Great Advice from the Great Minds of The Great Courses

Insights from The Great Courses Family

Given that the world is still full of uncertainty, we turned to our family of professors to find out what the best and brightest minds of The Great Courses are doing right now to stay happy.

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In an organization known for having the “World’s Greatest Professors,” there are still a few who tend to rise to the top. Whether it’s because of their profound subject-knowledge expertise, their charming personalities, or their ability to break down complex ideas into accessible information, these professors consistently receive top feedback and ratings.

Professor Arthur Benjamin (Math & Magic, among others)

“I’m trying to build more time for walking outside every day and playing a lot of online backgammon!

Given his experience with The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles: From Cards to Sudoku, we suspect he’s WINNING lots of online backgammon. Get a sneak peek at his techniques and try your own hand at an online game or two.

Professor Pamela Pike (How to Play Piano)

“Since our quarantine in mid-March, I’ve been putting all of my energy into my work—doing lots of writing, editing, and sharing ideas about teaching online with colleagues around the country (when I’m not teaching). I’ve also been corresponding with some of the students taking my Great Course, which has been wonderful.

When I really need to take my mind off of the pandemic, I sit at my piano and play Bach; sometimes it’s something that I know, other times I’ll sight-read something I’ve never performed. For me, Bach soothes my soul and stimulates my mind.

However, my daily creative outlet during these times has been cooking. I’ve been finding, trying, and experimenting with new recipes and challenging myself to create tasty meals with food from my freezer, pantry, and refrigerator since my trips to the market are less frequent. I’ve found this necessary daily task to be a creative (and tasty) outlet!”

There’s more to your kitchen than banana bread, right Professor Pike? Discover all the potential your pantry holds by viewing The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking.

Professor Stephen Ressler (Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity, among others)

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, I was about to embark on a very ambitious schedule of international travel, in conjunction with several engineering education projects. When all of these trips were cancelled, things started looking a bit grim, and I found myself spending far too much time obsessing about bad news, lamenting lost opportunities, and pondering an uncertain future.

Salvation was delivered by my friends at The Great Courses, who offered me an opportunity to develop a new course. Since then, this new purpose has occupied most of my waking hours and relegated the coronavirus to an occasional annoyance. Ironically, by eliminating distractions, COVID lockdown is actually improving my productivity, while providing a favorable environment for reading, research, thinking, sketching, modeling, and writing. 

The moral of the story: Cope with COVID by finding an intense, immersive, creative project on which to focus your attention. It’s a productive alternative to worrying.”

We’re always happy to work on new courses with you, Professor Ressler, and glad we could help keep you distracted from worrying. If you’re looking for a fun distraction as a productive alternative to worrying, we strongly recommend Professor Ressler’s Do-It-Yourself Engineering—trying to build your own suspension bridge will certainly require focused attention.

Professor Colin McAllister (Learning to Play Guitar & Playing Guitar like a Pro courses)

For me, COVID has been really trying because my performances abruptly stopped. I’ve spent most of my life on stage, and to be without that adrenalin outlet is very challenging. An abundance of exercise has really helped. I’m pretty active in general, but over the past few months, I’ve made an extra effort to enjoy the outdoors. I’m lucky to be living in the Colorado mountains, and so getting out—and away from the computer screen—to run and hike the trails has kept me sane!”

Great advice Professor McAllister. Stay safe while you’re enjoying the outdoors or hiking the trails. Outdoor Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe provides everything from first aid to fundamental footwear.

Professor Patrick Allitt (The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales, among others)

“The COVID-19 crisis has made me hyper-aware of the need to be healthy. There’s so much more time available than before that I’ve been able to do more exercise than usual. I’m running three times each week and cycling four. I think it’s helping my mood as well as my metabolism. Georgia, where I live, is an inferno in the summer; so, I’m usually out of the house by 6:00 am, especially on the running days, and always finished before 10:00 am. I’m longing for the restrictions to end, but I am doing everything I can to keep as safe as possible until there is a vaccine.”

There’s no doubt that exercise helps your mood as well as your metabolism Professor Allitt, and we’re glad you’re not taking a run in the middle of the hot Georgia days! Physiology and Fitness has additional mind- and body-boosting exercises you can do at other times of the day, too.

Professor Alex Filippenko (Skywatching: Seeing and Understanding Cosmic Wonders, among others)

“I’m trying to remain healthy by sleeping more, and also by taking long walks and runs (while wearing a mask and staying physically distant from others). The time spent exercising provides a great opportunity for me to listen to Great Courses, audio books, and various online talks and podcasts— substantially more so, than I’ve done in the past. It has helped me to maintain my sanity!”

We love that a professor who studies the night sky for a living is using this time as a chance to sleep more! But as Secrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders shows us, a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your mind and body.

Professor David Brody (The Complete Painter: Lessons from the Masters, among others)

Many artists, myself among them, are used to spending many hours alone in a room—that’s how the work gets done. In these challenging months, I’ve sunken deeper into this. Simply sitting at a table, concentrating on the lines I’m drawing, affords a real sense of peace and tranquility.”

Getting those initial lines just right takes a lot of concentration and focus. Discover Professor Brody’s secrets to perfecting lines and shapes with How to Draw and find your own sense of peace and tranquility.

Hopefully, our professors have inspired you to discover something new or helped you to find new ways to cope with the coronavirus craziness.

Take care and stay well.