Tag Archives: viktor frankl

Life with an Exclamation Mark

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I took this picture in a little house in South Mississippi thirteen years ago before my daughter Hillary’s first day of kindergarten at Magnolia Park Elementary. Three years later, Katrina did shameful things to that little house, but this picture survives and brings its own flood of memories.

Yesterday, Hillary graduated from Malibu High School, and I am a proud and thankful dad.

You may recognize me from the NA (“Nostalgics Anonymous”) meetings, but I am not a sad nostalgic. Instead of asking What happened to my little girl?, I choose to say Look what happened to my little girl! The punctuation is important. Approaching life with a joyful exclamation mark is preferable to a despondent question mark.

As a nostalgia-holic, I began rummaging through old computer files and stumbled across a journal entry from when Hillary was six years old:

Recently, I was snuggling up with Hillary on the couch, tickling her and playing, her infectious giggle in steady use. I said something about her being my angel, and then I feigned seriousness and asked her, “Are you an angel, or are you just a regular human being?” She giggled her honest response, “I don’t know.” After a moment of playful reflection, she added, “I feel like a regular human being.”

I’m still not convinced but am as proud today as ever.

Whatever the marker in life—from first days to last days and all the big days in between—I side with Viktor Frankl in saying that although Attitude is a required course in life, there are several from which we get to choose. Instead of weeping for days long gone or frustrated longing for days yet to come, I choose to celebrate life’s markers with wide-eyed wonder.

Look what happened to my little girl!

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Introducing: Starting to Look Up

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
– Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Things are really starting to look up.

Check it out: I live with my beautiful wife in Malibu, California. We have two amazing daughters who are making their way in this world, and we are proud of them. We both work at Pepperdine University, where I have the honor of serving as Dean of Students at the School of Law. My job connects me to a phenomenal community of faculty, staff, and students who are already changing the world

There is another way to look at things I guess. Malibu is not cheap. I work too many hours. Law school is a stressful environment. Our daughters are no longer little girls. My parents are no longer alive. My hair is no longer with me, and my body seems to remind me on a daily basis that we aren’t on the upswing anymore.

But I fully believe in the wise counsel of Holocaust survivor and Jewish psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, who taught us that nobody can steal our collective ability to choose an attitude in any set of circumstances. If you are skeptical, imagine trying his circumstances on for size.

The law students I serve have this dilemma in spades. They have the tremendous opportunity to study law in Malibu and pursue a most noble profession that offers power and influence. They also work like crazy with looming fears of failure, bar exams, debt, and difficult job prospects.

This blog is my attempt to help all of us, law students along with anyone else in the neighborhood, to work on the attitude choice in our given sets of circumstances.

“Emerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot, and look up. My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom.”
– Anne Lamott

Things are really starting to look up, and so am I.