My Journey From Head to Heart
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Hats off Mr. Stocksdale!!

Recently my manager discussed a marvelous book called ‘From good to great’ by Jim Collins. The book tackles the question ‘Can a good co. become a great co. and how?’ The author researched the performance of 11 revolutionary companies over the period of 40 years & discovered that a great company is made by A) Disciplined people; ‘who’ before ‘what’, having the right people at the right places; B) thinking Disciplined thoughts - start by confronting brutal facts - the Stockdale Paradox & developing it’s hedgehog concept i.e operating model by answering 1) What are we good at?, 2) What are we not good at & 3) What are our core people deeply passionate about; C) taking Disciplined action - culture of Discipline - people have responsibilities not jobs & Flywheel - no single miracle idea or moment, pushing giant flywheel in 1 direction to gain momentum till point of break through; D) Build greatness to last which can span multiple leaders & not around 1 charismatic leader - Preserve the core & stimulate progress “what we stand for” (which should never change) and “how we do things” (which should never stop changing).

The book coins ‘The Stockdale Paradox’ which is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale who was the highest ranking US military officer imprisoned in Vietnam. He was held in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” and repeatedly tortured over 8 years with unimaginable brutality. Collins describes going to lunch with Stockdale and trying to understand how he survived 8 years as a POW while so many died after just months in captivity. Here’s how Stockdale put it.


“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said. “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.”

I didn’t say anything for many minutes, and we continued the slow walk toward the faculty club, Stockdale limping and arc-swinging his stiff leg that had never fully recovered from repeated torture. Finally, after about a hundred meters of silence, I asked,
“Who didn’t make it out?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.

“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.”

Another long pause, and more walking. Then he turned to me and said, “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.”

Throughout Stockdale's captivity for approx. a decade, his wife Sybil campaigned for respectful treatment for the families of all POWs by founding the League of Families, apperaed on television shows, even met Korean officials all in the effort to bring her husband home. All along believing & hoping with all her existence that, one day, she’ll see him again. I wonder how she would've felt at nights or at times when she'd be alone, when her husband's memory will haunt her, she wont even be sure if he is alive & if he is, how would he be, knowing full well about the attrocities he would be facing?

Now, this is Courage, an Indomitable Spirit & True Love !

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