What is it about late at night, listening to Chris Medina that turns me into a sentimental granny? Mostly it's Chris Medina, John Legend and haunting piano minors, but it's also because today I have been missing Michigan, my Michigan, like crazy. I love NC, but I'm pretty sure it hasn't been proven yet like Michigan has. Michigan has all the steadiness of a love that has been proved and tried, cried through, laughed through and overwhelmed with a northern beauty that the south for all it's blooms and drawls just doesn't quite give.
Perhaps NC and I shall weather together, that is yet to be proven. Views like this certainly help.
I read something today in Good to Great that I instantly recognized as a defining moment in life; Jim Collins was writing about business successes and failures and brought up a key concept that at first didn't seem to apply to business, but that he found personally very life-changing. It's a concept called the Stockdale Paradox and was named after Admiral Stockdale, whom I'd never heard of but shall never forget now.
He was a POW in Vietnam from 1965-1973 and lived out those eight years with no prisoners rights, no set release date and no certainty of survival. Tortured over twenty times in those 8 years he did everything he could to ensure the men in that prison would survive unbroken (if possible) by instituting rules the men could use to resist torture, for he knew no one could resist torture indefinitely. This he would teach them to do by saying certain things, say after x amount minutes of torture, to give the men milestones in order for them to survive toward the other side. Another thing he did was to make up an elaborate system based on a five-by-five matrix of tap codes for alpha characters. I won't go into the explanation of how this works, but this was created to help with the difficult times of isolation imposed on the men in which they could use regular jobs, like mopping (swish-swashing) to convey messages.
In horrific conditions and tortured for his high-ranking position and leadership within prison, the Admiral even went so far as to exchange secret intelligence in his letters to his wife, which if discovered would have definitely led to more torture or death.
Unsure if he would survive, Stockdale later said in an interview with Jim Collins that one thing carried him through; " I never lost faith in the end of the story. 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 in my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
He had my full, undivided attention now with that last part of the sentence because I believe that anyone that has gone through a defining event in life and has used it to become stronger will never regret the experience, however horrific it was. Not everyone becomes stronger, some break under the strain, and some become bitter, but this was true of people interviewed from different circumstances or events, with grief or unbearable inhumanities that had overstrained every nerve, went beyond physical enduring, and was completely and utterly shattering. They might regret what happened, and to carry the brutal scars of it was inevitable, but they would not regret who they became as a result.
He went on to absolutely shock me. Jim C. in the interview with the Admiral, noting the ways the torture had irrevocably changed him, asked, "who didn't make it out?"
The Admiral quickly said, "Oh, that's easy. The optimists."
I felt like something had reached out from the pages and sucker punched me.
He explained. " 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."
He concluded, "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."
There are times..
When something touches me so deeply I can't find words good enough to write or speak. I'm like the second speaker after a phenomenal sermon who feels he has to recap all the highlights for the people who may've forgotten. But as the proverbial speaker says, "let my words be few."
The absolute beauty of the Stockdale Paradox has a deeper hidden meaning that overwhelms me, and that is I see the example of Christ.