It has been said, “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.”

I learned firsthand the power of these words and the power of an ancient secret word nearly a decade ago while in Vienna, Austria to meet with the family of Dr. Viktor Frankl, the famed Viennese psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

I began my course of study by walking the very same streets that Viktor had walked for all but three of the ninety-two years of his dignified and purpose-filled life.

The young doctor would spend those other three years far removed from the beauty and tranquility of his beloved Vienna, surviving the horrors and inhumanity of the Nazi concentration camps as prisoner Number 119,104.

To him, those three stolen years paled in comparison to what else the Nazis would take away and destroy: his beautiful bride and unborn child, his brother, his mother, his father, and the manuscript he had devoted his adult life to writing.

I will not forget how I felt as I stood outside the Frankl home, picturing the Nazis coming in the dark silence of the night and turning his haven into his hell, snatching Viktor and his loved ones from their warm beds to send them off in cattle trains to the concentration camps.

How could one choose to be victorious in the midst of such heartbreak and devastation? How could he choose triumph over defeat? Would I be able to approach that kind of courage?

How could Viktor, like Anne Frank, choose to believe in the goodness of mankind after what he had experienced?

Those answers are in the book that he wrote in nine successive days after his ordeal had ended. A book that would be recognized as one of the most influential books ever written: Man’s Search for Meaning.

In the book he writes: “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.”

Despite his circumstances, he chose meaning, responsibility, and contribution. By choosing to be “worthy of his suffering,” he proved that we each have the capacity to rise above our outward fate by walking the dignified path.

Stripped of possessions, every familiar piece of life snatched away, everything of value or worth destroyed, dehumanized and treated as if he were the smallest of the small, forced to suffer pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue almost more than one can suffer without dying, the man who had become a number became a person.

Viktor, aptly named, chose to be a “victor,” not a “victim.” He discovered humanity in the empty face of inhumanity; he found hope amid a vast sea of hopelessness. In the face of overwhelming resistance, he refused to treat himself, or others, small.

An Unexpected Gift

On my final night in Vienna, while searching the alleys and side streets for special gifts for loved ones back home, I was completely unaware that the path I was following would lead to the discovery of one of the most meaningful gifts of my life.

This gift would come packaged in the form of a word, a secret word with the power to transform one’s life forever.

The giver of the gift was Pravin Cherkoori, a world-renowned artist and middle-aged proprietor of the INDIA fabric store positioned at the very focal point of picturesque Vienna, less than a hundred cobbled steps for the majestic St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

The window display in the front of the store reminded me of a jewelry box. The light reflecting off the luminous silks and colorful linens caught my eye and tugged at my heart. I entered the store in hopes of finding the perfect fabric for my daughter Season’s wedding dress.

When Pravin learned that I was an author who researched and wrote about the “power of words” and that I had just spent the week with Viktor Frankl’s family, he leaped toward me with the bounding energy of someone half his age and placed his hand on my shoulder.

As he came near, I was completely taken by his large brown eyes. His face was round, and his pearl white teeth accentuated his smooth, chocolate-colored skin. Pravin smiled with a subtle wink, tilted his head, and said in proper and precise English, “I have a word I wish to teach you.” His voice had the disarming soft intonation of one who had come from the country of his store’s name: India.

He continued, “My mother taught me many great things. One of the most important was the meaning of an ancient tribal word from India.”

He now had my complete and undivided attention.

“In the West, you might call this charity,” Pravin went on. “But I think you’ll find this word has a deeper meaning.”

What word could have more depth than charity? I thought.

Speaking deliberately, almost reverently, he continued as if he were revealing a sacred secret.

“The word is Genshai,” he said. “It means that you should never treat another person in a manner that would make them feel small.”

I pulled out my leather journal and wrote the salient word Genshai (pronounced GEN-shy) and its meaning as taught by my newfound friend.

Pravin continued, “As children, we were taught to never look at, touch, or address another person in a way that would make them feel small. If I were to walk by a beggar in the street and casually toss him a coin, I would not be practicing Genshai. But if I knelt down on my knees and looked him in the eye when I placed that coin in his hand, that coin became love. Then and only then, after I had exhibited pure, unconditional brotherly love, would I become a true practitioner of Genshai.”

Chills ran up and down my spine as I sat speechless, reflecting on the power of what I had just heard. One word could change the world for the better. Words are like passwords. They unlock the power. They open the door. Genshai. That single word contained as much depth as any lesson or sermon I had ever heard. Genshai means that you never treat anyone small—and that includes myself!

My Journal Thoughts on Genshai

The way I treat myself reflects the way I treat others.

When I treat myself with dignity and respect, it will be reflected in the way I treat others. If I treat myself with disdain and contempt, that will be reflected in the way I treat others.

I don’t see the world as it is. I see the world as I see myself.

Remember what James Allen wrote in As a Man Thinketh:

“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”

I have divinity within me. I have greatness within me. I attract into my life that which I believe I am.

“Believe” means to be love. When I believe in myself, I love myself. When I love myself, I treat myself with respect. “Spect” is to look at. “Re” is back. “Respect” is to look back at.

I will write the secret word Genshai on a piece of paper and put it on the bathroom mirror. Each day, I will look in the mirror with love, honor, and respect. From this day on, I will commit to living a magical, extraordinary life.

Abundance is my birthright. I need to think abundantly. It’s time to release the potential within. It’s time to begin my own heroic journey.

As I reflect Genshai to myself, the world will reflect it back.

Comments and Insights on Living Genshai

In the comment section, I have three powerful questions for your reflection and insight.

1. What’s the single biggest “Aha” you experienced from reading this blog post?

2. Who do you know whose behavior best reflects the principles of Genshai and why?

3. How can being more purposeful and intentional with words impact your world?

You are an unrepeatable miracle. Your experiences and insights are truly unique. As you travel on your journey, recognize that the footprints you leave on your path are as unique as the path you are walking. Your clear and concise comments are invaluable to those who appear on your path, for “when we hold a lantern to light the pathway of our brother or sister, we see more clearly our own.”

Sharing your comments and insights abundantly and authentically supports and serves thousands of others in our community, and they come back to benefit you many times over, for we do receive what we desire for others. Emerson called it “one of the beautiful compensations of this life, for you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself.”

Share to serve. Share to learn. Share to grow.

Thank you for reading and sharing and allowing me to share and contribute.


Kevin Hall

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi

Kevin Hall is a highly sought after business consultant, speaker, coach, and author on the subjects of sales, goal achievement, and living a life of purpose and intention. His international bestselling book Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose through the Power of Words is the highest rated personal development book in the history of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To learn more, visit Kevin’s website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

*Photo Credit: Cesar R. via Compfight cc