Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Myth of the Myth of Leadership (2): Leadership Lessons from Liverpool versus Borussia Dortmund, Europa Cup 2016.

Part 2: Shit Happens. True Leaders fail properly, recover strongly.

"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.

Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary 

detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we

can avoid only by saying nothing, doing

nothing  and  being nothing."

-Denis Waitley

Thomas Tuchel. Never met him. Heard of him. He became unmissable. When he said, “Shit happens…” after an uncommon failure. It was a Thursday
night. April 14, 2016. At Anfield. The home ground of Liverpool Football

It was the night after the night, Golden State Warriors ended season with record 73 wins, nudging the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls off the perch. The Bulls, nuclear powered by a certain Michael Jordan held the winningest record for 20 years. On the same night, the late Kobe Bryant scored 60 for his final game, inspiring the Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz 101-96.

Leardship Lessons

On the same night of Tuchel’s torment, Hillary was slugging it out with Bernie in New York City. Their last debate.

Tuchel was the manager of Borussia Dortmund, or BVB, vying for the German League title. They were at Bayern Munich’s heels.

Munich’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer reckoned that BVB was a top five team in world football (soccer for the Americans.) Jurgen Klopp, Tuchel’s predecessor at BVB, and the man who orchestrated the shit 

Klopp is still the manager for Liverpool Football Club. Tuchel has since left to helm Paris Saint Germaine. The team is leading the French Ligue 1. Klopp seems to be a sensible guy. Apt at hiding the ego. Anyway, it was sweet shit. Sweet, sweet shit. For both sides of the divide. This is not meant as a smart ass remark. It was good for the chest beating Reds. It was even better for the down trodden Yellow and Black. No shit… oops, sorry.

Liverpool were battling BVB for a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League. These games are decided over two legs, home and away.  Liverpool
came home from Germany with a 1-1 draw.  An away goal was useful but 1-1 is a leaves no margin for error in their home match at Anfield. The comfort
was the familiar home ground and the pressure cooker energy of home fans.

Many football elites had said, Anfield is the toughest place to play. The Reds’ high octave loyalty seemed intimidating.

If BVB had been confident, it was deserving. BVB needed to score one and ‘park the bus.’ And, BVB was one of the five top teams in the world. They had players to die for. Like Hummel, Reus, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan.

Tuchel was not a Mourinho. He did not want to win’ parking the bus.’ “I don’t care too much about the result in the first leg. I don’t think it will be decisive,” said the Dortmund boss in a pre-match interview. He continued, “We are here to attack, we are here to score goals, to take risks and to enjoy the game. We are not here to feel our boundaries. We are here to feel our potential.
We are clear we will have to play our best and we feel ready for it. We don’t want to score one, we want to score two or even more. I am proud to be the coach in this situation.”  Street fighter words from a cultured leader. Lucidly sharing the vision. A 
leadership position expressed clearly.

Key leadership traits shone through from this short statement of intent, a shared vision (WE are here to attack…score two or even more goals),empowerment (WE are here to feel our potential…play our best…ready for it) accountability (I don’t care too much about the result of the first leg…) and team spirit, pride of association (I am proud to be the coach in this situation.) This was not from a speech writer. This did not feel canned. This was from the ‘leadership heart.’

You know Warren Bennis, a giant in the leadership circuit, said in 1985 that it is a myth that leaders must be born as. Leaders can be made, he asserted. Yes and no. If it is a position, many skills of a leader can be developed. Communications. Strategic Planning process. Business analysis. Organizational development. Every act of leadership can be made. But not the leadership heart.

A pro speech writer delivers a tool for stirring a following. Given by an excellently made leader, followers carry out the plan of the leader. Delivered by a natural leader, followers carry out as leaders of the plan. The sense of ownership for specific parts the plan is different from if everyone feel they own the plan with specific roles and responsibilities.
It is a myth that leaders can be made, fully. Good enough depends on who is judging.  We are mistaking managers for leaders and leaders for managers. Managers can be trained. They dictate execution to plan. Doing things right.

Leaders should have business management skills. They are different. Imbued in them, from development by the environment and their experiences, are traits that cannot be planted by an external force in a short period of time. They have to be, as the neuro scientists say, wired in. You can train a person in using ‘humble words’ and in acting humbly. It will take an equal amount of time as his age to make him humble. Take integrity. You can train a person to act according to norm and conventions, when people are watching. It is doing the right things, when no one is watching that defines the leader.

Let’s get back to our VIP seats. The football game between Liverpool and BVB.

Leadership Lessons from Shit Happens

“We want to score two or even more.” That was precisely what BVB did. They hit Liverpool with two within 9 minutes. Tuchel clearly had a good plan. He knew the potential of his attackers. And, the flimsiness of the Liverpool defense. They did attack Liverpool ferociously. After the ninth minute goal, Liverpool, the bleeding Reds, were left for dead. It would be a monumental task to overturn such a deficit with a team like Dortmund.

Leadership Lessons

As a manager, Tuchel would have done a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threat) type analysis or a ‘premortem.’ He would have defined the strategy, assigned the roles and responsibilities.
For BVB players to deliver that first half result, it would take more than understanding. If BVB then, was a top 5 team in the world Liverpool had to be at least on par. Their players were well polished professionals too. 

At the PC playing the FIFA game is different. In the arena, you will face well drilled opponents who make split second decisions to turn you, left or right. You must own the plan. You lead yourself. You must also lead your opponent. To fall for your plan. Split second. Skills trained. Spirit developed. Leadership is skills powered by the spirit.

What’s next?

It seemed that at half time Klopp summoned the spirits. He reminded his players of Istanbul.  The 2005 Champions League final. Liverpool trailed AC Milan 0-3 at half time, pipped them to the cup. The victorious Liverpool were not the same players then. Klopp was strengthening their pride of association with the iconic club. He was empowering. “You are as good as the winners of 2005. You can do it. I trust you.”  That was inspiring. A game changer.

Klopp also reached out to the human spirit. He urged
his players to write a triumphant story for their

You can’t read this from a piece of paper. It would be mockery. If it had been prepared at all, the message had to be delivered from the leadership heart. It had to move the most dispirited. 

For that Liverpool team, after the thrashing, to deliver a creditable performance would be a positive for Klopp’s leadership style. For them to do what they did required self-leadership of the player.

True. For a team to do well, leadership should not be exclusive to the person at the top of the pyramid. Everybody leads at their level of the turf. Yet it is critical that there must be an overall leader, influencing, gelling every effort. Looking at the full spectrum. Making tough decisions. Balancing cost to performance.

Lower levels are leaders. Of their responsibility and lookout for colleagues. They must deliver for the team to deliver. However, there must be a lighthouse for everybody and a full span course controller. Otherwise, it could be chaotic. 

Yes, leadership is not exclusive at the top. Everyone is a leader, just the angle of the span is different. For the millennial, in a team, it is hard to envisage a “you lead, I follow” mentality.

So what happened next?

Tuchel had a plan to kill off Liverpool quickly. It was worked in the first half. The only thingy his team was overwhelmed with, “How do you deal with a resurrection?” How do you face whom you left for dead?

Apparently, Tuchel’s initial reaction was, “there are no words to describe this.” In the second half, within 30 minutes, Liverpool drew level at 3-3.
This was how it played out.

Liverpool’s Divock Origi scored at 48th. BVB’s Reus regained the margin at 57th. The midfield wizard, Phillipe Coutinho, narrowed the gap with a goal at the 66th minute. Then, defender Sakho, who had not scored in almost two years, turned one in with his head. This was the 78th minute. 3-3!

It was visible that Dortmund players were shaken Liverpool’s fight back. They lost their composure. Facing of the risen dead.
Instant Insight

The final goal was telling. Even when striker Sturridge was fumbling, the BVB defender could not regain the ball. Instead, the defense, uncharacteristically left a gap for Liverpool skipper, James Milner to dash in for the Sturridge pass.
Milner’s cross connected with defender Lovren’s head for a rare goal. One that destined Dejan Lovren to fame with Liverpool players and fans for generations. 

One that killed Dortmund’s Europa cup dream.
Tuchel and his team knew how to recover. And they came back stronger. Six days after the Anfield catastrophe, BVB went on to beat Hertha Berlin and Hamburg. Both with a 3-0 margin.

This was true leadership. Every leader wants to win with the team every time. Not every leader can win every time. Especially in sports. With a winner, there must be a loser. The dilemma of the true leader is infecting the team with the ‘virus.’ The leadership virus. Moderate the loss. Learn the lessons. Get up and get going. For the bigger vision. A single failure is not fatal. Let’s go again. The results after Liverpool showed that Tuchel found a way to empower his team to win again. No team can win feeling powerless.

Huge, small, minute. You definitely have experienced failures. Or setbacks, if you will. It is unreal, expecting happiness despite difficult circumstances. But, even if you are experiencing a setback, you have the power to choose. The power is present whether you are hungry, sick or mint. This is super power that leaders are ever mindful of. You need not recognize failure as the undertaker. Look at failure as our teacher instead. Leaders teach what they know. Leaders learn what they don’t know. Then they teach. To build leaders and stronger leaders in themselves. A key benefit to teaching is raising your power to influence. A high value leader is not about forcing nor driving, but influencing. A certain charisma would help. A leader who is uncharismatic would have a harder time influencing and sustaining the esprit de corp.

One of the keys to a life of joy and happiness is not to expect that you will not experience unhappiness. Always on happiness is unreal. In fact, a famous psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar thinks that it’s psychopathic to expect happiness every moment. One of the distinctions which separate people who lead (lead as in self leadership) a happy life and those who cannot, is not if they bounce back from a setback, it is when they bounce back. Leadership is moderating a failure, extracting the lessons and building excitement for the next challenge.

Like Tuchel, you and the best leaders of the world must realize that shit happens. Tuchel and BVB have proven that you can lead back stronger, even after a major fail. You can almost smell the scent of strong leadership at BVB, regaining success after a blistering setback in a matter of days. What are the leadership lessons you can learn from a failure to bounce back BVB speed?

Acknowledge the failure. To recover from failures, you have to acknowledge the failing. Failure is not fatal, denial is. To avail to any kind of recuperative therapy, you have to admit the addiction, whether it is drugs or alcohol. However, it is critical that you label it correctly. It is just an event or an experience. It’s already happened. It has passed. It’s over. Don’t let your brain tell you otherwise. The chatterbox that harms you most with good intention is your brain. Drs. Jeffrey Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding, in their book, ‘You are not your brain,’ teach you how to beat deceptive self- messaging in four steps. Leaders know not to play the zero sum game.

Do not give it more clout than it really has. It’s important to keep calm. Like Tuchel. The Mirror wrote, “Plenty of managers would have been furious in the post-match interview, but Tuchel remained calm despite their shocking result.” Tuchel was not plenty of managers. Tuchel led by example. If he had gone haywire, it would have sown fear and uncertainty. The true worth of a leader is exposed during time of crisis. He is a symbol of steadfastness, gloriously leading the team through the storm. You can have a team of leaders at all levels, you need a leader of leaders at the top.

Keeping calm allows you to see what it really is. An event. A result which is below expectation. Deal with it. Case closed. Move on to the next challenge. After victory at Hertha Berlin, Marcus Reus of BVB confirmed that the loss to Liverpool was news read, when he said, “I don’t think Liverpool was in our heads, really.” The Liverpool loss had been dealt with. Three days after Hertha Berlin, Hamburg was on the receiving end of a 3-0 victory. BVB rebounded. 
Liverpool was just another event in another week.
Tuchel and the players at BVB empowered themselves from the loss at Anfield by accepting the result. Leaders are able to separate the performance from the person. The performance was below expectation, they were not. BVB would not have won so soon if the manager and players had not believed in themselves.

Be accountable. Tuchel and BVB dealt with the loss resolutely. A congratulations tweet was sent to Liverpool FC. They accepted accountability. Not a wriggly word about the refereeing, home advantage, rowdiness or the weather. Owning up is about leadership and integrity. Rather, Tuchel’s view was, they have lost like champions. As the leader of leaders, Tuchel found a unique take on the event to empower his team.

At the Reds, Liverpool players took accountability for their poor showing in the first half by turning the table on BVB. Klopp proved as leader of leaders, rallying the upturn despite the difficult circumstance. He demonstrated empathy, a quality to be developed than learn or made, when he was able to press the hot button for his team. “Do it for the grandchildren,” he coaxed.

Drs. Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, in “The Power of Resilience” on dealing effectively with mistakes:
“Resilient people tend to view mistakes as experiences for learning and growth. This does not mean they are overjoyed with mistakes, but rather they are not easily discouraged, instead looking for opportunities that might be a by-product of setbacks.” 

Leadership Lessons

Leaders are resilient people. Tuchel, in his pre-match tee up talked about attacking and taking risks. In the loss, he found opportunity for learning empowerment. “It’s the small details that count, the cross-field passes, the passes into the gaps,” Tuchel noted. He continued, “We were missing the confidence and the presence to calm the game down after they pulled back to 3-2 and to perform against our opponent. At certain point they (Liverpool) were completely driven by emotion.” 

Can leaders be made? Some parts of them. The true leadership heart or spirit can be developed through time.  A long time. Environment and the experiences play a part. You would have to pick a child, like they do in Tibet and develop him or her over time. Are leaders exclusive at the top of the hierarchy? It depends on the span and impact. Rightly, everyone should lead in their own sphere of influence and area of responsibility. However, every team needs a leader of leaders. If everybody is a leader, on equal responsibility and authority, then, nobody is a leader.
The myths about leadership. It depends on who you model as a leader. What type of leadership are we looking at? Leadership by appointment? Leadership as a job? Elected leaders? Embraced leaders? If Buddha is a leader, was he trained in leadership? How about Jesus? Is Trump a leader to emulate? After all, he leads the most advanced nation in the world in many fields? Is Xi a model leader. He is head of the most populous nation. Are Ardern and Tsai great modern leaders? They have proven most effective with the pandemic.

Who is an effective modern day leader? In a post on the Hindustani Times, “Coronavirus is a stress test many world leaders are failing,” the author writes;
“In the age-old debate over whether leaders matter in deciding history, the answer from the first few months of 2020 is a resounding “yes they do,” says Francois Heisbourg, a former official in the French foreign and defense ministries who now advises the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.
He makes a comparison between leadership styles and outcomes;
“The contrast between Johnson’s early counter-virus efforts and those of Germany, led by trained chemist and Chancellor Angela Merkel, is stark. The virus was discovered in both countries at the end of January, but by early March – a time when Johnson was still making a show of shaking hands in crowds - Germany was declaring a protective equipment emergency and was developing tests for mass production. The number of Covid-19 deaths per million inhabitants is now four times as high in the U.K. as in Germany.”
Surely, he will not ignore Trump, “Not so Trump. Across the Atlantic, the crisis supercharged the president’s tendency to dismiss science, politicize the most technical of issues and institutions, and eschew international cooperation. He also muddied any consistent federal role or messaging by imposing himself in some areas while disclaiming responsibility in others, and by diverting attention to other issues with as many as 126 tweets in a day.” The US is leading the world in the number of infections and the number of deaths. It sounds like Trump is proud of the number. He wears the numbers as a ‘badge of honor.’
Leaders. Leadership. What are the myths? It depends on who is talking. Who you are talking about? At the end of it, we will still come back to the first question, “What is Leadership?” We all know some answers. The practice may be different. It’s like comparing magicians. If you do not know anything about magic, everything is…well, magical. If you know magic, then you’ll start looking at the styles.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

You Have Everything to Live With, Do You Have Something to Live For?

"The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but 

finding something to live for." 

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The other day I was struggling with small weeds and tiny wild plants growing along the edge of the walls, concrete structures around my garden. For seasons I had to deal with the back breaking task, pulling the unwelcomed squatters by hand. Cutters and scissors could not reach the base. These intruders were so close to the edge of the vertical walls. Not opting for vicious chemicals, I had to make do with untidy tidying.

You have everything to live with, Do you have something to live for?

That day I decided to rummage my tool box, looking for anything that may relieve me the angst. A straight blade paint scraper caught my attention. It had been left in the tool box for years. There was slight rust forming. Since I repainted my house, it had lost its purpose. It was lying in the tool box, straight, like a decaying corpse. Supposed to die with the death of its purpose.

Since that day, the former paint scraper has been transformed into a garden tool. It cuts those pesky weeds and wild plants clean, thanks to its pliable blade. Its wooden handle regained the shine through frequent handling.

I have found it a new life. I have given it a new purpose. A pivot that saved it from death by corrosion. From being a useless instrument, it is now a tool of choice for gardening. Eureka! I have discovered a new purpose for this old tool. Tools need a purpose to have value. Everything human made has been to serve a need, a purpose.


What about you? Do you need a personal  purpose to live usefully? Yes, no and maybe are all correct answers. Life purpose is not oxygen or water. You can live without it. It is not if you can live without, it is about the way you live without. Don’t worry. You’ll still wake up in the morning. The only difference is; you might not be ‘raring to go.’ You don’t have a compelling driver to. If you do not have a life purpose, and you woke up in the morning raring to go, it might be for a wrong reason. At least, for you.

True. You are energized, powered by a sense of purpose. Someone else’s purpose. Like what I did for my paint scraper, someone would have found you a purpose. Except you would not feel fulfilled at the end of the day, the week, the month or the year. It’s like running on the spot, when you are in a race, feeling engaged but getting nowhere near the exhilaration of crossing the finish line. You kept busy living someone’s purpose. You might enjoy a false sense of contentment. When it counts, when you are down, there is no personal victory to savour. No personal trophies to count. No real fulfilment to lift you up. When you are working on other’s purpose, you are just part of the equation.


     Meet Mel Robbins before you dismiss the important idea of having a life purpose. Mel Robbins, whom I have come to admire as the “attorney for action” is the author of the hard driving book, ‘Stop Saying You’re Fine.’ It is a no nonsense guide to coming unstuck in life. She teaches inner kung-fu, the art and science of seizing the immediate moment to act on your desired change before your dumb and loving brain tells you to stuff it. A fundamental call throughout her book; find your purpose and meaning in life, take action to achieve what you want before your protective brain tells you to cool it.  She says “A sense of purpose is an incredible alarm clock.”

The power of purpose fluctuates accordingly, to the circumstances you are in. From where he felt the power of purpose, legendary psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl thought it was a kiss of life. Frankl carefully recorded how having a life purpose, a meaning to live for, decided who lived or died. He witnessed the phenomena in a Nazi concentration camp where he was prisoner. No laboratory experiment could possibly match the intensity of stress test at Auschwitz, where the will to survive faltered and extinguished for prisoners who had no purpose to cling on. Those who held dear to their inner search for a meaning to life, survived. The survivors were those who had hope of a goal. Those who found an inner meaning to endure the suffering, such as looking forward to their loved ones or finishing a project started before their incarceration, managed to survive despite murderous conditions. Others who had no will to live, no purpose to live with, perished through deteriorating health and even suicide. 


Suicides could have been prevented. Frankl noted, “...it may well be that an individual’s impulse to take his life would have been overcome had he been aware of some meaning and purpose worth living for.”

Even in free society, Frankl noticed the phenomenon of “existential vacuum.” He wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the must- read book for people vacillating on the need for a life purpose, “Not a few cases of suicide can be traced back to this existential vacuum. Such widespread phenomena as depression, aggression and addiction are not understandable unless we recognize the existential vacuum underlying them.”

Nido Qubein, in his motivation book, “Get the Best from Yourself,” shares a story about the tragic suicide of a rich Californian girl.  Her twenty-first birthday cake had 21 candles, each wrapped with a thousand-dollar bill. A few days after the auspicious event, her parents found her body. In one of her hand was a suicide note that said, “You have given me everything to live with, but nothing to live for!” What a parable. ‘Everything to live with, nothing to live for.’ What metaphors.


There are some who believed that just because we are humans, we have a will to survive. And that raw will is enough. We do not need a purpose to live for. Isn’t the will to survive enough to keep us going? Steven Reiss, Ph. D, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the Ohio State University, answers the question pointedly in Chapter 7 of his insightful book, “Who Am I?” The chapter dwells on the concept of value- based happiness, in contrast with feel-good happiness.

He emphasized the case for the need of meaning and purpose in life, rebutting a reader who challenged Reiss and called him ignorant not to recognize that the greatest motive for living is just the will to survive. The professor argued that if it is just the will to live, then, the fundamental motive is maintaining the biological functions to keep the cellular activity going on for as long as possible. This is just like finding value in living while in a state of coma. ‘Living on purpose’ is a state blessed by excitement and empowerment that comes from value-based happiness. Achieved, through finding a meaning in life

You have Everything to live with, Do you have something to live for?


Despite the affluence we are enjoying, the abundance of financial and leisure opportunities, there is a constant yearning for more. Laura Fortgang , a life coach and bestselling author noted in the introduction to her ’90 Days to a New Life Direction; ‘all along what we wanted from the “more” was fulfilment; feeling satisfied and finding meaning.’

A life purpose drives you to do your best work and rewards you a meaningful life. Driven by a sense of purpose, you will do your best work. Purposeful work is often the result of marrying your natural talents and skills with your passions. You will also find the greatest joy in the process. The purpose that you find will naturally be sourced from your pool of personal interests. Your deepest interests will be aligned to your beliefs and values. Work aligned to your beliefs and values gives you meaning and motivation. It will haul you out of bed in the morning in positive anticipation.

Your best work is solving a bigger problem, making a more significant contribution and using your talents and skills, driven by a passion to make an impact on the lives of others. As Laura Fortgang writes about this beautifully, “Today, we are undergoing a switch from measuring ourselves by external factors such as wealth, fame, public image, and jobs that look good, to evaluating ourselves internally by how we feel, by whether we like who we see in the mirror every day, by what we contribute to our communities and how our work impact others.”

When you are doing work aligned to your life purpose, you will be immersed in the process. As Csikszentmihalyi describes it, you are in “the Flow.” You are totally focussed. There is joy and energy. You will be doing your best work. Dopamine, the feel good biochemical is released in your brain. With good work, you will find true pleasure.

A life purpose provides constancy and a unifying sense of direction. Richard Leider writes in ‘The Power of Purpose,’ about a “unifying sense of direction” which can withstand stress, and is actually strengthened by overcoming difficulties.  The author thinks that purpose provides coherence and focus. It has a way of “ordering values and activities around itself.

 It validates relevancy of thoughts and activities, helping you become more effective in living your life, spending time and effort only on stuff that matters. A clear sense of purpose provides a powerful focus that drives you forward despite risks and roadblocks, and even tragedies.

A life purpose helps you to cope with crises. Viktor Frankl’s story details a life of daily stresses and crises within the concentration camp. The will to live was sustained by the strength of the inner meaning, the focus on a life purpose.

 The Atlantic has an article on the impact of life purpose on health. The focus is on Victor Strecher, a professor of health behaviour and health education at University of Michigan School of Public Health. Strecher shared, he lost his sense of purpose in life after the death of Julia, 19, his daughter. It quoted him saying, “The only way I could regain it was to think beyond myself, beyond my grief; get over my ego.” He created an app ‘On Purpose’ to help people find theirs. It is aligned with the finding of Neal Roese, Ph.D, the author of “If Only.” To recover from a tragic loss, you have to have an altruistic purpose, bigger than yourself such as developing the next generations.

Frederick Nietzsche, the German philosopher hit it on the head when he said, “He who has a why can endure anyhow.”

Laura Fortgang a life coach and author of “90 days to A New Life Direction,” agrees. She observes that finding a purpose accelerates progress to healing a major life transition. She also asks, “Would you like to have your outside world better reflect your ideal inner realm? In other words, do you long for peace of mind? And wouldn’t it be nice to stop wondering if there is more you’re meant to do?”  If you have a purpose, you have your most meaningful work cut out. There is no more wondering. You know what to do and you are excited to carry it out. Your life purpose enables focus. You need not prove anything to anyone. You are on a quest to fulfilment. Nobody can tell you how to do it. And when you are at it, you would be totally immersed in “the Flow.” When you are in that state, you are totally immersed in joy. Concentration. Concentration on what gives you the joy. It creates more joy. Sustained joy. A realization engulfs you. ‘Life is worth living.’

A life purpose allows you to experience your ideal self. George Bernard Shaw, the poly math shares his sentiment: “This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself in making you happy.”

       You will probably find a meaningful life purpose in giving rather than getting. Purpose is most energizing when it is bigger than yourself, what you want or what you need. Harnessing your talents and skills, making a contribution to influence a change in your field of passion. It should be “larger than your self-interest” It is not a goal to get something. It is about making a positive contribution to a cause, transcending your personal boundaries.

Laura Fortgang observes that recognizing how you impact other people becomes crucial to moving your life in a more satisfying direction. In her book, she encourages us to think of who you want to be, rather than what you want to be. Think about the difference. And the difference it will make to your thinking.

A life purpose gives you a sense of control over your future. You are doing things that makes you feel good, satisfying your need for control of your lives and your propensity to figure out the ideal future. Dan Gilbert writes in his fabulous book, ‘Stumbling on Happiness;’ “Being effective-changing things, influencing things and making things happen-is one of the fundamental needs with which human brains seem to be naturally endowed, and much of our behaviour from our infancy onward is simply an expression of this penchant for control.”
When you are taking actions aligned, to your talents, skills, passion, values and beliefs, you find fulfilment. When these come together, you experience your ideal self.


“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”
   -John Riskin

You have Everything to Live With, Do you have something to Live for?

In “The Ancestral Mind” Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs notes that altruism is wired in us. He writes in a subchapter, ‘Helping Yourself by Helping Others;’
 “Altruism is the feeling, developed through natural selection that most directly connects us to a cause beyond ourselves.
Too much preoccupation with ourselves can lead to anxiety and depression by increasing concentration on problems; altruism reduces focus on ourselves and serves as a distraction from worries.”

He further notes that altruism has been the ancestral way of life. Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Jacobs shares that rather than plundering each other, our ancestors were more inclined to helping each other to survive. He cites many positives from altruism such as improved positive emotions, improved attitudes and feelings of greater contentment with what we have, increased self-esteem and a sense of well-being by strengthening belief in our own skills and strengths and, last but not least, reduction in anger and social isolation, bolstering social support.

 To achieve real satisfaction and well-being, you must pursue a purpose beyond yourself; to give rather than to get. The purpose statements of these well-known personalities serve as examples of having a “larger than life mission.”
Mother Theresa: “To show mercy and compassion to the dying.”
Oprah Winfrey: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”
Denise Morrison (CEO, Campbell Soup): “To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.
Amanda Steinberg (Founder, Dailyworth.com): “To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.” 

Dr. Jacobs quotes Allan Luks who surveyed thousands of volunteers documenting a phenomenon, the helper's high. This  phenomenal emotion consists of sensations of warmth, increased energy and euphoria. These  positive feelings can lead to long term relaxation and calm. In that same page, he mentions Harvard psychiatrist, George Vaillant's finding that altruism is one of the qualities that helped graduates cope with the stress from life. He studied the participants for 40 years.

It is found in a major study that men who volunteered for community organizations were 250% less likely to die from any cause than men who did not volunteer. This study involve 2,700 residents of Tecumseh, Michigan. Dr. Jacobs also mentions the studies of Drs. David Sobel and Robert Ornstein, the authors of ‘The Healthy mind, Healthy Body Handbook,’ that helping (others) is associated with boosted immune functioning, fewer colds and headaches, and relief from pain and insomnia.

 Experience Corp, a non profit organization which provides academic help, deployed people of 55 years and older to tutor students from kindergarten to third grade. Grades and morale of the students significantly increased. Depression rates of the senior citizen tutors fell. The tutors' mobility, stamina and flexibility increased. Improvements in executive functioning and memory were detected. 

This type of altruism is identified as “generativity” in Dr. Neal Roese’s book. He describes generativity as giving back to the community with a special emphasis on nurturing the younger generation. It was discovered by Dan McAdam that this altruistic effort is a particularly effective antidote to grief from tragedy and loss, with benefits of improved mental health. General life satisfaction score increases. Recent studies back the positive health claims of having a life purpose. Amongst the benefits, researchers claim, having a purpose in life is beneficial to the health of the central nervous system. Patricia Boyle and colleagues at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease centre found that of the 900 older people they followed for seven years, those with a high purpose in life were 50% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.


          Having a life purpose is having an uplifting power from within. It generates the excitement and energy to move you forward, towards your ideal self.  It strengthens your sense of self-worth.
           However, a life purpose is not something to be invented or injected. Finding your purpose requires a process of uncovering. There is a life purpose inside you. You have had a glimpse of it when you were working passionately on a piece of work. It takes intention and mindful effort to uncover it.

          Many leave the uplifting power dormant inside them, not uncovering it and bring it to life. They live in what Frankl described as “existential vacuum.”  It is a state where, in the words of the great psychiatrist, “No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes, he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism).”

       Like everything that has ever been created, all human beings have a purpose. It is either you enjoy the fulfilment of living your purpose or experience drudgery, being sucked into other people’s purpose. Are you living on purpose? Whose?