This is part 2 of a two part series. To read Part 1 CLICK HERE
The “Will To Meaning”
What do you stand for? Can your friends trust you? Can you trust yourself? Do you know what you want your life to mean? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
The great psychologist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl believed that the highest motivational drive of all humans is what he called the “will to meaning.” In other words, we humans strive towards meaning in our lives and without that meaning we are essentially alone at sea, treading water, completely at the whims of the circumstances of life.
Here are three of my favorite quotes by Frankl. (If you have not read his life changing book, Man’s Search For Meaning, it is a must read)
- “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedomsâ€”to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
- “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”
- “Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
Frankl was, as you can see, a champion of the GC. It is remarkable to think he developed this perspective after surviving four concentration camps and losing his entire family (except his sister) to the Holocaust. It is hard to imagine a more difficult trial of suffering.
You might wonder why I am bringing up “life meaning” at this point? Because your chosen meaning for your life is what you must remain true to. Meaning is not something you find; it is something you choose; something you consciously create. Ownership is first and foremost about owning your meaning.
Once you choose the meaning for your life you are no longer alone at sea without a direction to swim. Instead you are given a boat and provided a lighthouse on the shore.
The Honor Code
Do you have an honor code? Probably not. Most people don’t. And if you do, it’s probably borrowed. Maybe a religious belief or an adoption of your parents way of being? That is not what I am talking about. Those types of honor codes often mean little because they don’t come from the person themselves. That is why they are so often broken. A true honor code is built based on what you have decided you stand for.
You are nothing without your word. If you don’t know what YOU stand for, you have no chance of mastering the ownership super-power. Without an honor code, a set of guiding principles for yourself that define how you will behave, your life will be devoid of meaning and your choices will lack follow through.
Let me give you a trivial example from the world of health and fitness, a world I have taught in for 25 years. If I tell you I am “going on a diet” and you see me crushing a box of donuts, what do you think? I lose all credibility in your mind don’t I?
You may not realize this, but your brain is watching your behavior too. If you say I will do this or that and then behave in direct opposition, your own brain says “you’re so full of shit.” You feel this lack of integrity to your core and your brain is no longer an ally. It’s doesn’t believe you. You don’t even believe yourself.
An honor code fixes that. Part of our human struggle comes from our lack of certainty about who we are and what we want. You don’t get to feel solid and sure if you are just “winging it.”
Life requires real choices and real sacrifice. If you want an amazing career you need to plan to leave your current one. If you want real love, you need to be vulnerable, get over your fear/hurts and choose who you want. With all things in life you need to decide and act. You need to take ownership over your life.
No one is going to figure that out for you and no amount of blaming or complaining is going to fix an uncertain, confused and scared mind. Ownership is the only antidote.
Writing down your truth, who you are and what you stand for, is the honor code. It is what you must own above all else. It is one of the most powerful things you can do. Here is an example of an honor code. It is the code I wrote several years ago during some rough times. It has been my lighthouse ever since:
“I am a warrior. I hold it down for my friends, keep my word to myself and carry any pain without blame, complaint or self-pity. I know I can generate happiness for myself in an instant through a warm gesture, a generous act or a forced, but real, laugh or smile. I am honest but never cruel. You can trust what I say. I will communicate clearly exactly how I feel. You’ll never have to guess. Kindness is my religion, honesty my practice and generosity my action. But I am a warrior, I do have limits and strong boundaries. I do not associate with rude, mean, greedy or selfish people. I loathe bias, self-righteousness, gossip, extremism and dogma, despite as a human I know I struggle with them too. The desire for fame is a sickness I have little tolerance for. I believe true beauty does not require attention. I avoid the emotionally selfish. I give freely and never keep score. I will call out racism if I see it. I do not tolerate lies, by omission or otherwise, and will walk away and never look back if a friend insists on lying to me. I am grateful for my struggles, hopeful about the future and willing to sacrifice everything for those I love and the things I stand for. You owe me nothing. True love does not ask for reciprocation.”
Your honor code is about your truth. It is about personal transcendence. It’s your lighthouse when the seas of life get rough and throw you out of balance. And it is built on the ownership of mostly one thing. Honesty.
There is no use constructing an honor code if you are a liar. And, as it turns out, lying is a natural default state of the human brain. So, in a sense we are all liars. Admitting this to yourself is the first step in beating it.
Owning the truth
We humans are liars. We all are. This is not meant as a judgment or reprimand. Hell, I am too. Not only do we purposely lie & exaggerate, but we also justify our lies & convince ourselves they are true.
Our brain makes it so we are unaware of our own behavior. You have no doubt experienced this with friends or family who manufacture a truth you know to be false. This is one of the more curious aspects of human behavior.
The question is why do we do it? Two major reasons:
- we want to be liked above all else
- we don’t know our own truths ourselves.
We want to be liked above all else? Yes. This drive is built into our survival system. Because of this we can find ourselves exaggerating things, manufacturing interests or telling outright lies about who we are and what we do.
We don’t know our own truths ourselves? Yes. This is so common. Have you ever asked someone why they did something, only to find their frustration or temper rise when they explain “I don’t know!!”
Have you ever wanted so badly to know someone’s reasons behind their actions, or their internal thoughts, only to discover they don’t actually know their own truth themselves?
When you see contradiction like this, suspect they have spent little time in self-reflection in their lives, are likely part of the VC and are amateurs in the ownership superpower.
Lying is at the root of so much interpersonal conflict, but it is also the cause of so much personal confusion & despair. What is wrong with telling someone exactly how you feel? Giving them all the information (the best you currently know it), and letting them make up their own minds what it means about you and them?
I have come to see this kind of honesty as the greatest gift you can give a friend. More importantly it is the greatest gift you can bestow upon yourself and the first stepping stone to mastering the ownership superpower.
By not being honest you rob other people from really knowing who you are and you rob yourself of the freedom to be understood and loved for who you really are. Honesty is the one thing that must be a part of your honor code if you hope to master ownership. Ownership of your truth comes before you can take responsibility for anything else in your life.
When you know the truth, speak the truth. Refuse to have anyone in your close circle who lies to you. When you are told the truth, even when it hurts, choose to see it through the lens of the GC. Own the lesson the truth reveals so you can grow.
A lie, including lies of omission, are a boundary those who have mastered ownership do not allow others to cross. You must realize that you help no one by making shit up. When you lie you deny others access to your truth never allowing them to truly know you at all. Lying is the exact opposite of ownership and responsibility.
There are some three things I suggest you adhere to as you master the craft of truth. These are rules I live by related to honesty:
- Kindness and honesty are not mutually exclusive. Honesty without compassion is cruelty. Always strive for honesty that includes empathy, non-judgement and kindness
- Truth is often shaded by perception. Your truth may not be THE truth. Stay open-minded to alternatives to your truth.
- The truth of others, that does not concern you, is none of your business. Volunteering your truth when it is not asked for, necessary or welcome is a form of selfishness.
Constructing your honor code
The idea of an honor code is foreign to many, but it is THE most critical aspect of the ownership power. Let me show you how to create it.
First, I want you to think of the top five to ten people you most admire in your life. This is a “hero list.” These can be friends, family, peers, and historical figures. If you are having trouble finding any, you can use fictional characters from a favorite book or movie.
Here are mine to give you an idea: Nelson Mandela, Bruce Lee, my father, Martin Luther King, Mohatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali, my mother, Morpheus (from the movie the matrix).
Next, I want you to write down the one to three characteristics these people represent to you that you admire. Don’t think too much just write down the words that come to your mind. Do this for each of them. Mine breaks out like this:
· Nelson Mandela: resilience, integrity, selfless, communicator
· Bruce Lee: warrior, creator, action, teacher
· My father: kindness, generosity, humility
· My Mother: kindness, generosity, selfless, teacher
· Gandhi: integrity, resolve, humility
· Ali: warrior, confidence, action
· Morpheus: foresight, selfless, conviction
· Martin Luther King: acceptance, humility, conviction, communicator
Third, I want you to compile the words you see repeated most often. For me it is kindness, generosity, warrior, action, selfless, integrity, humility.
Finally, I want you to imagine you are a fly on the wall at your own funeral. As the eulogy is given, I want you to think about the ways you would like to be remembered. What do you want your legacy to be. Write 5 to 10 words or phrases that most represent how you would like to be described. For me it goes like this:
- He was a possibility thinker. He was not afraid to go after what he beleived
- He had a rare combination of refreshing honesty and extreme kindness
- He valued memories and meaning over money
- The most generous person I ever met
- He was humble and grateful
- I never met anyone so brave in the pursuit of their dreams
- He loved me for exactly who I was. He made me feel special
Now, based on the words you compiled from your hero list and the phrases you chose from the eulogy exercise, write a small paragraph that sums up the person you are now declaring yourself to be. Add any language you feel especially speaks to you. In my honor code you will see that suffering without complaint shows up in a very strong way. As does honesty. These things speak to me at a very deep level, so they are a key focus. Also, boundaries show up heavily. This was a challenge for me in the past.
Here is my honor code one more time:
“I am a warrior. I hold it down for my friends, keep my word to myself and carry any pain without blame, complaint or self-pity. I know I can generate happiness for myself in an instant through a warm gesture, a generous act or a forced, but real, laugh or smile. I am honest but never cruel. You can trust what I say. I will communicate clearly exactly how I feel. You’ll never have to guess. Kindness is my religion, honesty my practice and generosity my action. But I am a warrior, I do have limits and strong boundaries. I do not associate with rude, mean, greedy or selfish people. I loathe bias, self-righteousness, gossip, extremism and dogma, despite as a human I know I struggle with them too. The desire for fame is a sickness I have little tolerance for. True beauty does not require attention. I avoid the emotionally selfish. I give freely and never keep score. I will call out racism if I see it. I do not tolerate lies, by omission or otherwise, and will walk away and never look back if a friend insists on lying to me. I am grateful for my struggles, hopeful about the future and willing to sacrifice everything for those I love and the things I stand for. You owe me nothing. True love does not ask for reciprocation.”