An Austrian psychiatrist, Frankl was incarcerated in Auschwitz and Dachau for three years and whilst not spared the appalling atrocities, he perhaps uniquely observed them given his education of human drivers and behaviours. He noted that no matter what circumstances mankind can experience there are always options and a choice to be made.
For several years I had this passage from his book pinned to my desk:
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run – in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”
I’ve recently been reminded of this quote and link it to my post about “the glorification of busy” – my sense is that success and happiness cannot be achieved by a continuous, frantic workload but instead by concentrating on the one ‘thing’ you have determined to be the most significant. Of course this presupposes you know what that ‘thing’ is. As Property Academy speaker, Marcus Child, put it to me, “don’t ask people ‘how are things?’ instead, ‘how’s the thing?’”
For many years I ran a successful marketing agency, and whilst many good ‘things’ came out of Phoenix, not least some precious and enduring friendships, on reflection my heart was never truly engaged by the business – I was doing it to make money, to be “successful” – now I can see that. But Phoenix inadvertently became the springboard for what I truly love to do – the purpose of both The Property Academy and LeadersINC is “to inspire people to fulfil their potential” and so rather than mourn the wasted years instead I now see them as steps on the road to finding ‘the cause’ as Viktor Frankl calls it, or the ‘purpose’ as I prefer.