What is a Good Life? #48
Making Space For Meaning with Dr. Brennan Jacoby
On the 48th episode of the What is a Good Life? podcast, I am delighted to introduce Dr. Brennan Jacoby as our guest. Brennan is a Philosopher and the Founder of Philosophy At Work, a collective of philosophers and business psychologists teaching professionals the skills they need to think their best.
In this episode, we explore making space for meaning in our lives without forcing it. We delve into various tensions, from wanting to make the most of life to vegging out, accepting ourselves without lowering our standards, and balancing the time spent building a career with the need to invest in personal relationships.
Additionally, we discuss the limitations of various philosophies when taken to their fullest interpretation, the importance of realising the subjective nature of our experiences, and the necessity of reflection to understand what we are projecting onto life. Throughout the conversation, we emphasise the profound significance of caring, noticing, and orienting towards a better life.
For some reason, I found this conversation very cathartic. Brennan possesses a wonderful capacity to engage in a genuine conversation and an exploration while both referencing philosophical concepts and sharing grounded, relatable personal examples. If you are anything like me, this episode will make you feel more comfortable with being human and navigating the tensions and experiences inherent in the pursuit of your own good life.
The weekly clip from the podcast (5 mins), my weekly reflection (2 mins), the full podcast (62 mins), and the weekly questions all follow below.
Special Announcement 📣
I am running pilots for dialogue groups and programs I am building around authentic expression and relating. The next one is this Wednesday (tomorrow), December 13th, at 18:30 CET (on Zoom) and it is a combination of silence and practicing authentic communication, click here to find out more and drop me your email if you wish to join and receive an invite, it’s currently free.
1. Weekly Clip from the Podcast
2. My weekly reflection
At one point in the conversation, Brennan references the very relatable scenario of being at the end of the day when sleep would probably be the best thing he could do. Yet, after a day’s work and having a family, he finds himself putting on the TV for what might be a mindless hour or two.
We talk about that regular sense I seem to get, anyhow, where I am almost exasperated the next morning that I’ve chosen some mindless distraction again, as opposed to the nights when my wife and I will just talk, lay down beside our baby and dog, and invariably enjoy that experience so much more.
However, as we discuss (and it will differ from each person to the next), we may only have a certain bandwidth at any given time for meaningful explorations, discussions, or curiosities. Sometimes, we just need the foil of mindlessness to have the energy once more to engage in the meaningful (which I guess also makes the mindless meaningful 🤔).
The tension or guilt that we sometimes experience when not using our time as well as we’d like actually serves a great purpose. It doesn’t let us get too comfortable with our indulging in comfort. Perhaps we’ve all had phases in our lives where we got a little too sloppy or drifted too far—maybe eating too much junk each night, watching too much nonsense, or too frequently having a nightcap or a joint. That tension is there to keep you on the right side of wherever that line is for you personally.
Even this week, I found myself getting up early on Saturday and Sunday morning and thundering into some workouts because I had a full week of indulging in late-night junk. And I must say, one of the most satisfying feelings in my life is the experience of what I perceive to be bouncing back from a lull into activities that bring me greater vitality once more. It almost feels like I am reborn again in those moments. The latter experience could not exist without the former.
As we meandered through this conversation, it became clearer and clearer to me that what “better” may be in our lives, or how we define it, is not always so easily a quantifiable thing. While life itself can be quite confusing, and I'm certainly not trying to lower standards for what we are capable of, there is something wonderful in paying attention to these tensions, experiencing them, letting go, and trying once more. While it’s a whole other conversation, I often wonder how much we are in control of any of it, which for me, often adds to the experience of observing these internal processes and tensions play out.
The more I investigate life, the more confusing I sometimes find it (albeit I seem to enjoy the ambiguity). While the investigation, outside of pay attention, doesn’t provide any permanent and succinct answers or neat equations for me to follow, it continues to feel like it is getting better. Go figure.
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3. Full Episode - Making Space For Meaning with Dr. Brennan Jacoby - What is a Good Life? #48
4. This week’s Questions
What tensions between different behaviours, choices, or desires of yours confuse you the most?
Where do you suspect your biggest blindspots may exist from what you are projecting onto the world?
I am a Coach based in Berlin, via Dublin, Ireland. I left behind a 15-year career in Capital Markets after I became extremely curious around answering some of the bigger questions in life. I started this project in 2021, for which I’ve now interviewed over 170 people, to provide people with the space to reflect on their own lives and to create content that would spark people’s own inquiry into this question. I am also trying to share more genuine expressions of the human experience, beyond the facades we typically project.