I Want to Take You Higher

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Viktor Frankl addressing the Toronto Youth Corps in May 1972

Business has become incredibly sophisticated. We have phenomenal technology and analytical tools as well as proven frameworks and methodology. Our ability to use science and reason has taken a significant amount of guesswork out of decision-making.

In addition, the number of college graduates in the U.S. workforce grew from 29 million in 1993 to 40.6 million in 2003. The number of college graduates who completed degrees in more than one broad field also increased from 3.4 million in 1993 to 5.6 million in 2003.

We are smarter, better, faster (cue the Six Million Dollar Man theme song).

Yet we still struggle to manage the human side of change or to have a conversation with an employee about job performance. It just goes to show you that intellect alone cannot improve our organizations.

I wonder whether it is because we have forgotten to put first things first: compassion, meaning, purpose. These, too, are the tools of great leaders.

The single-minded pursuit of financial return above everything else has given us . . . financial return. We got it, and now we can’t buy with it what we want to buy. We have pursued immediate gains while waving the flag of rational, practical decision-making. And in retrospect, we have made anything but rational, practical decisions.

The trouble with being rational is that it focuses too much on what is. And “what is” keeps us stuck in the weeds. Instead, we should be irrational dreamers focused on what can be because “what can be” raises our sites and lifts us higher.

In the above video from 1972, legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl delivers a powerful message about the human search for meaning — and a most critical way of approaching our work with others. Frankl says,

“If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. If we over estimate him and look at him higher, we promote him to what he really can be. We have to be idealists. If you don’t recognize man’s search for meaning, you make him worse, you make him dull, you make him frustrated. There must be a spark of a search for meaning. Let’s recognize it. Let’s presuppose it, then you will illicit it and you will make him become what he is principally capable of becoming.”

Take it higher . . .

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