Victor Frankl and Man’s Search for Meaning

“Suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end.” The Four Noble Truths of the Buddhist philosophy

Suffering is a human universal.  M Scott Peck begins his book The Road Less Travelled with the words “Life is hard.”

Victor Frankl wrote a powerful book “Man’s search for meaning.” (full text at google books)  It is half autobiography and half textbook on human psychology.  Frankl survived three years in the Nazi concentration camps, passing 6 months in Auschwitz.  Only 1 in 30 of those that entered the camps survived.  Frankl noted that it was not random.  Those that survived had something that those who did not survive did not.

“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.” Victor Frankl

Victor Frankl

Frankl said that those that survived the horror, disease, starvation and mistreatment of the concentration camps had a purpose to their life – and believed that there was something worth surviving for – a loved one that they will see again, a new theory that the world needs to hear, a project still to complete.  A concentration camp is an extreme form of suffering, but all life includes a little bit of difficulty, challenge, stuff you wish wasn’t so, stuff you wish you had.

A good friend once told me “God would never give you an obstacle that he didn’t know that you could overcome”.  Nick Vujicic has overcome an obstacle that is bigger than anything that I have ever had to face.  (video here).

Nick Vujicic has an incredible attitude.  He has a really good reason to be allowed to feel sorry for himself, but he chooses not to.  It was clearly not an easy journey, but it began with belief that there was purpose to his life and the challenges he needed to overcome.

There is a powerful video of Victor Frankl speaking over at

Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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