The Stockdale Paradox

As I continue to read Good to Great, I’ll be noting a few things here that I think look like good points to take with me. Additionally, you might think they’re worth remembering too (maybe not you, Levi).

What separates people, Stockdale taught me, is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deeal with the inevitable difficulties of life. In wrestling with life’s challenges, the Stockdale Paradox (you must retain faith that you will prevail in the end and you must also confront the most brutal facts of your current reality) has proved powerful for coming back from difficulties not weakened, but stronger – not just for me, but for all those who’ve learned the lesson and tried to apply it. …. The Stockdale Paradox is a signature of all those who create greatness, be it in leading their own lives or in leading others.

In the “Chapter Summary”, I really like the following key point.

Creating a climate where the truth is heard involves four basic practices:

  1. Lead with questions, not answers
  2. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.
  3. Conduct autopsies, without blame
  4. Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored.

And another key point which I’ve been struggling with (the question of how to motivate people):

Spending time and energy trying to “motivate” people is a waste of effort. The real question is not, “How do we motivate our people?” If you have the right people, they will be self-motivated. The key is to not de-motivate them. One of the primary ways to de-motivate people is to ignore the brutal facts of reality.

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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