Stockdale Paradox

I don’t think I’ve met a successful entrepreneur that isn’t optimistic.   But when I say this, I don’t mean that they psyche themselves up every morning to be ‘positive’.

Instead, these are people who have learned to face the brutal truth of whatever their reality is and at the same time have an absolutely unwavering faith and belief that they are going to prevail somehow.

Jim Collins in Good To Great calls this the “Stockdale Paradox.”  Admiral Stockdale was held in a prison camp in Hanoi for 7 years.  During that time he was repeatedly tortured, and finally released to collect his congressional medal of honor.  He said that there was one group of prisoners who didn’t make it out – the optimists.  They clung to a false hope that they would get out soon and when they didn’t, they withered and died.  The ones who made it faced the fact that they were going to be locked up for years, and also knew without doubt that they would one day get out and prosper.

The same is true for us in business.  Face the facts of where you are.  Whatever your brutal reality is, it may not get better right away.  But I’m going to challenge you to dig deep and focus on developing an unswerving faith and confidence that will carry you through tough times.  That is a skill that can be learned.

As an old boss of mine liked to say, “whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right”.

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