“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Admiral Stockdale indeed spoke from a place of deep personal experience. If you don’t know his story, I highly encourage you to click to learn more about him via the link embedded with his name above.
Rather than write about my thoughts on this quote, I’ll simply share the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ here. Those words say it all.
James C. Collins related a conversation he had with Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his period in the Vietnamese POW camp. When Collins asked which prisoners didn’t make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:
“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Collins called this the Stockdale Paradox.
Are you willing to embrace the brutal facts?