The meaning of ‘meaning’

Prof, you write quite often, “As in life, so in business.” What exactly do you mean by that?

It has to do with quality of life and meaning. Not the philosophical question of the meaning of life, but more specifically, what is our potential as we spend time in all our endeavors?

Most people think meaning is inherent in the world because we “feel” it. Not so. Meaning is something we make up about something.

Romantic movies may “mean” something entirely different to you than your date. “Family” conjures up all sorts of different meanings for people. The value of a tree means something else to a lumberjack than it does a painter or environmentalist (or a bird!). 

For many, life’s meaning revolves around anything but work, and to others, work is everything. Either way, any moment that slips away because it doesn’t measure up to the “meaning” we made up is not a moment we get back. We can change this at any time. It’s all how we choose to control our state of mind. 

The best example comes from Viktor Frankl who wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning.” While in Nazi death camps where his parents, siblings and pregnant wife perished, Frankl, a psychiatrist, discovered how one could cope with things, find meaning in them and move forward with renewed purpose.

“As in life, so in business” refers to the notion we can live every moment with purpose and freedom and joy. 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl


This business advice column speaks to the soulful side of business. It is designed for companies and individuals that want to excel, stand out, and realize ROWM: A Return on What Matters. It is based on the book from the business superhero The Profit Prophet. Please send your questions (may be anonymous) to [email protected].