Alex Pattakos, PhD has focused his work on helping people find meaning in their lives. One day, he had an “aha” moment, or rather an “OPA” moment: he determined that so much can be derived from Greek philosophy and traditional village customs; a search for meaning could be even more profound while embracing the passion and wisdom of the ancients, and applying it to our lives, our work. It could help us find purpose, channel our own inner Zorba, and lead us to the happiness and success we’re always seeking. We spoke to Alex about The OPA! Way.
Tell us about your Greek roots.
My family was one of the original five families of Sfakia, Crete. They hailed from a village they named Imbros, where they originated. My grandfather was born in the village of Monastiraki, near Mount Ida, near the cave where Zeus was reared. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. My father worked as an engineer. We moved around a lot; we got disconnected from the family. The idea of being ethnic wasn’t appreciated and tolerated. This was a big issue for me. Growing up, I often wondered why I didn’t have an American name and why we had these ‘strange’ rituals. Notions of diversity and tolerance weren’t widespread then; I felt lost when I was really young. For the last six years, I’ve been on a quest to reconnect with my family roots, and bigger-than-life heritage.
Tell us about the search for meaning.
Essentially, I took over where my mentor, Dr. Viktor Frankl, left off. Helping people discover deeper meaning is a manifestation of my own search for meaning in life; to understand my family, culture, heritage–-my DNA. In 2004, I published Prisoners of Our Thoughts, expanding Frankl’s concepts to the workplace, guiding people to find meaning in their work, opening new opportunities personally and professionally. It’s an international bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages.
Tell us about Eleni.
My wife Elaine Dundon, PhD, has consulted with countless organizations and corporations developing marketing strategies and leading innovation. Her book, The Seeds of Innovation: Cultivating the Synergy That Fosters New Ideas, was one of the top 10 business books in 2002. She discovered that people spoke of innovation, but went back to the old way of doing things; that many efforts to innovate failed because they weren’t rooted in a strong sense of meaning. Many of the challenges we have with engagement and innovation stem from people not knowing what the bigger purpose of their work is, so instead they just focus on trying to complete their tasks or focus on getting a paycheck. If we focus on the meaning of the work, we can be much more interested in our work and more innovative.
What was the “OPA” moment?
We were thinking about how to meld our respective work together. The “OPA” moment came a few years ago in Greece. While going through our own meaning quest, we witnessed resiliency, spirit, zest for life. “OPA” came up and it just clicked. We thought about some things we were facing in the States, wishing we could handle it the way the Greek villagers do-–head on, with passion and exuberance. We have a passion for philosophy; we began to link to ancient traditions, going as far back as the Minoans, and it all started to come together.
Talk about the “Core Values of Greekness.”
It’s comprised of the OPA concept—O: connecting meaningfully with others; P: engaging with deeper purpose; A: embracing life with attitude—along with the philosophies of the Ancient Greeks and the core values of the Greek villagers, encompassing nine lessons. We teach seminars, and soon will publish, The OPA! Way: Ageless Wisdom for Living and Working with Meaning. We present complementary and alternate paths to grow personally and professionally, even spiritually. Applying the wisdom of the ancients in a modern-day context will help both Greeks and non-Greeks. We want to raise the profile of what is a Greek. We target non-Greeks-–people who don’t even know they are using the Greek language and concepts in their words and actions. We want to raise the consciousness of what Greece has brought to the planet and to our way and quality of life; it’s not something to be ignored. Greeks shouldn’t ignore it either.
Excerpted from an interview for The Greek Star.