Saturday, October 24, 2020

Stockdale Paradox

In 1965, Admiral James B Stockdale became Vietnam's highest ranking POW. Stockdale spent nearly eight years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton"; beaten, tortured, confined to a 3' x9' windowless concrete cell, denied medical care, as well as letters from home. 

Stockton was later interviewed about his coping strategies. When asked about which prisoners didn't make it, he replied, "Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, 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 is a very important lesson. You must 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."