What matters more, optimism or honesty?

“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.”

Vice Adm. James Stockdale

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?

Great can be the enemy of good…

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

Jim Collins

It comes to mind that possibly great is also the enemy of good. Sometimes there is such a desperate desire to do great things that the good things never get done. Maybe it is a fear of failure; perhaps it is an inability to know when ‘enough is enough.’ The key is to be able to execute with speed and agility. If you only want great, but you never get there, is that good?

While I fully agree that ‘good is the enemy of great,’ there can be too much of a good thing. Don’t let the pursuit of the great prevent you from being good…

It’s your choice to be on the bus…

“If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.  The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up.”

Jim Collins

Are you a person that would be considered “the right person on the bus?” Do you have to be tightly managed or fired up? If so, then why? If you are doing work you genuinely care about, that you find compelling and rewarding, then “getting motivated for work” is something that should never happen. If you don’t feel this way about your work, either change yourself, or change the work. Being the wrong person on the bus is never a good option.

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dusty

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