The Day I Found Meaning at the Royal Marines

Arnoud Franken
3 min readFeb 19, 2022


I love the Royal Marines.

UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021.

Whilst driving home from a client workshop and dealing with the gusts of storm Eunice that repeatedly hit my car, I am thinking about the keynote on leading transformational change that the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines have invited me to give in May 2022.

Transformational change, which the Royal Marines have embarked on with the Commando Force programme, must be meaningful in a positive way for those involved and affected by it for it to be successfully implemented. Otherwise, the risk is that people will interpret change in their own way, which may not be helpful.

But when is change meaningful in a positive way?

It’s a question I can’t answer in the moment and decide to consult my copy of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” when I am home.

According to Viktor Frankl, we can discover meaning in life in three ways:

  1. By creating a work or doing a deed — i.e., by pursuing or contributing to a clear goal or ambition
  2. By experiencing something or encountering someone — i.e., by seeing the potential in someone, making them aware of what they can be, and enabling them to make that come true because of the love you have for them
  3. By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering — i.e., by having the state of mind to transform inevitable adversity into a human achievement by challenging and changing yourself

When I reflect on these three ways, it strikes me that you can’t pick and choose one of them. You need all three to create and experience meaning. Leave one or more ways out and it leads to frustration, boredom, and disengagement.

When you love someone and, as a result, wholeheartedly see what they need to become who they can and desire to be, you need to create a work or do a deed to enable them to do so. Life being life, adversity may strike at any point during the execution of that work. If and when that happens, it cannot stop you from moving forward, because doing so would mean letting those you love down and that is not an option.

When I reflect on this some more and ask myself, “What qualities or values would you need to create and live a life of meaning?,” the answer hits me:

  • Courage — get out front and do what is right
  • Determination — never give up
  • Unselfishness — oppo first; team second; self last
  • Cheerfulness in the face of adversity — make humour the heart of morale

These are the four values that make up the Royal Marines Commando Spirit and what enables them to be the first to understand; the first to adapt and respond; and the first to overcome. When eyes are towards the future, it is what will drive the Royal Marines to transform into the Future Commando Force.

Equally important, these four values inherently create meaning. It is this that I experience each and every time I have the honour of engaging and working with Royal Marines. I love this and I love the Royal Marines for it.

What are the values that create a life of meaning for you?



Arnoud Franken

Helping leaders to accelerate meaningful change | Senior Consultant, Strategic Change Leadership | Professor | Keynote Speaker