Life Lessons . . . from Tragedy

Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.     -Viktor E. Frankl

As a young man in college during the 60’s (in California no less) I found myself questioning things I had previously taken for granted.  It was the height of the Vietnam War and we all began to question the judgement of “authority”.  At the same time I was also searching for my own set of life principles to guide me on my journey out of being a student and into a productive member of society.

Earlier I wrote a blog entitled “Corporate Culture is . . .” about a very small but remarkable book I read early in my freshman year, As A Man Thinketh by James Allen.  A book that helped me understand the role of thought and the mind in living a successful life.

Another very influential book for me during that time was written by a survivor of the holocaust death camps who later became a leading psychiatrist and humanitarian.  The book was Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. If you haven’t read this book, then I highly recommend it, as his work has been described as one of the 10 most influential books of modern times.  It certainly made an impact on me.

While most of us cannot begin to understand the horrors and situations faced by those in the Nazi death camps, Frankl found not only compassion, love, courage and overwhelming humanity, but also a fundamental principle for living a successful life. How could anyone experiencing such depravity find the courage to carry on with humanity and compassion, as many of the prisoners did?

By having something meaningful to live for.  By having a purpose, something bigger than their own self existence that compelled them to strive to do their best and be their best, no matter what the conditions.

To thrive, human beings need a purpose.  A clear, positive, compelling purpose.  Whether it be to write a piece of music that touches others, to paint in a way that helps others understand themselves or the world a little better, to be a worthy and loving parent, or to invent something that improves people’s lives.  By having a compelling purpose and keeping that purpose in clear sight, no matter what the circumstances, an individual can live an extraordinary and useful life.  I am thinking of Steve Jobs as I write this; in my mind a perfect example.

What’s your purpose?  Is it crystal clear?  Is it compelling?  Does it bring out the best in you every time you think about it?

Where your talent and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your purpose.  – Roy Spence

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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