Archives for March 2017

Forget “1984,” Search for Meaning Instead

Around the time when the 45th U.S. President was inaugurated into office, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 took off and have increased almost 10,000 percent.  The sales of his Animal Farm has increased by something like 250%.  In 1984, Orwell illustrated how language can be weaponized by the distortion of the truth. In Animal Farm, alternative facts were the norm; an example being some animals are “more equal than others.”

With “alternative facts” promulgated at the highest levels of government, it’s not altogether surprising that there’s a surge in readers of Orwell’s dystopian novels. And of course, as a writer myself and a chronic book addict I support most forms of reading. However, I’m pretty sure that most of the readers represented in the above-mentioned “surge” have read Orwell before. It’s like we’re seeking confirmation of a cynical reality…getting permission to be in a sarcasm-fueled funk.

I suggest instead, for you to curl yourself up with a copy of Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. That is, if you want to practice emergent leadership.  In its simplest expression, emergent leadership has servant leadership at its core, and love of others at its root.  This is not possible if we are coming from cynicism.

Recognize the problems that exist, but then turn your energy’s and focus onto life-sustaining solutions.  In Frankl’s preface, “success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” The first example is the one relevant here.

Frankl experienced the horrors of four concentration camps, and the grief of learning when released that while he had survived, his parents, pregnant wife, and brother had not.  And yet, in 1946 he was able to write: “Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forego the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him.” In a 1962 addendum, he notes that “suffering is (not) necessary to find meaning…meaning is possible…in spite of suffering – provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable” he stresses, “the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be it psychological, biological, or political.” And in an even later addendum, he says “the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”

Frankl’s incredible story of finding meaning within the most horrible circumstances should inspire us to stay focused on positive solutions. In my book: EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community, I note that being “glum” isn’t ‘attractive’.” If we present a positive, robust, even happy prospect to those whom we hope to influence (i.e. those we are hoping to lead), we are much more likely to enroll them in our efforts. As Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone note in their book Active Hope, “the (environmental) movement needs to grow and the attractiveness of participation grows when it is recognized as a …more satisfying way of life.”

EMERGE: A Strategic Leadership Model for the Sustainable Building Community is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It will be available FREE with registration by April 16th for EMERGE: Leadership for a Living Future. The half-day workshop with the author is scheduled for Tuesday May 16th and offered through the International Living Future Institute as part of events leading up to the 2017 Living Future UnConference. Learn more and register at: