. These obsessions can blind individuals to their true desires and prevent them from pursuing their passions.
  • 🎵 Sad music holds a unique power over sensitive individuals, as they often find it uplifting rather than depressing. This paradox challenges the notion that positivity and happiness are the only acceptable emotional states.
  • 🌍 Humans are drawn to experiences and art that evoke feelings of sorrow and longing because they provide a glimpse into a more perfect and beautiful world, which seems unattainable in reality. This state of longing drives individuals to pursue moonshots and connect with others on a deeper level.
  • 😊 While positivity is essential, it's crucial to acknowledge and embrace the dark aspects of life and our own emotions. Modern culture often pushes a message of constant happiness, but there is value in allowing ourselves to feel sadness and longing.
  • 📚 Literature, art, and music have long embraced the theme of longing and homesickness, demonstrating humanity's fascination with these emotions. Longing is often at the heart of religion and spiritual beliefs, as individuals yearn for a connection to a perfect and beautiful world.
  • 😢 Our broken hearts and unfulfilled longings unite us as human beings. Despite living in an imperfect world, our longing for something more powerful and magical enables us to empathize with others and seek out shared experiences.
  • 🌈 It's essential to follow our longings and desires, as they can lead us to the sacred and wondrous aspects of life. Longing and passion go hand in hand, driving us to care deeply, ease others' pain, and experience the insane beauty of the world.


When I was in my early 30s, I was an associate at a Wall Street law firm. And I had been working 16-hour days for seven years straight. And even though, ever since I was four years old, I'd had this beautiful and impossible dream of becoming a writer, I was also pretty ambitious and on the verge of making partner. Or so I thought. Because, one day,... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What was the speaker's previous career before becoming a writer?

The speaker was an associate at a Wall Street law firm.

Q: Why did the speaker leave her law firm and end her relationship?

The speaker left her law firm and ended her relationship because she realized that they weren't aligned with her true passion for writing.

Q: What realization did the speaker have about her obsession with the musician?

The speaker realized that her obsession with the musician was actually a longing for the writing life that she had desired since she was a child.

Q: What state of mind does the speaker discuss as ancient and powerful but often overlooked?

The speaker discusses the state of mind known as "the inconsolable longing for we know not what," which is a deep longing and desire for something beyond our current reality.

Q: How do people generally feel about sad music according to the speaker?

According to the speaker, sensitive types often associate sad music with beauty, wonder, and transcendence, and feel more joy from it than sadness.

Q: Why does the speaker claim that our culture is afraid of the dark?

The speaker believes that our culture is afraid of the dark because it often promotes positivity and encourages people to move on from difficult emotions, rather than embracing and exploring the depths of longing and sorrow.

Q: What is the speaker's perspective on longing and its importance?

The speaker believes that longing is a deep source of inspiration and connection. It is what drives us to pursue moonshots and love, and it allows us to empathize with others. Longing connects us to a perfect and beautiful world that remains out of reach.

Q: What message does the speaker ultimately convey about following one's longing?

The speaker encourages listeners to follow their longings, as they point us in the direction of the sacred or wondrous. By embracing and pursuing our longings, we can tap into the beating heart of a perfect and beautiful world.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker recounts a personal experience of leaving her law firm job and ending a relationship, which led to her realizing her longing to become a writer and pursue the "writing life" she had always dreamed of.

  • She explores the concept of the longing for something greater and how it is often associated with sadness and beauty, as evidenced by people's preference for sad music and appreciation of tragic art forms.

  • The speaker argues that modern culture tends to avoid and dismiss this longing and emphasizes positivity, but that embracing and following our longings can lead us to a deeper connection with others and a sense of the sacred or wondrous in the world.

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