July 5, 2010

Book Review: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Amazon Link:http://www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/0807014273/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278375358&sr=8-1

In no way, shape, or form is this a football book…

This book will have nothing to do with football. In fact, the surface layer of the book couldn't be further from football, with the first portion dealing with Frankl's time as a Jew in a Nazi internment camp and the second portion detailing Frankl's approach to psychotherapy. Frankl's description of his time in the internment camps is shocking, depressing, and painfully visceral. There's not a man whose heart pumps blood that won't be affected by Frankl's prose and storytelling, but that's almost beside the point because this book isn't intended to be some literary version of Schindler's List or Life Is Beautiful. The truly important thing to take away from Frankl's short, but powerful book is his approach to psychotherapy and, by extension, life.

Don't tell me how to live!

Getting past the whole "You're not my real dad!" reaction that a lot of people have when presented with someone telling them what to think or how to structure their values, etc, this book really does have the power to change how you approach your life. Regardless of your belief system, Frankl's book has the ability to focus your life and what you consider to be important.

Simply put: Frankl's book asks us to consider if we're leading a life that we deem meaningful. Whatever you want that to mean is what it means, but the question stands: are you able to find meaning in your life? Frankl asks us to disregard the pursuit of happiness as a foolish and/or temporary notion, because if happiness itself is the destination then what are we to do if we fail, or worse yet, what is left when we succeed? In either case, the pursuit of happiness hasn't result in anything that we can take to our graves with a sense of contentment. Frankl would rather we find something with meaning and commit to that, hopefully finding happiness along the way. If happiness proves to be elusive, then at least we've pursued and hopefully accomplished something meaningful. We may not be able to be happy about that, but at least we can find contentment and/or comfort from it.

So why do I care?

Well, depending on who you are, this book can be great for how you approach what you want to accomplish as a coach, player, parent, whatever. If your goal is first and foremost to win, then this book will seem lame or forced. If your goal is to show up and do your best, this book might be too serious for your tastes. What this book may do for you as a coach is this: it may provide you with an attitude and a culture that can apply whether you're a front-runner or a bottom-dweller. If you make your program about the pursuit of happiness (wins, postseason appearances, accolades, etc) then your culture will be about only that and again, the issue becomes what happens when you fail to accomplish it? Or, when you do? If your goal is to go 13-0 and win the section championship, what's your goal the next year? Do it again? And again? No, the goal has to be something else, something with meaning and purpose. Happiness will come and go in a program with a purpose beyond happiness itself, but what will last beyond that is the meaning that you've infused in your program.

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