January 10, 2022

Admiral James Stockdale, who was shot down over North Viet Nam, endured seven years of torture including four years of solitary confinement in a prisoner-of-war camp. He says he survived the horrific conditions because he maintained a steadfast belief that he would be rescued.

Jim Collins describes this as the Stockdale Paradox: faith, which you can never afford to lose, that you will prevail in the end, along with discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.

Stockdale stressed in interviews that his frank, yet optimistic viewpoint helped him survive. He said those who suffered the most set a date (“Christmas, this spring, tomorrow”) by which they were certain freedom would come. Those attached to a date with no data to support that belief were worse off as the anticipated date passed.

The Stockdale Paradox – a careful, deliberate balance of hope and reality – seems especially relevant as we enter year three of this pandemic.

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