Writing I love – Man’s Search for Meaning

mans search for meaning

Of all the books I read and recommend to others, top of the list is Man’s Search for Meaning. There is so much in this short volume to recommend, and at the core of it is Frankl’s philosophy that our core driver is to find meaning in life (which ties back to the Japanese concept of Ikigai, written about a number of times on my site, including here)

One of the core themes in the book is so relevant to leaders. I frame it as “are you “response-able””.

Frankl writes :

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

and

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 

I’ve heard leaders argue that they are under stress, they have too much to do, that others don’t understand what it is like. The first half of Frankl’s book tells his story of surviving in a nazi concentration camp. He was able to respond.

On a perhaps more relatable level for us, yet still literally unbelievable for many, an astonishing ultra-endurance athlete called Mark Beaumont in September 2017 smashed the world record for cycling around the world, beating the mythical “Around the World in 80 days” by riding 18,049 miles in 78 days and 14 hours. Do your own calculations on this. Unthinkable indeed !

After completing the ride, Mark did a 35″ interview with Global Cycling Network and a lot of it was about the physical endurance needed for the ride. Amazing though those elements of the interview were, what really struck me was Mark’s mental approach.

Listen from 5:54 to 7:15 here , where he talks about : “once you are fully committed….your ability to complete is your ability to suffer…..”

Also from 14:13 to here, including “after you are two or three weeks in…the body has an amazing ability to adapt…if you’ve not broken down and had to stop after the first two or three weeks”. Yes, he is talking about ignoring injuries and the mental fortitude of getting through the first TWO OR THREE WEEKS with injuries etc. Unreal.

I’ve known Mark for some years and always been inspired by him. Inspirational level of self-knowledge gained through his global adventures. I can imagine Mark would only very rarely react, rather than be response-able, whatever comes his way.

How about you, looking honestly at self, are you able to respond or do you react ? If you have worked for or with a leader who tends to react, what is the impact on you and others ?


Also published on Medium.