Discovering Purpose …

3 Ways to Discover Meaning - Frankl -

I really like it when two people who I admire and learn from appear in the same context …

The  quotation by Viktor Frankl introduces chapter 6 of The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better by Richard J. Leider.  The chapter goes on to explore the power of the stories we tell about ourselves and our lives, and focuses on the three ways named by Frankl as how we come to our stories.  

How we come to our stories is how we identify and claim our purpose.

Doing Something ….

Doing something in this context includes two specific elements:  Personal engagement and not keeping score, according to Leider.  We can do a thing, but if we are doing it out of a sense of duty rather an emotional desire to fill a need, the thing we do may not help us clarify our purpose.

In similar fashion, something done in order to be seen as worthy or to up our “score” socially, may actually “reduce our sense of contentment” (Leider, p. 57) , rather than increase it.

I often do things, but am doing them in order to have others think better of me … this is a subtle form of keeping score.  It’s what I do when nobody is watching that is important. Continue reading

Fail Well, Fail Often …

File:Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895.jpg“Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.”

George Eliot


Well, what do you think? …

Are we better for having struggled for a while, but ultimately failing in our endeavors?

This saying seems to show that our honor require that we attempt something for a time, before admitting defeat and retiring from the field.  I have labored long on some tasks, only to finally lose.  The question I have to ask myself is “Was this worth the time, even though I did not meet my goal”.

Some folks might say that the answer to that question involves the ability to show that we have learned and are better for it … some folks are probably right on.

How do you determine when your striving is “good enough to be called a failure?”

we are often told that failure is a bad thing and we should just work harder when we run into difficulties.  Sometimes that advice is helpful and we are able to move past a temporary “bump in the road” on the way to ultimate success.  Sometimes we are just prolonging our agony and spending time, money, and emotion on something that was not meant to be.

Of course, the trick is to know when your failure is “good enough” that you can quit and apply the learning to another task.

What constitutes “long perseverance”?

I have endured seconds of agony that seemed to last for hours, while my children’s lives seem to flash by at supersonic speed.  The word “long” is one of those relative words … your “eternity” may be my “heartbeat”.  How to decide the mark at which point you fold your cards and say “I’m out” is not clear or easy to do.

One thing is sure:  If you start to feel like you have tried for too long, you still have a little more distance to travel.  We feel like quitting before we should quit.


So failing is not the end, unless we let our failures define us.  As long as we learn from those failures and apply our learning to the next task, we have not ultimately failed.  As always, how you navigate the waters of failure to still struggle on and up is deeply personal to you and your experiences.


… What do you think of all this?  Solid or all wet?    Short-sighted or reflective?  Short view or long view?


Just trying to make sense out of the words in the Heartland ….



Do Overs …

GolfGolf has mulligans, cinema has the plot line where couples magically reconnect in romance after a lifetime apart,  and reality television has extreme makeovers … so why can’t I just have a simple “Do Over”?

I could be so perfect, if only I had another chance.

I could be a better friend … because now I see the value of being a friend in order to have a friend.

I could be a better child … because I understand what my parents went through more deeply.

I could be a better parent … because I know both the child and the adult side of things.

I could be a better employee … because I see the worth of doing a good job in a focused way.

I could be a better manager … because I can relate to being managed.

I could be a better leader … because I recognize the traits of both poor and great leadership.

Well, I do not play golf, spend much time watching films about lost love regained, or watch too much television, especially the reality genre, so I guess I’m out of luck.   No do overs on what has already been done.  Those pages are written, those reports have been filed … you cannot go home again, step into the same river twice, or (insert your favorite saying about how time moves on here).  The past is the past.

Of course, that does leave the present and the future …

Maybe I could always switch from wishing I could things over again and make them better to doing things better into the future … just a thought.

Pondering on this latest epiphany to come to light in the Heartland ….


Successful Train Wrecks …

Train Wreck - Wikpedia PD

Some days  things just do not go right …

Every person and every organization will sometimes experience a near-total failure, a train wreck of a situation, where the momentum carries everyone toward an unavoidable and very unpleasant conclusion.

Train wrecks can be large, horrible affairs that irrevocably change lives and fortunes.   They can also be small wrecks that simply embarrass us or cost us something we would rather not pay.

We have all felt that gut-wrenching moment, when we realize that nothing we do can avoid the undesirable outcome facing us.

This is leadership at its most challenging …

Some of the lessons I’ve learned from my own train wrecks (yes, the plural tense is intentional and correct):

Minimize the damage …

Fix what you can immediately and set about replacing what cannot be fixed. Words are nice and appropriate, but action is worth more, especially during the time immediately after a substance strikes a rotating electrical cooling device.

Be honest and embrace reality …

Trying to pretend that something is not as serious as it is simply makes you look inept or possibly worse.  Here is where words become very important.  If your words are not sincere and aligned with the reality of the thing, they do more harm than good.

Take and assess responsibility where it belongs, not based on rank or title …

Take means owning what you should that contributed to the train wreck, both sins of commission and of omission.  Assess responsibility means identifying who else has some work to do.  Doing this honestly and without regard for protected status or politics is hard, but essential.

Heal the wounded and pray for the victims … 

Acknowledge those who are no longer around due to this event or situation and also pay attention to those who are still with you.  No, still having a job after a massive business failure is not enough on its own.

Learn from your mistakes …

You simply will not survive if you only weather the storm and return to business as usual.  There is no “going back to the way things were”, “restoring our former place”, or other expressions of the belief that the past can be regained.  After a train wreck, you should only be thinking in terms of transformation. 

One way or another, what you were doing contributed to what happened … time for a change.

Take a deep breathe and move on, not with the false belief that you will not experience another train wreck, because you might.  Rather, move forward knowing that you have done everything you can to heal and learn from the one you just survived.

Trying to dig out from under and grow through it in the Heartland ….




Image from Wikipedia – Train wreck at Montparnasse Station, Paris, France, 1895.

Saturday Morning Sales Meetings …

TiesAs a Promising Young Man, I spent a few years in retail …

During that period, I worked in a culture that does not always seem still with us, at least as strongly as I felt it.

Part of the ritual involved Saturday Morning Sales Meetings, where we gathered in the shoe department (more chairs) to hear about special promotions, the latest in merchandise from each department, and to learn how to sell in the spirit of the traditional and slightly upscale retailer within whose walls we toiled.

From 9:00 AM to 9:25 AM, we were a learning machine.  Then, the doors opened for business and it was show time …

This was a somewhat surreal time for a farm boy, still getting used to the Big City and its ways.  As I continued, I became part of the agenda for these regular gatherings and learned some of the simple, but effective presentation and speaking skills that I still use every single day.

During that period, I had several teachers, some of whom reported to me, some of whom I reported to, and some who were just walking the same path at the same time.  We had four classrooms, each with their own set of rules and ambiance:

1)  The Sales Floor …

Sacred Space where the transaction occurred.  Whatever was going on in your life, it had no place on the sales floor.  This was public space, where both colleagues and the public gathered.  Your actions and your words were public and fair game for comment, especially by other salespeople.  Did I mention we worked on commission?   One reason existed for this space and one reason only:  To sell the customer what they needed at a reasonable price through careful listening and excellent service.

2)  The Back Stock Room

Just off the Sacred Space above.  A place for a quick and quiet correctional chat with a supervisor, a venting place for frustrations with whatever had just happened out in the Sacred Space.  A safe, but temporary space for getting yourself quickly back into Sacred Space mode.   Also a great place to keep the clutter and back stock out of the public eye.  We all used this space on an “as needed” basis.

3)  The Store Manager’s Office …

Official space, where formality ruled and things happened.  Sometimes a place of great pleasure, when you received news of a promotion or a raise, while at other times, a place of pain …    Never entered casually and not part of the daily grind.

4)  The Back Dock and Shipping Area …

My personal favorite space, where lessons were learned and reflection on the business and on life itself occurred.  A leveling place, where the titles fell away and one could just talk.   Work always awaited here, even if just breaking down boxes, packing up things to ship out, or checking out new merchandise, but that was just the excuse to visit a much more personal sacred space.  Those who frequented this part of the operation were both more grounded in reality and more thoughtful about the philosophical aspects than those who lived and died on the Sales Floor.

So this was one of my earliest learning environments.  Here are some lessons learned through repeated behavioral modification in one or another of these four learning spaces:

The customer, right or wrong, is the reason I am here …

Helping the customer have a pleasant and rewarding experience magically contributes to a paycheck each week …

Every customer does not know what they want …

Sometimes a customer wants something for which a more suitable alternative exists …

At times in life, you just have to smile and swallow your impulses …

What was your early learning experience?

Remembering with deep appreciation an earlier time in the Heartland ….