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 ….


How We Decide What We Do …

Decision post

Sometimes We Decide Passively …

Sometimes we let the flow of things carry us along and allow inaction to be our response …

Not everything requires us to seize the moment.   You know the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” often applies to things that are truly working well.  The important thing is to accurately recognize what “ain’t” broke”, as opposed to ignoring or dodging something broken that you just do not want to deal with.

Even doing nothing is an action …

Sometimes We Decide Actively …

Sometimes we are proactive and move to prevent or minimize “fires”, and not wait to deal with their eruption later …

We recognize the effectiveness of thinking about what we do and taking action before things become crises, especially when we are in the middle of dealing with something we could have more easily resolved or avoided at any earlier time.  Taking action can be energizing, rewarding, and positive.

Just be sure you are actively dealing with something that deserves proactive measures, not just what you find easy or fun … Continue reading

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.

Standing and Serving …

Lighthouse“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save. 

They just stand there shining.”


~ Anne Lamott


Just a thought in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, as we busily plan to conquer new worlds in the new year and search energetically for meaning in our lives … maybe we are trying too hard.

What might happen in our lives if we tried just standing still right where we are and shining like a beacon for others? 

We often talk about leading by example, learning by modeling, and so on … maybe we ought to just do it and see how things go.

Just a thought as we inch closer and closer to a brand new year.

Making like a well-designed lighthouse in the Heartland …


“Please Leave At The Door” …

Door“Leave Your Problems at the Door”

… Stated in a flat and no-nonsense tone by Mrs. Jones, a woman of a certain age, who was the manager of the women’s departments in our little shared retail universe.  

I was the “young and promising” manager of the men’s departments, recently promoted to that post for reasons not really clear to me at the time.

Mrs. Jones had finally had enough of my immaturity.  I had arrived at work once again wallowing in self-pity over some emotional entanglement … which usually resulted in me moping and pouting through the day, being of absolutely no use to anyone.

Being older and wiser, she went on to point out three realities to me:

1)  Nobody else will ever care as much about your problems as you do.  

If they do, this is an unhealthy relationship for both people. Continue reading