Stockdale​ Paradox

James Bond Stockdale was a prisoner during the Vietnam War for seven years.

Being a prisoner of war is an excruciating battle.

Not just physically but also mentally. James was one of the few prisoners who survived the imprisonment. He shares the mindset that helped him power through the experience.

This mindset is known as the Stockdale Paradox.

  1. You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end-regardless of difficulties.
  2. Have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.

Stockdale displayed this mindset while imprisoned by never losing faith. He says “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.”

Stockdale also made an important observation about the prisoners who didn’t reply. The optimists. He says “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.”

This mindset has served as a monumental balance between optimism and realism.

Never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

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