Monday Morning Boost: The Paradox of Stockdale

Monday Morning Boost: The Paradox of Stockdale

James Stockdale was a United States Navy vice admiral and aviator awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War. He was shot down over Vietnam and held captive for over seven years as the most senior naval officer in Hanoi, North Vietnam. Also of note, Stockdale was a candidate for Vice President of the United States in the 1992 presidential election, on Ross Perot’s independent ticket.

Interviewed by Jim Collins for his landmark book “Good To Great,” Stockdale shared what got him through his 7 years in the Hanoi Hilton. His concept is known as the Stockdale Paradox.

Collins asked Stockdale how did he not let the oppressive circumstances of being a prisoner of war wear him down?

“Well, you have to understand, it was never depressing. Because despite all those circumstances, I never ever wavered in my absolute faith that not only would I prevail–get out of this–but I would also prevail by turning it into the defining event of my life that would make me a stronger and better person. Not only that, Jim, you realize I’m the lucky one.”  

I said, “No, I don’t.”  

He said, “Yes, because I know the answer to how I would do, and you never will.”

A little later in the conversation, after I’d absorbed that and said nothing for about five minutes because I was just stunned, I asked him who didn’t make it out of those systemic circumstances as well as he had.

He said, “Oh, it’s easy. I can tell you who didn’t make it out. It was the optimists.”

And I said, “I’m really confused, Admiral Stockdale.”  

He said, “The optimists. Yes. They were the ones who always said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ Christmas would come and it would go. And there would be another Christmas. And they died of a broken heart.” Then he grabbed me by the shoulders and he said, “This is what I learned from those years in the prison camp, where all those constraints just were oppressive. You must never ever ever confuse, on the one hand, the need for absolute, unwavering faith that you can prevail despite those constraints with, on the other hand, the need for the discipline to begin by confronting the brutal facts, whatever they are. We’re not getting out of here by Christmas.”

The Stockdale Paradox teaches you must honestly face your current reality while having the hope and faith you will prevail in the end.


Recognize how you feel, notice your responses to the situation or condition, be aware of your emotions, and then create an honest look at yourself as a person and as a leader. Using a tool such as the Red Edge Mentoring Self-Leadership Assessment can help guide and focus that intentional self-reflection.

Remember, while being honest in your self-reflective is crucially important, also allow yourself some grace. This is a measuring stick for stepping into your GREATNESS, not a yardstick for punishing your behavior.

Have a great Monday! Thanks for letting me share!


p.s. Take 13 minutes today to understand how the Stockdale Paradox applies in your life.

Check out last week’s Red Edge Live interview with Becky Mackintosh, author of Love Boldly: Embracing Your LGBTQ Loved Ones And Your Faith


#REDEDGELIVE WITH BECKY MACKINTOSH – LOVE BOLDLY: EMBRACING YOUR LGBTQ LOVED ONES AND YOUR FAITH"Mom, Dad, I'm gay."One Facebook message completely changed Becky Mackintosh's life in the blink of an eye. Though she had often wondered about her son Sean when he was young, she had never entertained the possibility that her suspicions could be true. And just like that, battle lines were drawn between siblings, parents, friends with their church and faith somewhere in the middle.A choice was before Becky Mackintosh and her family. Just not the one they were expecting. Experience a little of Becky’s journey and witness how her faith allowed her to embrace her religion and her gay son.POWER OF THREE• How does your faith help you deal with hard situations?• How do you deal with loved ones who have different values or beliefs?• How does your struggle empower others to grow into their GREATNESS?Becky Mackintosh is a popular speaker, well known for her inspirational stories, honest approach and open heart. Born in Butte Montana, she lived on a ranch in Dillon until the third grade, when she and her family moved to Utah. As providence, would have it, they moved in just down the street from Scott Mackintosh—the neighborhood boy who would grow up to be her husband. They have seven children and twelve grandchildren (and counting).After one of her sons came out as gay, Becky found herself becoming more open about her experiences as a Latter-day Saint mother of an LGBTQ loved one. As more people learned of her story, she began receiving emails and calls from other concerned parents of LGBTQ children as well as the LGBTQ themselves. Since then, she has armed herself with helpful tools, having completed certifications in QPR and Youth Mental Health First Aid as well as a Grief Support.Becky is the author of Love Boldly: Embracing Your LGBTQ Loved Ones and Your Faith which was published one year ago today!The Mackintosh family was filmed for the Mormon & Gay website, a video that now has over a million views.We would love to have your voice be part of the conversation today on Red Edge Live!#RedEdgeLive#RedEdgeMentoring#RedEdgeMastermind#LesPattersonSpeaks#LGBTQ#Pride#ChurchOfJesusChrist

Posted by Les Patterson on Thursday, September 10, 2020


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