…man’s search for meaning

Thirty six and a half million people filing for unemployment, the impact of CoVID, states and cities going broke, terrible social unrest and most hiring authorities have no idea whether they can hire or not. It’s a very confusing time and every day that I speak with people, both candidates and hiring authorities, in the trenches, it’s hard to come away with an exact assessment of where we’re going. It is just plain confusing.

Years ago, I started compiling a list of books that transcend time and are “must reads” for anyone who strives to be, not just externally, but internally successful in this life. In fact the “internal” success is what’s most important. How we grow on the inside is more important and everlasting than how we grow on the outside. Our external “treasures” will come and go, and definitely “go” with our final gasp of air. But how we grow on the inside is permanent and everlasting.

There are, so far, about 100 of these books that I’ve found to be, personally, absolute classics. I try to reread them at least once every two years or so and, am now, beginning to recommend them to our grandchildren. (I just sent As a Man Thinketh to our oldest nine-year-old grandchild) Okay, so they won’t be old enough to really understand most of these books for quite a number of years, but at least they will grow up, hopefully, understanding their lessons.

I recently finished Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel for probably the 10th or 15th time. I’m on the phone each and every work day making and receiving between 100 and 150 phone calls from candidates and employers. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve experienced seven recessions and each one of them always seems to be the worst. It does get hard to listen to all of the stories and things that are going on in the world of employment.

I can’t blame people for being downright depressed about everything that’s going on, not only with losing their jobs or having to lay people off, or both. It’s confusing and challenging times. It was kind of ironic that I was reading Frankel’s book right after the pandemic started. In case you haven’t read the book, it is the story of Viktor Frankel, a Jewish/German psychiatrist who experienced and survived the concentration camps of the Germans. He developed a psychological theory based on his experience called logotherapy.

What prompted all of this to come together was that Frankel made the observation as to why some people survived the concentration camps and why many didn’t. Every time I read this book I am stunned by what human beings can do to other human beings. It is just as shocking every time I read it as it was the first time more than 40 years ago. It goes without saying that most of the people in these concentration camps died because of being murdered, starved or dying of illness. It was horrific.

But the major lesson that this book teaches and has to be reinforced today and especially applicable to all of us trying to survive this economy, as well as a social turmoil can be summed up in this quote;

We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from 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 own way.”

      “And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

In other words, we have a choice in our attitude. If we take action on our attitudes, we simply survive better than others. Likewise today, we can work on our attitude, no matter how difficult our circumstances are. Some of us will come out of all of this mess better off and some will not.

Having done this since 1973, I guarantee you that the people who see whatever happens to them as a blessing and take massive action based on what they need to do will grow for the better. Frankl reinforces the fact that none of this is easy. It’s all a matter of attitude.

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