Jon Jacob is a freelance journalist, digital producer, and accredited executive coach. He writes an excellent blog, Thoroughly Good Me, about his love of the arts, classical music in particular, with smatterings of Eurovision and Strictly Come Dancing. (As well as these shared interests, we get on well because we share a sense of privilege at being allowed to coach and a deep love of stationery!) He curates a weekly playlist of classical music on Spotify and has recently launched the Thoroughly Good Podcast which lives up to its' title. These take the form of unscripted, unplanned 45 minute conversations between Jon and 2 guests and have the feel of eavesdropping (in the nicest possible way) on those really fascinating people at the next table in a coffee shop.
In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?
I have the freedom to pursue projects that capitalise on the things I love doing, and develop things I want to be better at. What links all of these pursuits whether it’s making podcasts, interviewing people, making videos or coaching new leaders – is listening. I derive an enormous thrill from listening to people. It’s central to my work as a coach. It’s a privilege to be able to listen to people.
Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?
Benjamin Britten. Not necessarily a lovable character, but a resolute and pragmatic composer who used his art to explore the darkness in life. He didn’t always write for the audience and sometimes that’s seen in his most stark and seemingly inaccessible writing. That’s the stuff I love best.
Peter Grimes and Rape of Lucretia (the ‘Goodnight’ sequence is exquisite in its simplicity) demonstrates his deft skill deploying concise musical material with devastating effect. Despite his comparative musical orthodox, Britten’s story still seems to me as though he doggedly pursued his own path. He’s also a Suffolk chap - Suffolk doesn’t have enough heroes, to my mind. He was a diarist. And importantly for me and the rest of us who love poring over the minutiae of his life, he was also a hoarder.
What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
Just because someone has Director in their title doesn’t mean that they’re right - stand up to that person. Don’t throw in the towel because someone’s repeatedly asked you to do something which is way below your pay-grade. Be gracious. Dare to come up with new ideas. Then sell them as hard as you can. It will all pay off eventually. The wheel will still start turning. Also, lose the Walrus Glasses, and for goodness sake get your haircut.
If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?
It’s a writing exercise. It has to be done quickly. Don’t let your pen lift from the page.
Look at the thing that is blocking your way. Then open a new page in your notebook and describe what it looks like, what it smells look, who it reminds you of, and what they’re saying. Write down what you like to say to it if it was a person. Then describe what that person looks like when they’re sat on the toilet. And finally, write down what they’d say or do if you were in a relationship with them and you told them you were leaving them for someone younger with considerably more money. At some point in all of this, something will emerge and you’ll be back on track. Guaranteed.
And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?
A slip-on weathered leather ankle boot with a firm heel that clicks on hard floors. I provide support, and will stretch when the need arises. I also look effortlessly stylish. The shoe not me, obviously.