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 ….


Six Steps to “Aaaahhhh”…

October Sunset

“There is nothing that please the senses as much as an ordinary brisk fall day. Take the time to enjoy the ordinariness of this gift that comes around every year.”


Yeah, I know … you have “places to go, people to see, things to do” …

So what?

Spend a few minutes on the following, optimally in some place quiet and off your beaten daily path:

1)  Stop thinking about those people, places, and things.   Put them out of your consciousness.  Never fear, they’ll all be right there waiting for you when you return.

2)  Take a long and deep breath … hold for a second or two … and exhale.  Repeat until you feel very relaxed …

3)  See … look up, look down, and look around … consider what you are seeing.

4)  Listen … preferably with your eyes closed.  Consider what you are hearing.

October Sky

5)  Feel … the texture of whatever you are touching, the flow of the wind across your skin, 

6)  Practice the above until you are able to focus on the moment without thinking.

When you are able to let go of the daily things …

When you are able to sense and appreciate what is around you …

When you feel really relaxed and at peace …

When that is your reality, my work here is done …

Listening to the wind and gazing at the turning leaves in the Heartland ….


Remember When? … No, You Don’t

REminderElizabeth LoftusTEDTalk about false memory is quite the shared item lately …

The evidence continues to mount that our memories, which we continue to view as the official record of our lives, are not all they are cracked up to be.

As one of the many who tend to insist on saying things like “I remember what I said“, as though that makes my version of reality an inviolate truth to be enshrined for all time, I find the things we are learning about memory fascinating.

Memory is one of our perceptions and is similar to viewing something.  The police will always ask “Who saw what happened?” at the scene of an accident or a crime … and the lawyers will always destroy that same eye-witness testimony in court.  We are less in possession of The Truth than we are comfortable admitting. 

We remember what we think has happened …

We remember what we wish has happened …

We remember what we perceive has happened …

We just do not always remember what actually happened … Continue reading

Lake Woebegon Times …

Daydreaming Gentleman - German Postcard PDWe are heroic folks, smarter than the average bear, and with unusually good features and values …

At least that’s what we tell ourselves.   Our brains have a way of constructing a perceived reality for us that just happens to usually put us and our attributes in a very good light.   As a result, many of us live in our own personal Lake Woebegon, “… where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” (Wikipedia)  We are like Walter Mitty, my favorite character from the pen of James Thurber, whose beaten down and routine life could not match the heights to which Mitty rose … in his ever-present day dreams.

Our tendency to think rather well of ourselves is known as the False Uniqueness Effect, described by Nisbett and Borgida as:

“… a false belief that when it comes to our good deeds and other desirable behavior, we are more unique than we really are …” 

This is one handy little construct …

It allows us to maintain that we would act heroically and decisively in an emergency, even though evidence points to most people just watching events unfold in a rather passive or non-reactive state.

We can nurture an image of ourselves as a distinct “cut above average” in just about every aspect, even though statistically, our changes of being above average are not all that good.  About half, as they say.

No matter what we learn about the realities of human behavior, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that “we are different”.    Even though others may fall into temptation or do really stupid things that get posted to Facebook, we are smarter or more responsible than that.

We get pretty good at explaining away behaviors that do not fit into this view.

Now … how many of you gentle readers actually thought “Well, that’s not me.  I really AM better than average”, when you read the above Smile ?

Trying to keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds in the Heartland ….


 Source:  Nisbett, G. & Borgida E. (1973) Attribution and the Psychology of Prediction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 32, 932-943

About Me, You, and That Pig-Headed Fool …


I am firm, you are stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool.”

~Bertrand Russell

Well, if this ain’t the dying truth …

Our egos try to protect us and one of the ways they do this is to prompt us to perceive our behaviors and beliefs as somehow more worthy than those of others.

When I hold firm to my position, I see myself as resolute and a little heroic, while my friends and colleagues can be somewhat cantankerous and unreasonable when they insist on maintaining their attitudes and beliefs.   Those in opposition are at least clearly delusional and misled, and at worst are pawns of Satan.

At least that’s how I see it …. motives and behavior are very much in the eye of the beholder, to paraphrase an old saying.

We look at ourselves and we see positive qualities … “I’m principled

We look at those close to us and see a slightly less positive quality … “She is a little self-righteous”

We look at those further from us and see the nastiness … “He is a stubborn jerk

The truth may be “out there”, but it’s darned hard to see sometimes.

Of course the behavior is often the same.   We hold a view firmly and so does someone else.   We act out of a desire to help others and so does someone else.   however, our perceptions of our motives for our actions often create the differences. 

Our “terrorist” is someone else’s “freedom fighter”.   A position we hail as “people-friendly” may be considered “unrealistic business” by others.   My “down home friendly” may be viewed as “a little forward” or even “inappropriately informal” to another.

The real challenge here is to become aware of and change our perceptions to more reasonably viewthe motivation and behaviors of others.

Have you noticed this tendency in yourself?

How do you minimize or change your self-serving perceptions and replace them with more realistic appraisals of self and others?

Waiting for answers, while I try hard to be more even-handed in the Heartland ….