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Lockdown. The winter edition. In spring, we walked further than we'd ever walked before; we discovered Zoom and pub quizzes; we bought an awful lot of toilet roll; we put all our extra time to good use, teaching ourselves new skills and taking up new hobbies, from languages to lino printing. Our physical worlds became smaller, but we were thinking bigger.

This time, we want to turbo-charge our learning. Knitting's good and all, but what about learning how to achieve financial security? What about finding how to boost your creative process? And what about just learning how to be happier? 

Our brilliant new partner the How To Academy has talks for all of that and more. Yep, we've teamed up with this utterly brilliant online organisation to bring a sprinkling of stardust to your computer screen, with talks with some seriously influential names to get your grey cells going. It's back to school – but this is one cool classroom.

Rev up your cerebral engines for a roster of talks headed up by everyone from Ai Wei Wei to Caitlin Moran – the How To Academy’s A-team is packed with Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. And when you buy your ticket, you'll also get a book written by the speaker so you can take a deeper dive into your topic of choice. 

Buy the experience for yourself, a friend, or for both of you and emerge from lockdown mark 2 a worldy savant, empowered to take life by the horns.

And it's all just in time to brush up your conversational skills for Christmas. You'll have enough to talk about to blow old aunt Margery out the water. 

There are heaps of incredible sessions to choose from, so here are just a few of our favourites to tempt and tantalise:

5 unmissable talks with the How To Academy

Ai Weiwei: Human Rights in the Age of COVID-19

Thu, 12 November. 6:30 pm-7:40 pm GMT

Getting ready to put your thinking cap on, because this talk by activist and artist Ai Wei Wei is fascinating. He uses China's handling of coronavirus to examine his country's approach to government, including ideological brainwashing and other methods of societal control. Very interesting in the wake of a certain election.... 

Olivette Otele: Extraordinary Lives – the Untold History of African Europeans

Mon, 9 November 2020. 6:30 pm-7:30 pm GMT

In one of this year's most topical conversations, Professor Olivette Otele examines African heritage in Europe from the Queen of Sheba to Aleksandr Pushkin and so much more. You'll learn everything from Renaissance art to grime music – it'll give you conversational fodder for months.

Derren Brown: How To Be Happier

Wed, 25 November 2020. 6:30 pm-7:30 pm GMT

Let's face it, we all want to be a little bit happier, whether that's overcoming anxiety or seeing things a little bit differently. You might know Derren Brown as a magician, but he's about more than magic tricks – his manoeuvres are actually rooted in psychology. So who better to teach us a different perspective than the man who lead us all in a national séance?

Gelong Thubten: A Buddhist Monk's Guide to Happiness

Thu, 26 November 2020. 6:30 pm-7:30 pm GMT

Monks just look so zen, don't they? Well, now you can too. If you think you're busy, you should meet Gelong Thubten, former New York actor turned buddhist monk. He went from total burnout to total bliss after studying with some Tibetan masters – and he's since gone on to teach big names like Benedict Cumberbatch how to chill the eff out. And he’s anything but sanctimonious, about it, too.

Caitlin Moran: More Than a Woman

Tue, 15 December 2020. 6:30 pm-7:30 pm GMT

Caitlin Moran is smart and sassy, she's the voice of a generation, and we really, really like her hair. Did someone say… girl crush? Her talk with the How To Academy is all about the untold stories of the middle-aged woman, packed with humour and advice. Essential listening at any age. 

FURTHER READING: At The Indytute, we're all about eco-friendly Christmas gifts that don't cause clutter. A How To Academy talk is a prime example – but we've got loads more ideas for you here.

Main image: Feliphe Schiarolli

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