One of my favorite concepts, the “Stockdale Paradox,” comes from a book written by Jim Collins, “Good to Great.”It goes like this:

“(...) 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 name “Stockdale” comes from U.S. Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War for 8 years. He had no release date or prisoner rights. He wrote a book about it called “In Love and War”, in partnership with his wife. Despite the bleakness of the experiences documented in the book, Collins was surprised by Stockdale’s approach to the whole experience. He never once doubted that he was going to get out and prevail. Despite not having a clue about when and how.

You can read Collin’s experience talking to Stockdale here. The admiral's attitude wasn’t optimistic. He was aware of his situation. But he still developed the faith that he would succeed in the end.

It’s common to think that our faith in something, whether it’s a company, new project, or idea, will come from facts. But I find that not to be true. Especially if it’s a groundbreaking idea, facts will often be stacked against you. It’s too hard; nobody has done it. The list goes on. Rely on data alone to motivate you, and your stamina will deplete faster than you think.

Faith comes from a different area of the brain. Not from logic but from an intuitive sense after noticing patterns, strengthening weak links, and having specific ways of looking at the world. Building your faith in something comes from a process of noticing, not confirming.

If you’re starting something, make sure to build your faith as much as you’re gathering facts. You’re going to need it.


P.S.: I highly recommend Collins' take on confronting brutal facts.