Friday, February 16, 2018
The Stockdale Paradox
As an educator, I have often wondered how many other of my colleagues hold a similar view of the state of education. How many maintain a mindset that we have the power and duty to fulfill the charge to pass along our shared experiences and human knowledge from one generation to the next? Currently, I am half way through a book by Jim Collins, Good to Great. Collins wrote, leaders of companies who were instrumental in facilitating a transition in the corporations they worked in, from being good companies to being great companies, did so knowing and understanding the brutal realities and truths of their current situation. They did so, however, with a faith that they would prevail in the end. This is known as the Stockdale Paradox. This paradox is named for a Navy Admiral who was captured and subsequently tortured in a POW camp in Vietnam. He later gave an interview and described how he and the other men in the camp had to face the reality of their situation, but with an unwavering faith that they would inevitably prevail. Startlingly, I read his answer to the question, "who did not make it?" To which he replied, "the optimists".
I have long considered myself an optimist in many things, because I embrace hope and the positive affirmation that I can make a difference in the life of someone now or in the future. I live my life by the creed given to me by my faith: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Maybe the difference is that an optimist may not try and actively change his circumstance, but waits for it to change on its own. Whereas a realist with the Stockdale Paradox in mind will actively work toward improving himself and anything in the situation he can. In which case, I am the latter and not the former.