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Podcast|31 minutes

The DEX Show | Podcast #5 – Aristotle in the Digital Workplace w/ Dr. Brennan Jacoby

The DEX Show | Podcast #5 – Aristotle in the Digital Workplace w/ Dr. Brennan Jacoby
February 4th

“We should talk about distributed teams, not dispersed teams.”

“The virtue of clarity is about saying How clear is the communication between IT professionals and their colleagues?

“The problems we are trying to solve are not simple and we often have more questions than answers.”

How does a modern day philosopher think about your digital workplace?

Today, Tim Flower, Global Director Business Transformation of Nexthink and Thomas McGrath, Content Strategist of Nexthink, join Dr. Brennan Jacoby, Philosopher & Founder of Philosophy at Work, for a spirited chat focused on the pursuit of truth in a digital workplace. They talked about…

  • Balancing modern day work and philosophy
  • The Virtues of Virtual report by Philosophy at Work
  • Clarity and the power of controlling your mindset

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to the Digital Employee Experience Podcast on AppleSpotifyTuneInAmazon Music, or your favorite podcast platform!


Speaker 1 (00:01):

You’re listening to Digital Employee Experience, a show for IT change-makers. Let’s get into the show.

Tom McGraw (00:07):

Hello change-makers, I’m Tom McGraw joined as ever by Tim Flower, Global Director for Business Transformation at Nexthink. Tim, in honor of today’s extremely special guest, I would like to give you a quick philosophical interrogation if I may. Does that sound all right with you?

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Tim Flower (00:24):

Yeah. It sounds intriguing, Tom. I’m up for it.

Tom McGraw (00:27):

Okay. First question is the most technical of my questions actually, Tim flower, are you an idealist or a materialist?

Tim Flower (00:36):

It’s an interesting question. For many things in my life, I’m not black and white. I don’t know if that fits into one or the other. For me, I consider myself an idealist. I like to understand what our core belief system is, what drives us, but then I like to go drive a nice new car and have a good meal. So I think I’m a little bit of both.

Tom McGraw (00:56):

Okay. Okay. I accept that. I accept the ambiguity. Next question. This is harder, I think to be ambiguous about. Would you consider yourself a believer in free will or determinism?

Tim Flower (01:11):

Yeah. That does feel more black and white. I am more a believer of freewill. We have the freewill to make decisions based on our belief system and where we want to go. So I’m more on the freewill side.

Tom McGraw (01:24):

That is good to hear. I always find that determinists a scary crowd, if I’m completely honest with you. I wouldn’t have said it, if you hadn’t told me that, but, okay. Final question, in the philosophical interrogation, does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?

Tim Flower (01:42):

Yeah, maybe another one that’s not black and white, or maybe changes over time, right? In our early years, the mind definitely rules the body, but I’m finding as- [crosstalk 00:01:52]

Tom McGraw (01:52):

Speak for yourself.

Tim Flower (01:53):

… my body is over-ruling my mind.

Tom McGraw (01:57):

Well, okay. That’s a good answer too. I found out a lot about you today Tim. And I appreciate those answers. There’s a reason for them, of course. And it is related to the fact that today’s show is called Aristotle in the Digital Workplace. And that’s because we are hosting the Aristotle of the digital workplace or the workplace more generally Dr. Brennan Jacoby, philosopher and founder of Philosophy at Work. Dr. Brennan Jacoby, a very warm welcome to the Digital Employee Experience show.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (02:27):

Thanks so much, Tom and Tim. It’s great to be here.

Tom McGraw (02:31):

Should we call you Dr. Jacoby or is Brennan okay with you?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (02:36):

Brennan is great. Yeah.

Tom McGraw (02:37):

Well, that’s very humble of you Brennan. Thank you very much. And let’s begin please by hearing something about yourself and about Philosophy at Work.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (02:47):

Yeah. So my name is Brennan Jacoby. I’m originally from Michigan; Detroit more specifically. I did my PhD in philosophy in Australia, where I was focusing on trust and betrayal. And that got me into thinking about not just sort of doing philosophy in academic contexts, but helping organizations and sort of applying the philosophy of trust to more social contexts.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (03:10):

And this was just after the financial sort of meltdown of 2008. And as I was working with groups on trust, it became very clear that not just that topic was useful, but actually the philosophical approach of stepping back and saying, “What do we mean by… ” in that instance it was trust, but with anything, what do we mean by purpose? What do you mean by trust? What’s going on with engagement or whatever the thing might be. And then also the ethics question that philosophers is often concerned with, is this thing always good? Is trust is a good thing? How do we understand technology? Is tech always good?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (03:47):

These sorts of things that… The prevalence of these kinds of questions has only increased in recent times. And I think also the recognition that such questions are not just interesting, or somehow we’re glad they’re being dealt within the ivory towers, but they’re also increasingly relevant to the day-to-day operational concerns of professionals that moved me into the space of saying, “Do you know what? I think philosophy and reflective ways of thinking are really needed in the professional space.”

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (04:20):

And so now I run a business called Philosophy at Work, where I help businesses think their best. And what that often means is, I’ll do sessions on helping them lay the groundwork so that their teams can think their best. So we do things still on trust and psychological safety, because we know that you’re not going to think your best if you don’t feel safe. And then we do sessions on curiosity and critical thinking, how do we ask great questions so that all of us can be doing our best sort of cognition at a time when, if we [inaudible 00:04:49] let’s face it, so much of work is a knowledge based, and our ability to think carefully is really valuable. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m no longer in the U.S., I’m now based in the UK and just North of Oxford, in fact.

Tim Flower (05:03):

Yeah. I think that whole topic is fascinating, connecting philosophy, not just with work, but with tech thinkers. As I think about it, and I reflect back on my career, thinkers need input, right? They need stimulation and maybe even conflict. And if it’s not conflict, at least it’s a problem that they need to solve, right? And there’s a lot of interesting parallels there with technologists. It’s not just about data and information or even knowledge. It’s about wisdom and creativity of thought. So what’s the traditional engagement look like for you at philosophy? What type of thinkers do you pull in and how have they informed your approach to philosophy applied to workplace?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (05:46):

Yeah. That’s a great question, Tim. So I think… I mean, a couple of things come to mind, a couple of things that are maybe useful to set out. Far be it from me to critique some of the cleverest minds throughout history, but what I think we really need today is not people who can talk about Socrates or Simone de Beauvoir or someone, but who can do their own philosophy.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (06:13):

And so with Philosophy at Work, we will reference historical philosophers. People that are recognized as philosophers, all the while recognizing that all of us thinks better or worse from moment to moment, in terms of quality of our ideas but… so, a moment ago we said, everyone needs, now we need a philosopher, but that doesn’t mean that you have to have someone who has a PhD in Philosophy.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (06:41):

It’s, what I think we really need is people again, who don’t quote Socrates, but who are able to do some of that same stuff that Socrates, Mary Wollstonecraft or Hannah Arendt did. And I guess what I mean by that is, the way that they ask questions. What counted as good reasons or good lines of inquiry to pursue?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (07:05):

So without philosophy, we might say, “Well, let’s just… We’re going to have an ethic of efficiency.” And therefore the right thing to do is just the fastest thing. The thing that saves us the most resource and time and money. But if you look at some historical philosophical figures, you see some of that, but a lot of times you see them saying, well, no of course, not everything is about time and money. And so philosophers encourage us… they just are beginning with a different sort of set of values.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (07:34):

And so I think it’s important for people in the corporate space to balance out our appreciation for efficiency. And of course, I’m not saying that every business should just not care about money, but rather to say, we need to balance those ethics with other lines of reasoning. And that’s where I like to draw on the historical philosophers. So I do talk a lot about Socrates because we draw on how he asked questions. But again, the point isn’t to sort of have posters of the rockstar philosopher on the wall and appreciate him. It’s much more about saying, “Oh, look what he was doing there. What would it look like for us to do that?” And so I think one of the most, if I’m understanding your question correctly, about what’s the sort of traditional engagement? One of the most common ways that I work with companies, is on helping them think about the questions that they would say, want to be asking, what counts is a good question.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (08:25):

So, an example is, I ran a session with an executive team for a global media company. And with them, we went through and we said, “Let’s look at how philosophers have asked questions.” And we looked at what Socrates was doing. We looked again at Simone de Beauvoir, what she was doing when she was asking questions in her famous book, The Second Sex, about what it means to be a woman. And we looked at what Descartes was doing when he famously said, “I think, therefore I am.” And uncovered some of those questions and then said, “Okay, apart from their actual projects, do we see a methodology here? Is there anything that we can tease out and use ourselves?”

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (08:58):

And we indeed did find that they’re asking questions that are honest and humble and non-judgemental. And so we were able to say, we’ve all probably been in meetings where we’ve asked a… or we’ve heard a question asked, which maybe wasn’t really a question, which sort of it transcribed would have ended with a question mark, but it wasn’t actually… It was more actually, an opportunity to sort of show how clever we were at something.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (09:19):

And that’s not what we’re after. Those examples of philosophers suggest that’s now what we’re after. And then in that session, we were able to say, “Okay. So if we should be asking questions that are honest and non-judgmental and not questions that we already think we know the answers to, then what questions do you all have as executives for your business that you think are those kinds of questions that should be asked?” And that’s really useful for the reasons that I think particularly now, where there’s so much uncertainty and complexity going on. The problems we’re trying to solve are not simple. And so we oftentimes have more questions than answers and we’re going to appreciate the work that the questions can do, rather than saying, we’ve just got to get quickly and efficiently to an answer.

Tim Flower (10:01):

So safe to say then, you’re exposing the inner philosopher in all of us?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (10:06):

Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s such a brilliant way to put it, Tim. Your check is in the mail. I will post [crosstalk 00:10:13].

Tim Flower (10:13):

New tagline.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (10:14):

Yes. That’s exactly right. I mean, on the one hand, a moment ago, Tom said we all need philosophers now, and I would love to see there be more roles like the corporate philosopher or something. Patagonia, the outfitter and climbing [crosstalk 00:10:32]

Tim Flower (10:31):

The CPO, the Chief Philosopher Officer, right?

Tim Flower (10:33):


Tom McGraw (10:34):

We’ll have a word.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (10:35):

Right, right. So Patagonia, the outdoor outfitter and climbing kit company, they have a director of philosophy. And they’re doing something different than what I’m getting with that, where they’re trying to say, our philosophies are ways of thinking that are really core to our brand, are so precious to us, we want to have someone really care for those.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (10:57):

And I think this is really important, because when we say we’re trying to draw out or release the inner philosopher. I think we have to distinguish between philosophers and philosophies. And so what I don’t really teach philosophies, because it feels too presumative to me to go into a business and say, “Well, let me tell you how you ought to think.” But what I do want to do is help everyone to, as you say, be their own sort of philosopher.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (11:23):

And a philosopher… I mean, if you go back to the etymology of the term in the Greek, Philo means love, and Sophia is wisdom. So philosophy is just love wisdom, literally. And philosophers should be those that are in pursuit of wisdom. And so, yeah, if we can help people come back into touch with their natural curiosity, with the questions that are niggling in the background of the mind, and they wouldn’t ask because actually the meeting’s almost done, but actually if we can give them the courage to say, “No, hang on everyone. I don’t think we’ve quite cracked this. I think this is really important.” Then I think I’ve done my job a bit. And I think that business will be better for, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable in that moment.

Tim Flower (12:05):

So let’s jump to kind of current day Brennan. A lot of what we’re dealing with right now is a shift in technology because of the pandemic. You’ve talked with a lot of clients about what the pandemic has meant to them. What do you think the overall impact impact has been on the workplace? Because it affects, like we’re talking about here, it affects more than just our work styles and our tech. It affects our psyche and how we behave as well, right? So what are your clients and folks that you’re working with tell you about the impact of the pandemic on them?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (12:36):

Yeah. So I think the first thing that comes to mind for me is that it is destabilizing, right? And that’s not earth shattering. The pandemic has been incredibly destabilizing and awfully so, right? It is a trauma that as individuals and as collective; colleagues and societies will have to be doing some intentional work to process for years to come.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (13:00):

But if we think about how its impacts on the sort of day-to-day work scape, if you could say that, it’s destabilized and well, that’s not earth shattering news. I think that’s important, and that’s my main takeaway, because not only is that what I hear from clients when I’m talking with them is about, how it’s brought a lot of change. And now of course, people are selling up their bricks and mortar spaces in a lot of ways, or they’re going to, they’re hybridizing their ways of working where it’s not fully virtual or distributed, but not fully together either. And all of that, of course.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (13:32):

But the reason I say destabilizing rather than just changing is, destabilizing, is this capture that word captures that sense in which we don’t feel grounded. And we’re a little bit off of our base, right? And that’s what I’ve noticed. And I think that’s both the challenge, but also the opportunity. I don’t think that’s just a nice sentiment. What I mean by that is, it’s destabilized us because it’s shaken up what we used to do, right? So I live out near Oxford in the UK and I used to get on the train probably three or four days a week and go into London. And now I don’t do that. And like many people, that’s made me think again about how I spend my day, right? Whereas before I would kind of mindlessly get into the car and drive to the train station and then mindlessly start checking email.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (14:22):

And I try to be mindful, but I didn’t really… I was mindful about other things, but I wasn’t really questioning whether or not I got on the train. And so the destabilization has raised our awareness. I mean, it’s been really uncomfortable because it’s thrown us off. And I think as we saw last in March, March, 2020, the destabilization meant that people went into their, you could say stress state, and there were reactions of some people going, we’re just going to go quiet and we’re going to wait for this to blow over as long as it could. And then maybe couple months. And they had to make some decisions, whereas others were sort of, you talk about fight or flight. Some people were flying away and going, we’re just going to batten down the hatches. Other people were fighting into it and going, we’re hanging in there, we’re not going virtual. We’re going to make it through this.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (15:06):

And neither of those is useful. And none of those is really… both are completely understandable, neither is really great. And so the destabilization brought that about, but we’re on the upside, the opportunity, as I said before. There is an opportunity, and I think it’s that whenever we have these… whenever we’re shaken, it gives us an opportunity to notice what we had been doing previously mindlessly. And so a lot of people have been talking to have gone, “Gosh, I didn’t realize how much money I was unnecessarily spending on transport.” Or I don’t know what other, other things; eating lunch out all the time, whatever it was. And there’s too late, greater and lesser degrees and to bigger and smaller life things. And so now there’s an opportunity to go, “Huh? How do we really want to do this?”

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (15:52):

It’s uncomfortable to be destabilized, but we’re at a really important point right now where, assuming that we do come out of this period in the… this year at some point, then we’ve got some important questions to say, “So what do we want to do?” And I think there’ll be some people that would go, “Can we just go back to what we know?” Because that kind of feels safe, but actually I’ve been hearing a lot more people that have gone. No, actually the impact of work is, there’s been some important things and what hold onto. We’ve got a lot more empowered workforce, we are a lot more flexibility and want to retain that while also finding a way to come together and connect when we really need to.

Tim Flower (16:28):

Yes. So many stories out there about even kids doing homework at the library, just to get access to wifi, not the material in the library, right?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (16:35):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. So those are a couple of things that I think come to mind. But at the same time the opportunities are immense. If we can find a way to… something that I’ve been talking about is, finding a way to connect people. So instead of having away days, now let’s have together days, right? So you can do the nuts and bolts of your job at home. And then if it’s safe in the future, let’s come together regularly to do the important relational stuff.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (17:03):

I mean that doesn’t… a lot of people have been saying, well, part of what I’m missing is just the unplanned knowledge shared and the connections. And so what I’m talking about together days doesn’t quite get that, but I’m sure there’s… we’ve put people on the moon, I’m sure we can find ways to connect in this way. And there’s great opportunities to do that. I think that the autonomy, the empowerment that comes from being able to work where, and whenever, and connect with your colleagues all around the world, rather than having to get on a plane and go there is great. So [crosstalk 00:17:33]

Tim Flower (17:32):

Yeah. The virtual happy hours have been interesting, right?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (17:35):

Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of positivity [inaudible 00:17:37] as well.

Tim Flower (17:39):

Yeah. Cool. So you have a really great piece out there. It’s called Virtues of Virtual. It not only deserves a read, it deserves multiple reads. Every time I go through the content, I find something else that I want to pay attention to, or dig into deeper. What are your thoughts about… and it covers some of this, right? Balancing the risk that we’re talking about… and maybe specific to IT professionals… and we focus a lot on employees and enabling work for our businesses. When we talk about the IT professionals specifically, any thoughts about the alignment or the risk management for an IT pro that’s now dispersed from their teams and their employer and their boss and the people that they support?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (18:23):

Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, maybe just a little bit of background would be useful as well. So the Virtues of Virtual is a report that we put out in 2020, and full transparency, I have to, once again, thank Nexthink for contributing a feature piece to that. It was really great. So for anyone that’s listening that hasn’t picked it up, it’s definitely worth a couple reads, and especially on that feature, which was great. Nexthink’s thinking about humanizing IT, was really helpful to their thinking. But what we were trying to do in that report was… The title is the Virtues of Virtual. And so it might sound like we’re saying the upside of going virtual, but that’s not actually what we’re talking about. What we’re trying to do is draw on something that Aristotle said.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (19:10):

So the ancient Greek philosopher, who said that the way to live is to try to strike the balance between extremes. And the reason we call the report that, is because when everything started happening with the pandemic, we noticed that, as we were talking about before, people tended to react. We did it ourselves. It’s really normal, really human, but it’s unhelpful. We tended to overreact or under react. And Aristotle said that vices tend to be overreactions or under reactions of things, but virtues are just the ways of living in balance. So for example, he talked about courage as a virtue, and we tend to think about courage as a virtue, but what we don’t tend to think about is, his idea that the overreaction is something like running into battle willy-nilly and for no good reason, right?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (19:58):

That’s not helpful. That’s not virtuous, but neither is cowardice on the other side running away, right? So for him, he says, courage is a virtue because it’s the balance of knowing when to show strength, or when to do it right thing, right? And so in a similar way, we were trying to say, let’s look at distributed teams, virtual ways of working and say, “What are the virtues of virtual?” That is, what are the balanced ways of being between extremes?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (20:27):

And we looked at areas of tech and connectivity and different things and identified a lot of overreactions and under reactions. And then after saying each time, “Yeah, we get it. That’s really normal, but what’s the balance.” And so I guess coming back to your question, thinking about IT professionals, one virtue of virtual that we identified that I think is maybe most useful is clarity.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (20:49):

So we’re talking about how so often in this space, communication can be tricky, even though we’ve got more and more ways to connect. I mean, the platforms on which to share content and ideas with each other are numerous, but actual clarity about what’s needed suffers. And I guess the reason I say that, that virtue of clarity is useful to IT, is because anytime you’ve got professionals with a vast degree of expertise. So, I would say lawyers, doctors, IT professionals who are… you’re understanding what’s going on in all of these incredibly fast paced, changeable interfaces that we’re all using. And anytime you have that kind of expertise, you run the risk of speaking past each other. And I think a lot of times speaking as someone who has done a lot of work on trust, a lot of times that I think distrust comes about, is not because of anything malicious, but because we just don’t understand where each other’s coming from.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (21:51):

And so if there’s, I don’t know, there’s a lot of culture films and shows and stuff out there, poking fun at the difficult relationships between IT professionals and their colleagues, right? And I think a lot of that, the sort of things that they’re blowing out of context in those kinds of shows, a lot of it would be solved if the colleagues that don’t understand the IT professionals spend a bit more time in that world, right? And so the virtue of clarity is about saying, how clear is the communication? Going both ways really importantly, between, in this case, the IT professionals and their colleagues, and the degree to which we’re clearly communicating. Not in terms of, is it accessible? We could say, “Well, the memo has been sent 10 different ways.” But much more, what questions might the audience, the intended audience still have?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (22:42):

So it’s the same thing that is happening when you’re in a meeting and you go, “I think this makes sense.” Then you get back to your desk and go, “Gosh, it felt so clear, but now I’m not quite sure where I’m supposed to get on with.” And I’m convinced a lot of procrastination, is it because we’re lazy, but because we just weren’t clear in the first place, but we don’t want to look silly and go back and ask again. And so it’s that, that we’re talking about. I think if IT professionals can keep pushing forward ways of clarity of exchange with colleagues, then that’s only going to be a good thing, because… especially when the office is in someone’s home and it’s out of sight. And then we’re going to have to be much better able to clearly communicate. So that’s one thing comes to mind.

Tim Flower (23:29):

Yeah. And there’s so much there we could talk about, but that description of procrastination really resonates, that the delay due to not laziness, but the lack of clarity is really interesting to me. So if we look a little bit about kind of what Nexthink focuses on, which is the employee experience and the digital experience of people to help bring more clarity to what they’re doing, to help them understand what their… how they work and what they’re doing. You mentioned a little bit about Aristotle and how he has contributed some of his philosophies into your thinking, what should we be thinking? What other philosophers play into, or have some different types of input that might help influence the workplace?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (24:19):

Yeah. Great question. So one person that comes to mind often for me, when we’re thinking about employee engagement or anything to do with employee experience and how we, or even user experience all that sort of stuff is the Austrian Jewish and Israeli philosopher, Martin Buber. So his most famous book is one called The I and Thou. And it’s just brilliant. It’s one of these books that you can pick up, even if you don’t normally care about philosophy and go, “Oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense, that that kind of resonates.” So he’s 20th century Austrian Jewish, trying to understand how we view each other, and in it.. It’s called I and Thou, and the main idea is that, he says you can relate to things in kind of two main ways.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (25:13):

You can relate. You can have an I-it relationship, where I might have a relationship… and not a relationship in the sense that you might have with a friend or family members, but relating to. So I could relate to my cup of coffee in an I-it way, right? And I’m the sort of subject, I’m the person it’s just a cup of coffee, right? But he says that the other way is an I-thou relationship, where that’s how we need to interact with each other. We need to remember that. Unlike my cup of coffee, you both are persons, right? You’re members of the moral community. You have agency and autonomy, you can choose how to live, all these sorts of things. You’re complex beings, right? So I ought not to have an I-it interaction, relationship to you. I’m selling myself short, I’m selling you short.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (26:10):

I need to have an I-thou relationship. And there’s this great moment in the book where he says, all of life is encounter. And you get the sense that he also thinks that you can’t really encounter an I-it relationships. To truly encounter, you have to have I-thou relationships where we’re treating other people like people, right? And so I guess when I think about what you all doing with Nexthink and digital employee experience, I feel like that’s… It’s a simple idea and you guys are the experts on how to make this happen, but I feel it’s an important one to say, “So how do you do digital that is based on an I-thou kind of interaction?”

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (26:52):

I think that’s the philosophy that I think would be really useful. I say, how do you… What that looks like? I don’t know, because I’m not a tech person. But I know that’s what you guys do. But I think that’s one that comes to mind. Recognizing the individuality of each other and say, “How does that inform the way that we do employee experience? How does that inform the algorithms that we write?” Those sorts of things.

Tim Flower (27:20):

And I think that’s an interesting way to look at a technologist, have a really good relationship with technology. And that’s the I-it, right? It’s an easy relationship to have because it’s different, right? But having the I-thou with the employee that’s using technology and interacting with other employees, I think it adds that layer of complexity, but also necessity for us to be able to do our jobs the right way. Cool.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (27:48):

Yeah, definitely.

Tom McGraw (27:49):

Before we put Martin Buber up on the Nexthink website, final question for you, Brennan; we obviously live, as you say, in an era of huge change and uncertainty, if listeners should pick up just one word or philosophy that might help them to navigate these strange times, which do you think it should be and why?

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (28:09):

Yeah. Thanks so much, Tom. Great question. So, I said a moment ago that Martin Buber’s, I-Thou about book is one of those that anyone could pick up and enjoy. But I think if you’re talking to him about the times that we’re living in, one that I went back and re-read in March last year, and that I’ve hard referenced so many times in conversations with people throughout 2020 is Marcus Aurelius’s meditations. So Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and stoic philosopher, someone who really lived firsthand a lot of difficult times. And actually a lot of, the reason it’s such a great sort of bedside table book is that, it’s these really short reflections that he writes from the battlefield or in his palace when he’s dealing with a really tricky political like coup and things going on.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (29:06):

And it’s almost like they’re his meditations, right? So they’re him trying to sit down and think through things. And the way that he writes it, you almost get the sense that he was trying to… He had an idea that he wanted to hold on to was, “Oh, do you know what? I want to make sure I don’t forget that because that’s a really helpful idea.” So he writes it down and they’re all things where he’s almost talking to himself and saying, “Marcus, remember next time you go through adversity, don’t forget that you can’t… don’t waste your time on stuff you can’t control.” So I mean that’s even beyond Marcus Aurelius. That’s one of the really helpful lines of stoic philosophy is this idea that you shouldn’t waste your energy on what’s outside your control.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (29:47):

So all the Stoics were really big on saying that the first thing you should do is try to recognize where… What’s your situation, and then what’s in your control and what’s not in your control, and then put all your energy into what’s in your control. And basically for them, they thought really the only thing in your control is your mindset. So don’t waste your breath, trying to change a lot of other stuff, but work on how you receive it and approach it. And that’s [inaudible 00:30:15] there’s been a lot of psychologists that have made connections between that and the usefulness for resilience and managing stress and everything. And I think Marcus’s meditations are one of the books that people return to, even if they don’t normally pick up philosophy books. So that would be my top pick.

Tom McGraw (30:32):

It’s essentially as if somebody compiled the tweets of Donald Trump over the last few years.

Tim Flower (30:37):

Oh, please.

Tom McGraw (30:38):

And in 2000 years, they make for good reading.

Tim Flower (30:41):

Essentially only not [crosstalk 00:30:44].

Tom McGraw (30:44):

Only not. Brennan, absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much for coming on. We hope to have you on again in the future and happy 2021 to you.

Tim Flower (30:56):

[crosstalk 00:30:56] Was really fun.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby. (30:57):

Yeah. Thank you both so much. I’ve really, really enjoyed it. So yeah. I’d love to have another chat and happy 2021 to you as well.

Tom McGraw (31:04):

And that’s the end of this, week’s especially fruitful edition of the show. If you would like to learn more about Philosophy at Work or read that amazing report, the Virtues of Virtual, be sure to check the show notes, see you next time change-makers.

Speaker 1 (31:19):

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