Daily Quote and Reflection: My thoughts about Eric Hoffer’s Approach to Problem Solving and Finding Opportunities

Daily Quote and Reflection: “In human affairs every solution serves only to sharpen the problem, to show us more clearly what we are up against. There are no final solutions.” Eric Hoffer, An American Moral and Social philosopher and Longshore man.  


Hoffer spent most of his life living on the edge of poverty and powerlessness in California, working as a longshoremen and writing his observations of American life from and moral and social sense of a blue-collar worker living in San Francisco. His first book, “The True Believer”, was an immediate classic and stamped him as a most original thinker of his generation. . “The True Believer” is Hoffer’s observations on mass movements and fanaticism. Nazism, Communism, socialism, and early religious movements were topics that this classic book examined and critiqued with scrupulous research and poignant observations. Owing to a life lived mostly in poverty; Hoffer’s comments on the dysfunction of ideology and the human condition are particularly astute. Hoffer’s life was full of obstacles: blindness, loss of his parents at an early age, growing up in a new country without access to education, a lifetime of manual labor and subsistence wages. And yet, this self-educated man has left an indelible mark on all that have read his writings and consider his brilliant thoughts on a wide range of cultural, philosophical and political topics.

I discovered Hoffer, when as a Sophomore at Michigan State University, when assigned in a Sociology class to read  “The True Believer”, I did not realize the lasting effect it would have on my life. Hoffer observed that the struggle to survive, at its most basic level, offered the best promise of a lifetime of meaning and fulfillment. The man who must work, must harvest, must create is most satisfied. Man with too much time on his hands spend most of their time in regret and criticism.

Hoffer’s most prescient observations: “It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities” and that  the actions and mind of juveniles’   is similar to the mentality of “true believers”. Both groups seem eager to throw away their identities in favor of a cause–any cause that caught their imagination and fancy for attention and immediate gratification.  For the last 45 years, I have read and re-read “The True Believer” many times .  Each time I pick up this amazing work I learn something new, fresh perspectives and concepts that I can apply today.

Self-Coaching Challenge: In what ways are you stuck or still acting like an immature adolescent? What changes are you willing to make to become more independent and responsible in your personal and professional life? How do you turn obstacles and setbacks in your life into opportunities?

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