Monday, February 17, 2014

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

"What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and
hourly. Our question must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." Viktor Frankl

This weekend I had a long trip to/from Atlanta.  Along with way I put in one of my brainy books.  It was a book about psychological and mans search for meaning (this book was sure to put Bonnie into a deep coma sleep). 

Sometimes you need to read a "brainy book" in order to
prepare to take over the world!!

I know you are asking, "why do you put this into a athletic blog?! Has Mr Half TRIing officially lost his mind?!" Bear with me..

The book was "Man's Search For Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy" by Viktor Frankl.  Before I bore you to death, let me tell you this book has sold 10 million copies and has been translated into 24 languages.  The Library of Congress says this books belongs to a list of "the ten most influential books in the United States."

Quick summary, "Man's Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. (Wikipedia)"

Parts of the book are very interesting and some of it was a little dry but all of it was mind opening and I highly recommend you pick up the audio book.  It's only 4 hours and you can bear through it.

What we do as endurance athletes is unique.  People do not understand why or how we do what we do.  How do we get up every morning in freezing or blistering hot weather to swim, bike and/or run?  Why do we do races that last 16 hours?  Why and do we suffer through all the pain?

In this book Viktor Frankl describes what it took for concentration camp inmates to survive in Auschwitz.  Basically he said those who had a reason to live could bear through anything.  Those who could not find meaning slipped into death.  Each individual needed to determine their reason to live (at that moment).  Once they fould the reason they could bear the suffering.  Friedrich Nietzsche summarized this when he said, "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." 

I am not comparing athletes to the suffering of concentration camp inmates but through their suffering we can learn a lot about life.  Frankl was a psychologist (and also an inmate) who saw that prisoners who had a "why" to live could bear all the "hows."

Frankl argues that the meaning of life is an individual thing and it can change at any given time.  As long as you have a meaning to life you can suffer through anything.

When we athletes set a goal (our why) we can bear any "how."  My current "why" is my first Ironman and over the next several months I can bear almost any "how."

What you is your current "why?"  It does not need to be an athletic goal.  But everyone needs a "why."  Without a "why" it will be very hard to suffer through all the "hows."


  1. Sometimes I think I live under a rock. How have I never even heard about that book? It sounds very interesting to me and I can see the correlation you are talking about with endurance athletes....certainly doesn't come close to what those people endured, but I understand what you are trying to say.

    1. It was a sometimes dry but great book. The auther uses the inmates as an extreme example of his theory. His theory is used to treat may psychological issues. Basically you have to have a reason or goal to live. If you do, you can suffer through anything or figure out how to achieve it. Without one you will be very depressed or split into a void. He provides many examples of this throughout the book.

      I highly recommand reading or listening to the audiobook. It is a must read book. It will change your outlook on life.


    2. the book sounds fascinating...

      my why? to become a bike racer at 46...