Man's Search For Meaning Review as a Startup Founder


Recently my close friend Doug Gould recommended a book that I finished about 5 weeks ago. Excellent read. 

I took comprehensive notes, but only now decided to write about it. Man's Search for Meaning is a global bestseller and famous for being the book that inspired Tony Robbins to become a coach.

Purpose and Drive

Viktor Frankl wrote this book during his years at several concentration camps in Nazi Germany. It's about human nature, coping with suffering, survival, but mostly, it's about finding purpose and coping with adversity, but definitely not a self-help book (nothing against them, by the way). The elements of his theory called logotherapy are great fundamentals for surviving as a founder.

When Nietzsche said "He who has a why can bear with almost any how", he was probably was not thinking about hackers and product builders, but one can certainly relate.  

My grandfather was my first real mentor. The reason I ended up in tech is mostly due to him and he doesn't even own a smartphone. That said, he always reinforced the importance of skilled knowledge combined with a  fearless attitude. "With that life can take away everything and you would still have enough to rebuild yourself", he used to say. Viktor touches that aspect of the book multiple times, how the ones that survived were the ones that knew that the experience of the camp would serve a purpose. Mentally they never gave up. 

We have so much power, even when we are powerless. Believe me, I've worked for many poor managers in my life and I've always had the choice of either reacting in a positive grateful way (by using my time and focus on other projects) or being resentful and angry with my current situation.

Entrepreneurs must get used to the "default NO's" from society. We must be built to last.

“There were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.”

— Viktor Frankl

When trying to summarize what provides us purpose in life, Frankl listed 3 of the main logotherapy principles:

1. Creating a work or doing a deed 

For founders, this is probably the easiest one to relate with. Creating something from scratch and seeing it come to life is probably one of the most satisfying things in life. Either when it's an app, service, or hardware. I'm sure that musicians get off of that as well (I did when we had our high school band). On higher ground, this is about leaving a legacy in the world, about surpassing our imminent fear of death and becoming immortal through high impact work. 

2. By experiencing something or encountering someone

Love. Nothing like feeling appreciated and loved by others. I've recently started a relationship with a very special woman and although we are many miles away from each other, this immense feeling of joy is there every time we interact. 

3. The attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering

I haven't met anyone in life that has achieved something that is worth doing without some level of pain. Overcoming adversity is all about how you react to what happens in your life. 


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