The Sunday Mail
Baseless optimism and bravado kill, but negativity does worse than that.
To unleash your greatness, be willing to face the brutal realities of your life and situation and yet keep the hope that you will one day prevail alive.
A long night will always give way to the day.
Do not bury your head in the sand because you are not an ostrich and should never behave like one. Hope, without an anchor, is not a strategy.
You have to accept that some things are not working and that change is necessary. Self delusion in an crisis is insanity.
Pretending that nothing has changed and everything is working is not ingenuity.
Any crisis you face is a message that something that used to work no longer works and its time to wake up. A crisis is a wake up call and alert message; please do not press “snooze!”
A crisis should never be wasted by continuing to believe things will somehow work themselves out. Stop gambling with time and face the brutal realities of your situation.
Things do not work themselves out, you have to face reality and do the things that take you out of your hole.
If you ever find yourself in a hole and you want to get out, the formula is simple — just stop digging! This is the essence of the Stockade Paradox; so named by Jim Collins in his excellent and inspiring book, “Good to Great”.
The Stockade Paradox is named after admiral James Bond Stockade (1923-2005), a US military officer captured and held captive for eight years during the Vietnam war.
Stockade was tortured and asked to reveal information by his captors, but he did not break down. He faced the possibility of death and his hope of ever being a free man again and seeing his family were grim and looked like lost cause.
He felt marooned and could have easily despaired. He had to hope against hope, while starring wide eyed at his realities.
Your situation may be bad, really bad and you may feel that you have very few options. Not having leg-room does not mean you cannot move.
Not having head-room does not mean that you cannot stand tall in a crisis. Whatever your situation, face it. Whatever the music, dance it. Whatever your circumstances, face them.
You may not have intelligent answers, but be willing to face the brutal facts and realities of your situation.
Stop parading past credentials as your claim to fame. It is not how bad the situation is that matters but how you face it.
Your attitude and mindset determines your destiny. Do not die in your winters. Whatever happens, like Stockdale, do not lose hope and faith or close your tired eyes to your realities.
You just have to understand and embrace the Stockdale Paradox, because if you do not, your hopes will be dashed and you will be disappointed, broken and bitter.
Thinking short-term when you are running a marathon, leaves you vulnerable.
This is a marathon, pace yourself for survival and the long drive to greatness.
Stockdale was tortured more than 20 times by his captors, and could have easily dispaired and lost the will to live and fight on.
Yet, he never lost faith or threw away hope while starring at his hopeless situation.
Never ever give up or lose hope. Keep perspective and you will live. Stockdale in his own words told Jim Collins: “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
Never doubt that you will one day prevail and turn your tests of today into a testimony.
Live long enough to tell your story and write your memoires.
You cannot let all your suffering go to waste. Never, ever give up or stop dreaming and seeing the possibilities of the future.
Such is the nature of the Stockdale Paradox.
While Stockdale had faith in the unknowable, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his fellow prisoners who failed to make it out of the Vietnam dungeons alive.
Short-term hope that ignores current reality kills its gullible hosts. Should your challenges last long, gear yourself to outlast them.
According to Stockdale, who were the broken and despondent in prison?
“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.”
If you have waited for your break for a long time, keep waiting with fortitude and focus. Confront the brutal facts and be willing to stick to the knitting until the end.
The wait will be long, have staying power.
In Vietnam, Stockdale noted that what optimists failed to do was confront the reality of their situation. They preferred the blind ostrich approach. They would just stick their heads in the sand and hope that the difficulties would just go away in quick stride. That self-delusion might have made it easier on them in the short-term.
Do not be dazzled by the grind of reality. Most challenges do not go away fast.
Life is a marathon; this that we are going through will go away, but not just yet. It is a long night, do not doze off yet. In Stockdale’s experience, it is when optimists who were in denial were eventually forced to face reality, that the face of reality became too ugly and painful and they could not handle it.
Keep faith alive, but face the brutal facts. Stop banking on easy and quick changes.
Prepare to run the journey and to outlast your adversities. Determine that you will have the last laugh, but for now it is no laughing matter, it is game on.
When you are wrestling with a gorilla you do not stop when you are tired, neither do you hope that the gorilla will tire out that fast. When wrestling with a gorilla you stop when the gorilla stops, before then it is game one. Such is any match against adversity.
Stockdale saw adversity with different eyes and a made-up-mind. He accepted the reality of his situation and its dangers.
He knew he was facing possible death, but he was not dead yet. However, he refused to bury his head in the sand or to sentence himself to oblivion.
He stepped up to the challenge and did everything he could to lift morale, remain steadfast under pressure and prolong the lives of his fellow prisoners.
As best he could he communicated with this fellow prisoners messages of fortitude. He developed a milestone system that helped them deal with torture.
When you look into darkness, do not despair because the day is coming. If it delays, wait for it with open eyes.
Jim Collins in his “Good to Great” study observed that companies that survived adversity and moved from good to great embraced this somewhat paradoxical mindset.
Seeing the future in the midst of challenge is a choice.
They labelled this mindset, the Stockdale Paradox and described it thus: “You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.
“AND at the same time . . . You must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Admitting difficulty is not a sign of weakness. Success is moving from failure, to difficulty, via adversity and still not losing your enthusiasm, faith and passion.
Never doubt that you are destined for greatness, regardless of the present difficulties. Do not throw away hope and start counting down to death. Keep hope alive.
Retain the faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the treachery of the current difficulties. No winter lasts forever and no storm is perennial. Do not fear short-term embarrassment. You may have to take a step back, sit back and wait to fight another day. Keep faith and hope alive. Do not give up so easily. Faith that does not ignore facts is your asset in night times.
As the Stockade Paradox postulates, you must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
You may have to cut down some things and go without some silly trappings.
You may have to endure a season of humility. You may have do take unfavourable decisions to survive. Do whatever it takes to stay alive.
As the airline people say, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then help the person next to you.”
Any slow down does not mean you are out of the game. Retreating is not giving up.
I used to play a lot with a catapult. To shoot anything, you have to draw back the sling, then release. Such is the nature of any delay and pull back. You are just recharging your energy to launch into the future. Inside every struggling organisation there is a multinational seeking expression.
Inside every struggling person there are seeds of greatness waiting to bloom. It is when things are dark, that you must not quit. It is when things are hardest that you must not run away. Embrace the Stockade Paradox and you will live long.
Keep faith alive, but face your brutal realities, whatever they may be. Face your giants and wrestle on. Keep hope alive, I have seen the movie of your life, you are the ultimate winner.
Milton Kamwendo is a an international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a strategy, innovation, team-building and leadership consultant. Feedback: [email protected], tweet @MiltonKamwendo, and WhatsApp number 0772422634