My brother teases me about the name of my blog, because he sees many of these entries as not being very optimistic. As is so often the case, I turn to the words of others to make my case:
The Stockdale Paradox is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale who was the highest ranking US military officer imprisoned in Vietnam. He was held in the “Hanoi Hilton” and repeatedly tortured over 8 years...to understand how he survived 8 years as a POW, ...[h]ere’s how Stockdale put it.
“I never lost faith in the end of the story. 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.”
...“Who didn’t make it out”?
“The optimists. 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. Then they died of a broken heart.”
“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.”
Holding those two seemingly contradictory notions in his head simultaneously was the key to Stockdale surviving, even thriving, in his experience. And, I believe, it is a perfect summary of the mindset you’ve got to have in starting a company.
You have to believe that your vision will come to pass. You’ve got to do everything you can to make it happen. But, you can never let your belief and faith cloud your confrontation with reality.