The Stockdale Paradox

The Stockdale paradox was first coined by Jim Collins in “Good to Great” and refers to Admiral Jim Stockdale who was the highest ranking US military officer who spent time as a POW in the Vietnam War, from 1965 to 1973 and lived to tell his story.

Retain the faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties
AND at the same time
Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

A few years ago I became someone’s political pawn without any warning at all – you know the cab and the cardboard box treatment.

Humiliated, I arrived home with my wife on the patio and our 3 month old on her hip. She asked “what are you doing here?” all I could say was “I don’t know…….. but I am pretty sure I don’t have a job anymore”.

The fear on her face are something that I never want to see again; we had two young children and a mortgage we couldn’t jump over – it was a terrible, terrible experience and at the same time one of the more powerful ones in my life.

It was the Stockdale Paradox that got me through this period – I knew I was in the proverbial, I knew I had to drag myself out of it and make sure I never put my family in that situation again.
A couple of the learnings from this experience have sustained me:

  • Due Diligence is critical, all is not always as it seems – speak to employees, suppliers & customers to find out what the company / line manager is really like and not a wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • My career helped me feed, house & educate my family; others might not be in the same place as you but Respect where they are at; “always leave someone better than you found them”
  • Bad news doesn’t get any better with age so you are best off Confronting it, it’s like swimming against a current – it’s exhausting and eventually wears you out.
  • Resilience – it’s not what happens but how you handle it that makes the difference

My story is nothing compared to Admiral Stockdale, not that I am into comparing to make myself feel better but the strength of the human spirit is extraordinary, take the time to have a read of the book or EMAIL me here  and I will send you an extract or watch part of it here.

Charlie Pidcock