Happy Birthday, Viktor …

Viktor Frankl

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Today marks the birthday of Viktor E. Frankl, a person whose ideas about we humans have been a driving force in my life for decades. 

I was first introduced to Frankl in graduate school and immediately felt drawn to his clear and compelling vision of how we are and how we should be. Frankl talks of the human condition and the power we have, if we choose to use it, to not just survive, but to thrive. 

His own life is an example and a proof of his ideas and observations.  His thinking grows from his experiences during World War II, especially his time spent in concentration camps. 

This is powerful stuff …

“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I have used his work in therapy, business, and teaching, as well as to become a better father, parent, and citizen.  He simply talks to our human condition in all manner of contexts.  For those of us who would lead and influence others, especially in times of great challenge, Frankl is a must-read … but you cannot just read his ideas.  You have to absorb them.

Here’s a suggested Personal Learning Plan for you:

To hear and see this gentle giant talk powerfully about our search for meaning in TEDTalk fashion:  CLICK HERE 

To read more of his wisdom, click on Viktor Frankl quotes on Goodreads

Then purchase Man’s Search for Meaning and reserve a small space of time to read this thin, yet incredibly full book.  You will find the few shekels to be one of your better investments. 

If you already own the book, dust it off, get real comfortable, and revisit each page.  You will not regret the few hours of reading.

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Once you are hooked, go find a copy of The Will To Meaning:  Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. This is Frankl’s more academic discussion of Logotherapy, based on his personal and professional experiences.  Don’t worry, it’s not as clinical as the title sounds.

Dusting off a very light layer of dust on a very old and very used book in the Heartland ….


I Have a Question …

Puzzled Look“We do not grow by knowing all of the answers, but rather by living with the questions.”  (Max Dupree)

I have a question for you this morning …

Why are we so reluctant to ask questions?

In a group, most people sit and quietly listen …

In a class, most students listen and take notes …

During a meeting, people do all kinds of things …

… But asking a thoughtful and well-stated question is relatively rare in these situations, at least in my experience.

I teach with an emphasis on Socratic questioning, which just means asking questions to get students to think longer and in more depth about the topic.

When I coach or counsel, questions are my primary tool to help others gain insight and develop strategies for change.

Questions create dialogues.  Questions stimulate thought.  Questions matter.

Questions are the tools that unlock our potential, create our realities, and prepare us for our futures.   

Even in these situations, where questions are frequent and often useful, most people do not ask them.   As a person whose motivation is to help others, this is quite frustrating.

“Confidence never comes from having all the answers, but rather from being open to all the questions.”    (Earl Gray Stevens)

Therefore, the question of the morning remains:

Why are we so reluctant to ask questions?

… or is my experience abnormal enough to nullify this question?

Asking lots of questions this morning in the Heartland ….


Viktor Frankl Remembered …

Viktor Frankl CC

“Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.

In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.

For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”

(from Man’s Search for Meaning. p. 38)

… and this was first thought while suffering unbelievably hard conditions in a German concentration camp during World War II.  The author was slogging through icy mud in the middle of the night, but was sustained by thoughts of his wife, then in another camp.

When I was in graduate school, I was “encouraged” to read about the great men of psychotherapy, so names like Freud, Adler, Jung, Skinner, Watson, Beck, Rogers, and Ellis became familiar to me.

All were interesting, but one stood out, because of his modest, but powerful message.

Viktor Frankl conveyed more about the human spirit and what we are capable of enduring and overcoming in a few small books than many others who produced many volumes.

Here’s another example of Frankl’s thinking:

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. “

From Statue of Responsibility “If freedom is to endure, liberty must be joined with responsibility.”  by Caleb Warnock, in the Daily Herald on May 8, 2005, p. A1.

Click here for a video clip of Frankl talking to a group about his basic themes – ignore the quality and listen to the words and the tone.

If this sparks your curiosity, I have two reading suggestions for you below.  Not Frankl’s only works, but the most important, in my judgment.  Both are short, but well worth the cost and the time to absorb them:

Man’s Search for Meaning. An Introduction to Logotherapy

The Will to Meaning. Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy

Happy Birthday, Dr. Frankl … and thanks for the inspirations.

Remembering one of the Great Ones in the Heartland ….


Photograph of Dr. Viktor Frankl by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely(1965)