What is a Good Life? #16
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project and how it is structured (4 separate sections). Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
The key theme this week is Physical Health. The interviewee speaks of the significance of physical health and relationships, while I reflect on the importance of appreciating physical health while we have it.
1. This week’s interview – Health and relationships
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s newsletter is with James*. James is a Managing Partner of a Venture Capital group, director of a podcast network and an advisor to numerous companies. He speaks about the importance of health and good relationships in his life.
*Not the participants real name
What is a good life for you?
For me, it would be that I have my health. It’s my relationship with my wife and how we treat each other after 25 years together. It’s having some sort of financial comfortability and having really solid family and friends around me that constantly challenge me. It’s important that I’m doing what I want to do in life with work and I always want to be learning something.
Can you talk to me about the significance of health for you in a good life?
Yeah, so most of my challenges in life have been health-related. I was born with a bone disease and I had a liver transplant later in life. Both the conditions that I have, there is no cure for them, there's only how do you buy more time?
So for me, I always live with this sense of urgency because I know that my liver disease isn't cured. My new liver could last until I'm 90 or I could I need another transplant 5 years from now, so that’s always in the back of my head when I wake up every day. So, it's like I just want to keep running every day, I have no interest in sitting around and letting time slip by.
What’s helped you to navigate your experiences with health?
I think about it from a context perspective. When you're born healthy, you grow up healthy, and then you get sick, it can be devastating because you've never had to deal with it. Everything starts crumbling around you because not only do you not know how to deal with it, but neither do the people around you.
I feel very fortunate that I was born with health issues, which is strange to say, but because of that, all the health issues I went through later in life were easier to deal with, not just for me but for my close friends, my wife, my family, we were all used to it and the process you go through. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard, but at least there was some previous experience.
When handling adversity in life, it’s so important to understand what you can't control. I mean, you can eat right, you can exercise, you can sleep, but there's certain diseases or conditions that are completely out of your control.
Being born with a bone disease, no amount of healthy eating, etc. could have prevented that. Now what I can to do is manage that through my life, not get so frustrated by it, because there's nothing I can do but try to maximise whatever I can do with my life.
Can you tell me about moments of significant fulfilment in your life?
I felt really good when I came out of all the back-to-back surgeries. It was like beating all the odds. I was feeling really good about life, feeling like, “holy shit, I got through that, and here I am still standing.”
Then there was going through the two year process of trying to build my body back again. I was working with a trainer, days and days every week, trying to get my body to a point where my posture improved, my pain was better, my strength, my stamina. It felt really good to make the commitment to do that - that was a really big one.
My relationship with my wife is something else that I get a lot of fulfillment from. We've been together so long and I always feel a sense happiness and satisfaction that we're still together, we still get along great and have a lot of fun. I still love walking in the door every evening and seeing her, I still get excited to see her. I really ended up with the right person, which I don't think everybody gets to have that feeling 25 years into a relationship.
Through all your experiences, what else have you learned about a good life?
It’s important to make it a good life for everybody. Part of having a good life is helping others to have a good life. The more friends of mine that I see successful, whether it was a small nugget of advice I gave them, a contact I introduced them to, a late night talk we had, whether they were having a shitty day and I listened to them, then the act of being there for them, if it helped, is part of having a good life.
“Health is the greatest possession” - Laozi
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Physical Health was mentioned by approximately 66% of the participants in this project as an important part of a good life. Physical health was the second most frequently given answer in this project.
Many participants referenced it as one of their pillars in life that they do not compromise on. One participant viewed a healthy body as a gift that he wanted to regularly honour by using it to its fullest. Most participants referenced physical health as the very foundation for experiencing a good life.
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” - Mahatma Gandhi
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
There’s an old story of a man begging on the side of the road and he’s been sitting on the same wooden box for years.
One day a stranger is passing by and the man asks him for money. The stranger tells the man he has no money, but asks the man has he ever looked inside the box?
The man tells the stranger there’s no point - he’s been sitting on that box for years, there can’t be anything inside. After some encouragement from the stranger, the man finally opens the box and to his amazement he realises for all that time he’s been sitting on a box full of gold.
I understand the intention of this story is to illustrate your real treasure or value lies within you, but it has always made me think of health. Sometimes we can be blind to seeing the greatest gifts we’ve been given, merely because they’ve always been there.
While striving for purpose, goals, work, etc. is undoubtedly important, to really appreciate a good life it’s also important to realise that you may already be in possession of something far greater than what you are presently pursuing.
“Health is not valued till sickness comes” - Thomas Fuller
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life is for you
How often do you take the time to appreciate the capacity or functioning of your body?
What step could you take today to support or improve your physical health?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.