All of us are born with a basic goodness…people are truly good at heart. How can Anne, in the midst of World War II, with all the mayhem it brought especially to the Jewish community to which she belonged, maintain this ennobling view of human nature? What might we gain if we expand our heart in the same way?
Of course, many people were not behaving in noble ways in her time, and Anne is not blind to that. But she still sees the untapped potential in people to grow and reform themselves.
How noble and good everyone could be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day and, after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal.
In a world exploding with complexity, when we feel overcommitted and have no time on our hands, Anne has offered us such a simple model to develop our character. An army of behavioral scientists in modern times would applaud her for this insight into the psychology of personal growth.
While Anne zestfully plays the role of the protagonist on the stage of her life, she is also increasingly stepping on the balcony to observe, critique and direct herself. She is, as Yogananda would have described it, “in the world, but not of the world.”
In everything I do, I can watch myself as if I were a stranger. I can stand across from the everyday Anne and, without being biased or making excuses, watch what she’s doing, both the good and the bad.
How often do you and I step above the fray to coach ourselves from a place of calm, dispassionate observation? Would we become better at taming those impulses that get us in trouble if we build this self-regulating mechanism within our mind?
She develops an understanding of the inner source of happiness.
I don’t have much in the way of money or worldly possessions, I’m not beautiful, intelligent or clever, but I’m happy, and I intend to stay that way! I was born happy, I love people, I have a trusting nature, and I’d like everyone else to be happy too…Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you are pure within, and that you will still find happiness.
Are you and I clear about the relative role money, worldly possessions, beauty, intelligence, fearlessness and purity are playing in creating lasting happiness in our lives?
She wishes to bring the same understanding to others – not of what treasures await them on the outside, but of what treasures await them on the inside. To Peter, the son of the van Daans, she counsels:
Peter, as long as people feel that kind of happiness within themselves, the joy of nature, health and much more besides, they’ll always be able to recapture that happiness. Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your own heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there, as long as you live, to make you happy again.
Whenever you’re feeling lonely or sad, try going to the loft on a beautiful day and looking outside. Not at the houses and the rooftops, but at the sky. As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know that you’re pure within and will find happiness once more.
When was the last time you and I looked fearlessly at the sky to know that we are pure within?
Her two years in the Annex lead to much self-discovery. The more she writes, the more clarity she seems to gain on what her outer purpose is meant to be.
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!
How deep are the inner dives you and I do to tease out the intuitive wisdom at our core about what we are meant to manifest in the world?
How much have you and I explored our core…our purer, deeper and finer side…the one that takes the stage when we are alone…the one that is happy on the inside?
Three days after the final passage, a car pulled up at the building with the Secret Annex. The Gestapo found and arrested Anne and her fellow residents. Anne, her sister and mother died in concentration camps over the next few months, along with the van Daans, just as the Allied forces had begun to liberate Europe. Anne’s father survived, returned to Amsterdam, found her diary and arranged for its publication.
If you have read this article to this point, then I know, dear Reader, that you will join me in sending this thought to her. Anne, thank you for your life, for your struggles, strivings and growth, and most of all for the purity you preserved deep down within. We want you to know that you have, just as you wished, been useful and brought enjoyment to all people, even those you never met. You have gone on to live even after your death.
Anne’s greatest gift to future generations may be to show us, through her own journey, what each of us is capable of. She once wrote, “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
Who would have thought that in the twilight hours of this tumultuous year, a thirteen-year-old girl from 1940’s Amsterdam would leap out of her diary straight into our hearts, showing, through her 25-month sojourn in a Secret Annex, how much purpose, wisdom, love, growth and self-realization we can all nurture even in the midst of our pandemic lives?
Note: Anne Frank was thirteen when she and her family were forced into hiding in 1942 in a Secret Annex of a building in Amsterdam to escape the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany. She lived in that confined space with her parents, sister, and four other people for two years, writing about her experiences and reflections in her diary, before the residents were finally found and arrested. Anne Frank’s Diary was published after the end of World War II and continues to receive international acclaim.
(Editor’s Note: This article is condensed from a piece on Professor Wadhwa’s site. To read to full version click here)
Hitendra Wadhwa is Professor of Practice at Columbia Business School and Founder of the Mentora Institute, Hitendra has coached dozens of Fortune 100 C-suite executives and taught 10,000+ MBAs and Executives. His class on Personal Leadership & Success is one of the most popular at Columbia Business School, for which he has won the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Hitendra’s mission is to discover, codify and teach the laws of success in life and leadership. His research integrates the latest science of human nature, ancient wisdom, studies of great leaders, and the personal journeys of everyday heroes. Hitendra brings a mathematician’s rigor and a truth-seeker’s spirit to some of today’s most vexing questions about authenticity, success, leadership, human potential, and more.
Hitendra is the founder of Mentora Institute, which is at the forefront of creating a new model of leadership for the 21st century that is agile, authentic, and attainable, where executives achieve ever-growing Outer Impact through ever-deepening Inner Mastery.