Weekly Book Pick: Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

“everything can be taken from a man but one thing:

the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude

in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way”

I have recently been on holidays and during my week away from the office I took the opportunity to reread Frankl’s classic text and consider my own ‘search’. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl describes with clarity and simplicity his experiences as a survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps during World War II. Prior to the outbreak of war, Frankl, a doctor, had been working on a treatise of his psychotherapeutic approach, which he called logotherapy (from the Greek logos or ‘meaning’). What is unique about Man’s Search for Meaning is the combination of first person narrative of the shocking world of the concentration camp inmate with a psychotherapeutic assessment of the realities of camp life and the behaviours of both inmates and the authorities.

In contrast to Freud’s belief that life is primarily about the pursuit of pleasure, Frankl discovers that man’s will to meaning is life’s primary driving force and that he, himself, is able to find meaning amidst conditions of the deepest suffering. This drive allows him to be free in spirit and to use this freedom to survive and amazingly to spiritually thrive. In Frankl’s case he never lets go in his mind’s eye of images of his wife (who tragically perished in another camp during the War) and also of himself lecturing after the War on his experiences. It his faith in the future which guides his survival as in the words of Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.

I do not pretend to ‘review’ Man’s Search for Meaning, about which so much has been written and said already, including by Frankl himself. Rather this week’s Book Pick is more a reminder of how we all have the freedom of choice and that striving for what is worthwhile is in fact what gives our lives meaning. Frankl realised this even amidst unimaginable suffering, “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task”.

man-s-search-for-meaning

For more of Frankl’s wisdom; explore:

http://www.viktorfrankl.org/e/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc_COGWKKg8

https://www.ted.com/talks/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning

http://www.viktorandimovie.com/

 

Weekly Book Pick: Haiku People by Stephen Addiss with Fumiko and Akira Yamamoto

51WHQZ9PNRL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Are my youthful dreams

still unfinished?

this morning’s frost

Anonymous

 

I have always loved haiku. It is deceptive. Haiku appears simple but is often layered, deep and with elusive meaning. The examples gathered in the gorgeous Haiku People are accompanied by traditional woodblock prints and drawings that give additional layers and meaning. This treasury of ancient art follows our life cycle from childhood through maturity and old age and it would be difficult not to find an inspiration or reflection point in the collection.

 

Testing

by stepping out –

the ice is thin

Haritsu

“When you encounter a poem that is especially resonant, you should try to imagine several meanings for it”. The introduction to Haiku People is entitled “Multiple Interpretations” and that is exactly what haiku is for me. Reading traditional haiku in translation adds to the multiplicity. We are encouraged to ponder and to develop our response to the poem, to experience haiku rather than simply read. Whether or not the 5-7-5 syllable count is maintained in translation is for me irrelevant; I always feel challenged by the apt succinctness. But of course it is the brevity that gives power, it is what is hidden and not said that creates the richness. For me, this is aspirational. Imagine micro-blogging with such command and evocation.

Haiku becomes metaphor in more ways than one when we use the discipline and yet the freedom of the form as a means for reflection and response. If you missed the opportunity to try your hand at haiku during your school years (probably primary) then be comforted that it is never too late. Have a go; have fun, be serious, silly, honest, playful, direct. Frame your goals in haiku form; capture last night’s dream, share a memory or write a caption for a treasured photo. Let Haiku People be your inspiration and guide; write and read haiku as a means of getting to the poetic essence of the ordinary, the daily, the right here and now.

 

Puzzled frown, wrinkled

brow, then laughter comes, solving

my daughter’s riddle

Emma Weston

 

Weekly Book Pick: Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey by Jane Goodall

Reasons for Hope_Book CoverJane Goodall’s stirring memoir of her physical and spiritual journey from post-war Britain to the chimpanzees of Gombe, Tanzania is more than just a personal account. It is a clarion call for us to wake up to the finite and priceless beauty of our world.

This amazing story of how one woman changed the world and science by her actions and commitment, challenges us to make a difference too: as conservationists, committed to preserving what we hold precious for future generations. This book is also the story of Goodall’s relationship with religion, spirituality and her reconciliation of the roles played by science and god. Goodall believes that “a life lived in the service of humanity, a love of and respect for all living things – those attributes are the essence of saintlike behaviour”. According to her, we all have the power to be daily saints in our small way and carry the seeds for change.

For Goodall, “[i]t was obvious that every human, every unique being, played some role in the shaping of progress although only some got into the history books”. Goodall has played her part with courage, compassion and contemplation, “It is up to us to save the world for tomorrow: it’s up to you and me”. Her quiet challenge to us: what part will we play, how can we extend our ingenuity to make the world a better place for all living creatures. Goodall ends her story with her continued fight against animal cruelty and by taking her cause to our children through her Roots and Shoots organisation.

This is a thought-provoking read by a living legend who with no formal training challenged the scientific community with her ground-breaking research. Jane Goodall’s clarity of purpose and commitment to her personal journey is instructive and inspiring.

Read more about Jane Goodall’s Reasons for Hope

The Blog is Back

It has been a long time since I have blogged and it is great to be finally doing so as part of my new endeavour at Emma M Weston. I have founded Emma M Weston Pty Ltd as a leading executive and organisational coaching business focussed purely on working with businesses of all types and their leadership teams to breakthrough to the next level and beyond. What is the “next level”? Well, it depends on you or your organisation  – it could be performance related, it could be strategic or it could be cultural. It make take the form of something that is holding you back or perhaps an opportunity that needs to be seized.

In all cases breakthroughs are possible, but they require work and often support both from within and without. I know from having being in executive and founder roles myself how hard it is to keep working on the business and not merely in the business. I have seen boards and executive teams suffer through groupthink and unexciting even poor leadership and I want this to change.

Emma M Weston is the vehicle to make this happen. Although we share the same name, Emma M Weston, the business has its own goals and like any business is more than just one person and certainly more than its leader or founder. Emma M Weston has a brand and growth trajectory that is very much its own. As the founder, I am committed to ensuring it has an identity and future that goes beyond me.

But why start a business like Emma M Weston? Well, after much thought about what I am truly passionate about, what spurs me forward, what I am curious and what to learn more about and honestly what ticks me off when I see it done badly, I knew. I knew that I wanted to be be part of and contribute in a valuable way to leadership development and transformation in our business and broader community, I decided that working to build on strengths, to identify pathways for success and and positive change was vital. Coaching is a fantastic mode to to explore and develop change at both personal and professional levels. Working with individuals, teams and organisations to make this happen is exciting and I get to see results in real-time.

Exciting times are ahead. Bring focus to yourself and your goals and start making a difference.

Emma

delicate

“I imagine what would happen if everyone turned their regrets into wishes [and] went around shouting them.” ― Nina LaCour