Pat’s Chat: The Stockdale Paradox
I’ve been thinking about Jim Braun a lot recently, and how he dealt with hard things, especially as we struggle through these often challenging times. Jim led Youth In Need from 1988 until 2013, and he was my boss, my mentor and my friend. One of Jim’s defining characteristics was his optimism and hope. He really exemplified the Stockdale Paradox, one of the principles highlighted in the book about common traits of successful companies, Good to Great. The Stockdale Paradox is a concept about balancing realism and optimism.
It says that “you must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” The Stockdale Paradox is named after Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured more than twenty times by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to return home and see his wife again. And yet, he never lost faith during his ordeal: “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.”
This Stockdale Paradox really aligns with our strength-based philosophy and approach, and Youth In Need staff use it every day. To paraphrase Brené Brown, we show up for people in pain and don’t look away. Our clients may face seemingly insurmountable problems, yet our staff hold space and hold hope for them, and work with them step by step to achieve their goals. Our organization faces the reality of the health risks, staffing crisis and financial implications of a global pandemic, and we persevere to serve children, youth and families throughout the region, creating positive change daily. And we confront the disparities and inequities that most threaten our clients’ well-being, while believing in and working toward a transformed future where all children thrive.
“One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.” ― Brené Brown