Flashback Friday: My team often hears me bring up the Stockdale Paradox. Ever since I read about Admiral Stockdale in Jim Collin's book, the lesson of pragmatic optimism has stuck with me.
It was from Jim Collins’ masterpiece Good To Great that I learned Admiral James Stockdale was something other than Ross Perot’s running mate in the 1992 presidential election. Long before he was a target of Saturday Night Live’s irreverent humor, Stockdale was the highest ranking naval officer to be held as a POW in Vietnam.
After Stockdale's A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965, he shared space at the “Hanoi Hilton” with, among others, John McCain. He was brutally beaten, starved, and denied medical care, never knowing if he would survive or see his family again, until his release in 1973.
Stockdale and his wife Sybil shared their story by writing alternating chapters in the book In Love and War. Collins, in preparing to meet Admiral Stockdale, read his book, describing it as bleak and depressing, even though he knew that Stockdale got out and reunited with his family. When Collins asked Stockdale what it felt like living the story and not knowing how it ended, he replied: