Play BIG: Listen To / Embrace The Wisdom Of Viktor Frankl (Part 1)


If you/i are to play BIG and experience ourselves living a vital-vibrant existence then I say you/i can help ourselves by listening to, embracing-embodying the wisdom of Viktor Frankl.  In today’s conversation I share some of this wisdom with you.  I urge you to make the time to watch and truly listen to the following.

Heed The Most Fundamental and Basic Concern of Man

“What is the most fundamental and basic concern of man? Neither pleasure nor happiness. Neither power nor prestige. But, originally, and basically, his wish, his desire to find and fulfil a meaning in his life, or for that matter, in each single life situation confronting him.

And if there is a meaning to fulfil, if he is aware, if he becomes cognizant of such a meaning then he is ready to suffer, he’s ready to offer sacrifices, he’s ready to undergo tension, stress and so forth without any harm being done to his health. But if there is no meaning available, no meaning in his visual field then he takes his life.

Meaning can be found everywhere, in the smallest hut, on the other you can find people who are millionaires .. and billionaires, they have no meaning, they kill themselves….”

Bypassing The Snare Of Self Actualisation, Embracing Self Transcendence

“.. what a individual, a human being needs, is … self-transcendence. That is to say, being concerned with one’s self or one’s one prestige or one’s own happiness is self defeating.….. I deem that ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a contradiction in terms. Because happiness can never really be pursued. Happiness must ensue. Happiness is a side effect, happiness is a byproduct and must remain a byproduct of meaning fulfilment. Of your dedication to a task, a cause greater than yourself, or a person other than yourself…..

The more you give yourself, the more you forget yourself, in love or in work, for the sake of a cause to serve or a person to love, to the very extent you will become happy precisely by not caring for happiness. Precisely by overlooking and forgetting you are happy or not.

It is the same as with the boomerang ….. I had the insight that this is the very symbol of human existence, and the self transcendent quality of the human reality. Because usually … we assume that it is the job of the boomerang to fulfil is to return to the hunter. “That’s not true” the Australian’s told me. Because only that boomerang returns to the hunter, that boomerang that in the first place had failed the target .. the prey. It is the same with man. Only the type of people so intent on themselves and so eager to contemplate to observe themselves, to actualise themselves, to interpret themselves, who in the first place had missed, not a target, but a mission in their life. Who had not found a meaning outward of them. Or a human being other than themselves.

This is self-transcendence. Not being primarily concerned with oneself but something other than oneself. Or, still better, someone other than oneself. Man becomes himself, man is actualising himself, man is human, precisely to the extent man is not concerned with himself or anything to do with himself. But living out his self-transcendence.”

On Responsibility, Possibility, Reality And The Transitoriness Of Life


….. the transitoriness of our existence in no way makes it meaningless. But it does constitute our responsibleness; for everything hinges upon our realizing the essential transitory possibilities. 

Man constantly makes his choice concerning the mass of present potentialities; which of these will be condemned to nonbeing and which will be actualised? Which choice will be made an actuality once and forever, an immortal “footprint in the sands of time”? At any moment, man must decide, for better or for worse, what will be the monument of his existence.  

Usually …. man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness and overlooks the full granaries of the past, wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys and also his sufferings. Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with. I should say having been is the surest kind of being.…..

The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. 

On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all life he has already lived to the fullest….

What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, than you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

– Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

How can you be about, deal with tiredness and hopelessness? Part I


A ‘sister’ reaches out

Recently a ‘sister’ reached out to me to share aspects of her experience of her life and to ask for my advice:

“I am feeling lost without anchors in my life. I guess I am feeling the loss of physical intimacy, someone to just be there to hold me when I’m feeling lost and alone. Work stability and security in an organisation that is chaotic with recurring re-structuring and transfers.

It is bearing me down, the uncertainty in my workplace and bearing the responsibility of taking care of 3 growing kids, with sometimes no one to talk to for parenting advice.

I guess I had reached a point where I was just very, very tired and feeling as if I don’t belong or wanted both in my work-place and in my personal space. Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one. Sometimes believing that I am flawed in some way that is preventing that from coming into being.

I tend to always fall for men that are dominant and players. It is difficult for me to be attracted to someone who is less witty and dominant, as I have a strong character. Although I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment, am like a moth to a flame.

People, friends have said I am strong and a survivor from what they see. I know I am a survivor, but the scars have been deep and plenty. I don’t feel very strong most of the time, struggle to overcome my feelings of insecurity and capabilities.

I always feel that there is constant turbulence in my life both at work and in my personal life.  How do I continue when I’m feeling so tired and hopeless.

Warning: I am not ‘God’ and do not have ‘solutions’ to life

Before I dive into the heart of the matter I wish to make it plain that I am not in a position to provide advice.  I am clear that I am not ‘God’ and as thus I have no solutions to life.  To take that orientation is to see life as a ‘problem’ – we search for solutions to problems.  Perhaps life is simply a gift that we are granted or it is a challenge/opportunity to help us unfold, develop and flower in our unique way in the process playing our part and contributing to the bigger play called ‘Life’.  Perhaps life is simply a mystery that can never be solved, only lived.

“How do I continue when I am feeling so tired and hopeless?”

Sister, rest assured that if you do not actively interfere with your automatic machinery (that goes with being human) then you will continue and you do not have to figure out how you will continue.  What do I mean?  I mean that by virtue of being human and being here, you have been granted a fierce will to survive and an array of capacities that enable you to survive.  Put differently, to be human  is to be a formidable survival organism – one that continues  because its design is to continue itself for as long as it can.  That is to say your ‘human  machinery’ will take care of surviving/continuing if you do not get in it’s way.

Who and what is the cause of tiredness and hopelessness?

When you ask this question (How do I continue…..?) what you are saying is that ‘the story that you are telling yourself about your future’ is leaving you feeling tired and hopeless.

In the Western world, Sunday is a day of relaxation – it is where you can take it easy, meet up with friends and family, do what you enjoy doing.  It should be the ‘happiest’ day of the week.  Yet, research shows that it is the ‘unhappiest’ day of the week for many people.  Why?  Because many of these people are looking into the future and what they are present to is being at work, slaving away at work they do not enjoy, on the Monday.  Which is the best/happiest day of the week?  Friday.  Why?  Because whilst these people are in the office (where they do not want to be) they are not really in the office.  Instead they are living into the future that is the weekend – who they will be with, where they will be, what they will be doing……..

So let’s be clear on this:  what gives you your being today, right now, is the future that you are living into.  Here is what Alan Watts says in his book (The Wisdom of Insecurity):

“Human beings appear to be happy just as long as they have a future to which they can look forward – whether is be a “good time” tomorrow or an everlasting life beyond the grave.

So what can you do about ‘tiredness and hopelessness’?

You can choose to be resolute and fierce in your living.  You can choose to relate to yourself as a ‘force of nature’ with awesome qualities – all that you need to live fully right now and into the future.

You can get present to the fact that you really do not know how the future will turn out (and thus is open to invention). You really do not know. And even if something ‘bad’ happens you do not know how that will turn out.   What shows up as ‘bad’ or a ‘catastrophe’ today, can show up later as the best thing that happened to me, just what I needed to grow, to develop, to move forward on to a new path.

You can choose not to listen to nor create a story about a future – a dismal future – that leaves you feeling tired and hopeless.  If one part of you is throwing up this story, then don’t buy into it.  And that is a whole lot easier if you embrace my next suggestion.

You can, right now, deliberately create a story about you and your future that genuinely leaves you moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  What kind of a future, if you created it now and lived it now (as if it were real right now) would leave you genuinely moved-touched-inpsired-uplifted?

You can choose to focus on what works in your life, what you can be grateful for right now.  What if you had all the challenges that you have right now and you lost your eyesight? What would that be like?  What if one or more of your three children fell ill with a serious disease?  What would that be like?

You can choose to spend time and focus upon those who are less fortunate than you. If you do that then you will both lose sight of yourself (and your suffering) whilst you are helping others less fortunate than you.  Indirectly this helping, this intimate contact with those less fortunate than you will leave you more grateful for the blessings – sight, speech, hearing, movement etc – in your life.  Finally, you are most likely to show up for yourselves as a ‘god’ rather than a ‘beggar’.  For most of us it is impossible to ‘give of ourselves’ to the less fortunate and not to receive more back in return. 

What if you simply you cannot change your circumstances?

Lets, just assume that you face circumstances that you simply you cannot change. Then what can you do, how can you be about that?  Here is what Viktor Frankl says: “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Let’s make this real. You are 17 years old, you are into diving and you have an accident that leaves you paralysed from the neck down.  How can you be about this circumstance, that you cannot change?  This is what this chap says and how he has lived his life:

I broke my neck but it did not break me. I am at present helpless and this handicap will remain with myself apparently forever. But I would not give up my studies.  I went because of my own helplessness to help other people.  I want to become a psychologist to help others.  My suffering will add an essential contribution to my ability to understand and help others.

Please notice that this young man has chosen to be fiercely resolute. He has invented a future that gives his life meaning and within which his unchangeable circumstances show up as an asset rather than a tragedy.  He has created a story that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts hims.  It is the story that is giving him being – a powerful desire to live to contribute to be of help to those facing helplessness – rather than his circumstances.  It is ALL story: life is ALL story.  How life show up for you is a function of the story that you are living into/from. 

You can watch an interview with this young man (Jerry Long) and Viktor Frankl:  http://youtu.be/1_lmMl4P7cQ

And finally

I will continue the conversation in the next post – there is so much to ‘grapple with’ here and it requires more than one post.


What is the greatest gift you can grant another (and yourself)?


Do you really want your life to work?

Do you want your life to work?  Really, truly, deeply do you want your life to work?  Do you really want your life to work or do you want to be right, dominate, have the world work to your wishes, your whims, your point of view?  If you are honest then you’d be present to the latter – your focus on being right, validating yourself, dominating others, insisting that the world work according to your fantasies.  How has that been working out?  Has it brought you peace, freedom to be, self-expression, vitality, connection, love, joy?   Are you up for, really up for, having peace, vitality, connection, love, joy present in your life?  If so then this post is for you.

People matter – are central to the quality of our life, right?

Have you noticed that you are not alone?  Have you noticed that the Earth (amongst other processes) ‘peoples’ and so wherever you are you there are people?  People show up wherever you are, right?  At home, at work, whilst your are walking, driving, shopping, eating, sleeping watching television……  Is it accurate that you cannot escape from people even when you are on a deserted island?  Even on a deserted island, do people show up in your thoughts, do they show up in your feelings?  People matter, our relationships with people matter, connection or the absence of it matters, friction-full or friction-free relationships matter to your living, our experience of life.  Right?

What is the greatest gift you can grant another?

How do you build great relationships with people?  What is the secret?  The secret is to grant them a gift, the greatest gift that you can grant another.   What is this gift?

1.  Let people be.  Let every person that shows up in your world be just as he is and just as he is not.  What is the access to letting people be?  Accept them (looks, clothes, voice, speaking, behaviour, history..) just as they are and just as they are not.  Choose to be totally OK with them just as they are and just as they are not.  If you let people be just as they are and just as they are not what is likely to show up in your world?  Peace?  Freedom?  Ease?

Are you up for going further – putting more into life, making a bigger contribution and indirectly being granted much more than peace, freedom and ease?  Then take on / live / be the following practices:

2.  Be a stand for the wonder and greatness of people – believe in them more than they believe in themselves.  How can I best point out / show what I am talking about?  Read and get present to the following words by Viktor Frankl who has a profound lived understanding /experience of our fellow human beings in all of their manifestations:

If we take man as he really is then we make him worse.  If we overestimate him……overrate man, then we promote him to what he really can be. So we have to be optimists idealists in way so we wind up as the true realists”

If you are willing to make four minutes available to yourself, to treat yourself, then watch this video: http://youtu.be/fD1512_XJEw

3.  Belive in and be enthusiastic about the ‘life projects’ that matter to people.  Your fellow human being, the one that you are thinking about right now, is not simply defined by who he is, where he came from or what he does.  He is much more.  A huge part of him is the future he is living into and the ‘life projects’ that inspires him.  Yes, I get that he is a teacher, a family man, in his late forties.  Do you get that one of his most crucial ‘life projects’ is to be a musician – to pursue a dream he gave up early in life and which really matters to him?  ‘Life projects’ are simply possibilities that we imagine, create and project in the future.  They are hugely important because they give shape to our being today and influence/shape our choices including how we spend our attention/energy/time.  So leave aside your critical mind, your fears, your insecurities and step into the possibilites that you fellow human being (wife, husband, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, neighbour, colleague, manager…) has created and which give him and his life meaning.  Step into that possibility and be enthusiastic. If you are in position to do so then go further – lend a helping hand, help to open doors, to provide resources (including your encouragement), carry some of the load.

4.  Be there for the people that show up in your life.  Be there during the good times to celebrate – celebrate with them, acknowledge, congratulate, laugh, lift them high ‘onto your shoulders’.  Be there for them during the difficult times when stuff does not turn out as they would like it to.  Provide: an empathic ear;  a solid-warm-friendly shoulder for them to rest their head; create a ladder/scaffold and help them climb up when you judge that the time is right; lead the way up the scaffold, give them your hand and help them to climb up.   Do this freely and wholeheartedly and you and your relationship will never be the same again.  One of my most enduring relationships was built by literally helping a ‘friend’ climb a mountain – giving up the lead, letting others take the lead, providing encouragement to this friend in words, being a little ahead of him when I needed to be and offering him my hand when he found it difficult to climb up the mountain.  We may not speak for many months and the love is there – neither of us have forgotten that day, that experience.

What is the greatest gift you can give yourself?

OK, by now you should be clear that the greatest gift that you can grant the people in your life is made up the following: letting them be just as they are and just as they are not; believing in them more than they believe in themselves; being enthusiastic about and contributing to their life projects; and being there for them.

Now I have as surprise for you.  The greatest gift you can give yourself is to grant this ‘greatest gift’ to the people that show up in your life!  You might be wondering “What?”  Think about it.  When you grant this gift to the people that show up in your life and living you get the following treats:

Peace / Ease / Freedom – you no longer struggle with people because you have giving up ‘resisting’ them as they are and as they are not and that shows up as a heavy burden lifted off your shoulder!

Relatedness / Connection / Enthusiasm / Love / ‘Sense of Adventure‘- by choosing to let people be and enter into their lives through encouraging/supporting/contributing to their ‘life projects’ as well as being there for them through the good times and the difficult times you create the space for relatedness, connection, love, enthusiasm and a sense of adventure to show up in your experience of living.  Whenever we take part in ‘life projects’ we take part in ‘giving birth’ to something new and this shows up as a sense of adventure – we feel more alive!

My guarantee to you and my challenge for you

I guarantee you that the moment that you grant this ‘greatest gift’ your experience of living will be transformed – the quality of your life will be transformed.  To keep this transformed live you have to consciously keep granting this ‘greatest gift’ again and again – every day, every moment.  Are you up for transforming the quality of your life?  Are you up for taking me up on my guarantee?

You can resurrect yourself, your life, any time you choose: why not do it right now?


As it is Easter the time when Christians acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I simply wish to acknowledge that I / You can resurrect ourselves, our lives at any moment.  And any such resurrection is a choice (that you and I make) and that always occurs righ”t now.  With that in mind I want to share with you (and get present to) a profound truth uttered by a master who travelled the ‘low path’ and thus had a masterful insight into the human condition:

“At all times, under all circumstance, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.”  Werner Erhard

Now that is an insight worth memorising and getting present to each and every day perhaps when you start the day by meditating.  Before we move on simply want us to notice the following aspects of the quote:

  • ALL times and under ALL circumstances – not sometimes and under special circumstances;
  • Werner is speaking about our inner experience – how we experience our living, our life, how it shows up for us.

If you are embedded in ‘ordinary living’ then you will not relate to what Werner is saying – the fundamental truth that he is pointing out.  No, you are going to think that he is deluded – he simply does not get the real world that you live in.   Well lets listen to someone who has an intimate connection with the real world.  His name is Viktor Frankl, he is a Jew, during WWII he spent a couple of years in the infamous concentration camps, he lost everyone that was near and dear to him, he saw many die in the concentration camps and he experience horrors that few of us will have every experience.  Here is what Viktor has to say on the matter:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

Are you still missing the connection between the truth that Werner Erhard is point at?  Then let me share and leave with you two quotes from Viktor that show what Werner is getting at:

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.

We who lived in 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 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 own way.

Before you reach for your conditions, your circumstances as an excuse to escape from the responsibility to shape / live your life as the author of your life rather than a victim, I want to remind you that it was no picnic living in a concentration camp for two years!  And living from those conditions, this is what Frankl writes / says:

“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”

Which brings me back, neatly, to what we started with:

“At ALL times, under ALL circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.”

The question is are you going to choose and live your stand or are you going to get busy creating excuses and concocting reasons for continuing to ‘play small’, play ‘victim’ and hand over your freedom to conditions / circumstances?  Your life, your choice.

Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….


Reality and our relationship to reality

What is real?  What is our relationship to reality?  Here is what Werner Erhard had to say on this matter:

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.” 

Let’s take a look, a closer look.  Is the Sun real?  Is the Moon real?  Is that road real?  Is that car real?  Is that tree real?  Are your hands real?  Are your eyes real?  Are your feet real?  Have you noticed that those questions are easy to answer.  Are you aware that you don’t ask yourself these questions?  Do you notice that we don’t get into heated discussions about whether the sun exists or whether you have two feet? So why does Werner make the statement that he makes?  Because you confuse beliefs (what we say is true, what we say is real) with truth/reality!

Beliefs and our relationship to our beliefs

Why do you and I need beliefs?  Think about this deeply and you will see that we do not need to believe in the Sun, the Moon that car in front of you or your arms.  Notice that what is real does not require a belief!  Go further and you inevitably come to the conclusion: beliefs are simply statements about us, about people, about the world, that cannot be proven.   Put differently when we enter the land of beliefs we are dreaming whilst being awake yet not present to the fact that we are dreaming.  Belief land is fantasy land – it is the fantasy land that we have been granted by our culture, your parents, our schoolteachers, our media, our friends and it is also a land that we shaped by constructing our own beliefs.

We give up our freedom by constructing the bars of our prison through beliefs

Look we have established that reality does not need beliefs.  We have also established that beliefs only arise when they are not supported by reality.  That is to say beliefs arise and can exist only if there there is no evidence, in the real world, that confirms that beliefs.  Lets go to the point:  beliefs are superstitions!

What happens when we construct beliefs?  We give up our zone of freedom.  Allow me to illustrate:

I believe that I my religion is the only true religion.  Consequence: I cannot be with, explore, learn from the other religions.

I believe that I am superior to you, know more, am better than you.  Consequence:  I will not enter into a real relationship with you, I will not listen to you, I will not learn from you, I will take on behaviours that are opposite of yours.

I believe that musical instruments, singing and dancing are the ‘devils work’.  Consequence:  I will not own/play a musical instrument nor sign nor dance.  And I will segregate myself from people who do engage in the ‘devils work.

You get the idea.  Every belief narrows down the zone of Possibility and of our relatedness and of our freedom to be, to participate in life, to live fully!

Now here is the really bizarre thing.  When our fellow human beings show up and ‘challenge’ our beliefs we get upset, we sulk, we withdraw, we condemn, we get angry, we shout, we maim and we kill.  That is how determined we are to keep ourselves enslaved.  If we were sane, if we had a sound relationship to reality, we would welcome people who exposed our beliefs, our prison bars, and thus allowed us to set ourselves free.

Let go of your beliefs and set yourself free

We did not come into this world with beliefs,  Once upon a time, you and I were in intimate contact with reality and simply flowed with it.  And as such everything was permissible to us.  Then little by lit we assimilated beliefs, constructed our prison bars and gave up that freedom we were born with .

You and I can reclaim our freedom right now by letting go of our beliefs.  Every time we encounter a belief we can let it go – we can point at it and shout “Superstition” Every time we do that we dismantle another prison bar and thus increase our zone of freedom.  To do that we have to be willing to stand in a very different place: a place from which we see beliefs not as truths, nor as useful tools but as a prison bar that constricts our freedom.

Struggling with this?  Please get to present to the fact that reality is reality and a belief is a belief.  When our beliefs don’t match the reality then we suffer.  Allow me to share a quote that I came across recently:

“My heart says people are inherently good, it is my experiences that speak differently.” Angela Sturm

When a wise person notices the mismatch between his beliefs and reality (what is so in terms of our experience) he gives up his belief.  If you and I let go of beliefs and be with what is so we increase the ‘workability’ of our lives and thus minimise our ‘suffering’.  This benefit is in addition to be reclaiming our freedom.  Do you wish to be that wise person or do you wish to continue to be the fool?  That is a choice for each one of us to make and live with.

How to live powerfully: replace beliefs with Stand, with Possibility

If I was Angela I would let go of the belief “People are inherently good”.  Why?  It is false – all beliefs are false!  Instead I would recognise reality “Some people exhibit behaviours I say are ‘good’.  Some people exhibit behaviours that I say are ‘bad’.  The same person can exhibit both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviours.”  Going further, I can let go of the belief and invent a Stand:

“I am Stand for recognising the good in people and calling that forth in my thinking, in my speaking, in my actions, my behaviour”.

Do you notice  the power of the Stand?   It is not a belief about me, about you, about our fellow human beings, about the world at large.  No, the Stand is me creating / inventing my role in the drama called Life.  It is a ‘call to arms’ that I give myself.  Notice, that if people were already inherently good (and behaved good) then my Stand makes no contribution.  By taking on this Stand I am calling forth / living out of the Possibility that I can impact how people show up in the world – ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Do you want a concrete example of the difference between reality, belief and Stand/Possibility?  Then watch this 4 minute YouTube clip of Viktor Frankl – Viktor explains the difference in a way that you will never forget.  Why is he worth listening to?  He wrote one of the most profound books (Man in Search of Meaning) when it comes to understanding of the human condition.  And he survived the WWII concentration camps whilst losing everyone – all his family and friends.  Yet, just listen to how he relates to people given his very real understanding of people: