The Stockdale Paradox
Dec. 31, 2002
Admiral James Stockdale was shot
down in Viet Nam and imprisoned in the "Hanoi Hilton" for almost eight
years. He was also its highest-ranking officer. He writes about his
experience in his book, In Love and War. How did he survive while
others did not? "Retain faith that you will prevail in the end,
regardless of the difficulties." He adds, however, what distinguishes
his position from simple "optimism" - and formulates what has become
known as the Stockdale Paradox: "and confront the most brutal facts of
your current reality, whatever they might be."
This is the critical difference which
guards against the endless disappointment that optimismís carrots'
evasiveness create - until, maybe, the reward in the end. On the
other hand, an ability to continue making realistic assessments of one's
current life situation measures and apportions oneís energies and
reserves to better face each challenge as it comes, thus positioning one
with a stronger chance to prevail.
The Stockdale Paradox has been given its
name and is finding new limelight in James Collinsí book, Good to
Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... And Others Don'tí' (a
book which itself deserves some attention). The Paradox has merit and
invites reflection for troubled times, struggling congregations, and