Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy teaches, “…there are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life.” He goes on to explain that work, love, and the opportunity to rise above personal tragedy can lead one to meaning. 

Triumph over tragedy was the topic of Jocko podcast 201. In this episode, Jocko Willink talks with Ryan Manion, co-author of The Knock at the Door: Three Gold Star Families Bonded by Grief and Purpose. 

In their discussion, Jocko reads from the book and discusses how Ryan overcame the grief of losing her brother to combat. “The single greatest key to resilience is setting intentional goals. Achieving goals that have deep meaning to us will bring us far more happiness. When we set goals that have meaning outside of our own selfish ends we discover it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”

This podcast had a profound impact on me. Reeling from the unexpected and sudden death of my 25 year old son, I was feeling utter despair and hopelessness. Ryan’s story brought me back to my own journey. My journey is not about me, it’s about bringing meaning to others. By focusing on the needs of others, I can focus on something beyond my grief. 

In the opening of the podcast Jocko describes that Manion’s book provides a perspective of pain and anguish, but also of surviving and moving forward through the pain to a place of pride and purpose. The timing of this podcast was truly serendipitous. I listened to it in the gym trying to destroy my grief with just one more tearful repetition on the bench. 

As I listened, I realized that grief would forever be a part of my journey, but my journey must continue. My journey continues with pride for my son. As I gathered with his friends and family members to celebrate his life, I was reminded of his intelligence, wit, artistry, and loving compassion for others. I also continue with a renewed purpose to honor my son by offering more compassion to others. 

I am deeply thankful to be at the crossroads where the trinity of meaning as described by Frankl meet. I have deeply meaningful work to return to, loving friends and family that comforted me through this experience, and the opportunity to rise above this personal tragedy. I return to my work with an intention to focus on being a meaning-centered leader, and with a humble hope that I am remembered for my compassion to those in need, as was my son Trevor. 

I also return with the knowledge that our American Warriors and their families have endured gut wrenching loss with pride and poise. Someone close to me who also lost a child, called to comfort me. She explained that I was now a member of the club that no one wants to join. Certainly none of Gold Star Families wanted to join that club, but they have done so and moved forward with pride and purpose. I can do no less. 

On this Veterans Day I hope our Gold Star Families take solace in the prayers offered by their grateful nation’s salute, and I hope they rise above their tragedy to find meaning in their lives.