What is a Good Life? #51
Space For The Unknown with Richard Merrick
On the 51st episode of the What is a Good Life? podcast, I am delighted to introduce Richard Merrick as our guest. Richard is a writer, who after decades of working inside the walls of convention, writes about the journey from working for others to finding our own path outside those walls, and supports small groups as they make theirs by walking with them.
In this conversation, we explore the conditions that Richard incorporates into conversation groups to heighten connection, authenticity, an engagement with the unknown, and what is. We delve into the importance of letting go of being right, not having set objectives and agendas, disengaging to reengage, and turning up as who we are.
We discuss the value of engaging with the unknown for building trust, our ability to make discoveries, for making real human connection, and for the melting of the old to form the new. We also explore the role the artisan plays in ushering in the new.
For this project or otherwise, Richard is one of the wisest people I’ve talked to, typified by consistently reading 3 books a week for 50 years and his continued willingness to engage with not knowing in various aspects of life.
There is so much to take from this episode regarding how you engage with other people, yourself, and life itself, and it may considerably alter your perspective on how you approach your various relationships, be it at work or in your personal life.
The weekly clip from the podcast (7 mins), my weekly reflection (2 mins), the full podcast (63 mins), and the weekly questions all follow below.
1. Weekly Clip from the Podcast
2. My weekly reflection
I find something magical or alchemical about what Richard is doing in his weekly conversation groups. They challenge societal norms that prioritise outcomes, productivity, and predictability. In a world dominated by rigid plans, Richard's approach creates a space for embracing the unknown.
A friend and former guest of the podcast, Dan Lawrence, regularly repeats the phrase to me, “not knowing is most intimate.”
We often project a sense of being the expert, both in work settings and our personal lives. While society may seem to reward us for that in some ways, I see it significantly costing us in other ways. Whether it is our refusal to take accountability for our actions, resistance to admitting we were wrong, or even having the humility to acknowledge what we don’t know, we are stifling the level of intimacy we can experience with ourselves and others.
The more unwilling we are to acknowledge that life is a series of experiments rather than an already known map to follow, the more aliveness and intimacy we drain from life itself. Our conversations become battlegrounds for fearfully holding onto a point of view that we may not even fully believe in ourselves, rather than the explorations, play, and co-creations they could become.
We are erecting boundaries not only between ourselves and others but also within ourselves and with what is. We are actively depriving ourselves of the opportunity to be us, to be unequivocally us, that sometimes knows and doesn’t know. That changing, moment-to-moment existence or expression of who we are.
It’s no wonder we can find certain relationships, scenarios, or conversations draining; there is so much effort required in performing, resisting, and hiding. What Richard and I have both noticed in our work and personal lives is the effortlessness and energy conversations bring that don’t follow the typical conventions of how we usually interact.
When we enter into conversations on the edge of the known and unknown, even when sharing heavier themes, there is still a freedom, a relief, and a release that the absence of these shackles brings. As Richard points out in the clip above, it is not therapy, but it feels therapeutic in its contrast to our conventional ways.
In similar groups I am now hosting myself, I have seen the almost instant intimacy created amongst strangers when they take the chance to share their inner stream of experience, rather than an old story we tell. Sharing this present experience, which we may not know where it is going, without the filter or pretence, has a hugely underrated capacity to connect us in ways we are currently failing to do so.
It doesn’t involve sharing our deepest shame, etc., merely connecting through the moment to moment unfolding we can all notice, experience, and share, if we allow ourselves to.
If you’d like to work with me individually as your coach, to awaken your own self-inquiry, message me here to a arrange a free 30-minute 1-on-1 consultation
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3. Full Episode - Space For The Unknown with Richard Merrick - What is a Good Life? #51
4. This week’s Questions
How comfortable are you with resting in, or playing with, the unknown? How would admitting you don’t have an answer make you feel?
How often do you openly admit your flaws and mistakes before someone else discovers them? (I don’t mean being harshly self-critical)
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.