Portable Sanitation Association International

Association Insight January 6, 2021

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ASSOCIATIONINSIGHT Portable Sanitation Association International News BIWEEKLY EDITION JANUARY 6, 2021 Page 3 Continued on page 4 The Stockdale Paradox and Portable Sanitation in 2021…continued from page 1 This framework can give you perspective to navigate business decisions and keep your center of gravity as things play out. It is based on the Stockdale Paradox, a concept made famous in the 2002 book Good to Great by Jim Collins—a researcher, author, speaker, and consultant who focuses on ways to manage businesses and help companies grow and thrive. The Stockdale Paradox Admiral James Stockdale was a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam for nearly eight years between 1965 and 1973. During that period, he was brutally tortured many times, placed in solitary confinement for four years, and in leg irons for two years. Throughout the war, he had no prisoner's rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive or see his family again. As the ranking naval officer at the camp known as the "Hanoi Hilton," Stockdale also carried the burden of command. He did everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken, while fighting as best he could to prevent his captors from using them for propaganda. After his return to the United States, Stockdale and his wife, Sybil, wrote a book (In Love and War: The Story of a Family's Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam Years), in which chapters alternated between his experiences in the POW camp and hers at home. Author Collins read the Stockdales' book and found its grim details hard to bear. Collins wondered, "If it feels depressing for me, how on earth did he survive when he was actually there and did not know the end of the story?" (Emphasis in the original.) When Collins had the opportunity to interview Admiral Stockdale, he asked that question. Here is how the Admiral answered: "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." Curious, Collins asked about differences in the POWs who survived the war and those who did not. Ironically, Admiral Stockdale indicated that optimistic people were more likely to die. You read that right. "The optimists…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…. This is a very important lesson." Now, this might seem like a sobering thought, especially as we head into a new year that many of us hope will be vastly different than the last one. But that is exactly why I bring it up right now. Wanting things to be different in 2021 doesn't give any of us the power to change things that are beyond our control. So what can we learn from Admiral Stockdale about how to survive when the current reality is difficult and we have no power to change it? Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale

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