The Stockdale Paradox

In this seventh episode of the Wisdom for Life radio show, hosts Dan Hayes and Greg Sadler discuss what has come to be called the “Stockdale Paradox”, named after Admiral James Stockdale’s application of Stoic philosophy while confined and tortured as a POW during the Vietnam War.  Stockdale noted that the prisoners who survived the difficult conditions combined realism about their challenging situation with faith that they could come through it.  This was then formulated and popularized as a paradox by Jim Collins in his book of management theory, Good to Great.  

They discuss Stockdale’s advice and how it can be applied in everyday life, why people find it paradoxical, and how hope could be a rational response.  They also bring in useful insights from psychologist Victor Frankl, existentialist Gabriel Marcel, and pragmatist William James.

They also examine a seeming challenge to Stockdale’s point of view, framed by Chuck Chakrapani:  “My observation has been that true optimists ignore it if their predictions don’t pan out. They seem to revise their predictions to suit their optimism”.  Dan and Greg discuss why undue and reality-denying optimism doesn’t work in the long run.

They end the show by introducing a very helpful philosophical practice, “WOOP” (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan)

Show Music is by Scott Tarulli
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