Book Review: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl


Before I left for my recent adventure to Taiwan, a friend lent me Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Earlier this week, I finally got a chance to read through the book on my flight back to Los Angeles. Whenever I find myself engrossed in books like this one, I usually jot down the page number in my notepad and later write up the quotes that I found particularly interesting. Several quotes struck a chord with me:

On Living:

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time wrongly as you are about to act now.”

Whenever I’ve been faced with decisions, large or small, I find myself going through the pros and cons of each choice. This analysis can take days, weeks, if not longer. Weighing the consequences of the choices available is certainly important; however, after a certain point, evaluating options does little other than to further cause anxiety and promote self-doubt. At the end of the day, a (sometimes irreversible) decision needs to be made. I like Frankl’s advice of approaching decisions. Life only comes around once. But of course, going with your gut is far easier said than done.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

This one’s pretty simple, but wow. Talk about deep. I think this statement truly gets at the heart of Frankl’s whole book. Life is constantly throwing new challenges that need to be overcome. Sometimes, it’s so easy to just give up. External circumstances are certainly one factor, but internal causes, such as self-doubt or the belief that things will never get better, are other reasons that might cause folks to throw in the towel.

 Having a “why” to live seems like a great way to think about how to overcome any challenging situation. The question now is discovering what that “why” means for each of us – I’m still trying to figure that one out for myself.

On Success and Happiness:

“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.”

This got me immediately thinking about the chicken or the egg causality issue. Rather than thinking about the “path” towards success, or the “path” towards happiness, perhaps I should be thinking about what I want to do; in theory, happiness and success (however defined) will follow.

Overall, I’d highly recommend reading this book. It’s a really short read and doesn’t take much time. But wow, does it ever leave a mark. At least for me it did!