Let me introduce you to James Stockdale. James Stockdale was one of the most highly decorated officers in US Naval History. But maybe the defining moments in Vice Admiral James Stockdale's life happened as he was a prisoner of War in Vietnam.
"Flying from USS Oriskany on a mission over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, Stockdale ejected from his Douglas A-4E Skyhawk, which had been struck by enemy fire and completely disabled. He parachuted into a small village, where he was severely beaten and taken prisoner.
Stockdale was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison for the next seven and one-half years. As the senior Naval officer, he was one of the primary organizers of prisoner resistance. Tortured routinely and denied medical attention for the severely damaged leg he suffered during capture, Stockdale created and enforced a code of conduct for all prisoners which governed torture, secret communications, and behavior. In the summer of 1969, he was locked in leg irons in a bath stall and routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so that his captors could not use him as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, he beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition. When Stockdale was discovered with information that could implicate his friends' "black activities", he slit his wrists so they could not torture him into confession."
During his entire time while imprisoned Vice Admiral James Stockdale not only kept up the hope that he would survive but that the men he was captivated with would also survive. He passed on this hope, and constantly helped improve the lives of those around him.
In a business book by Jim Collins he was quoted as saying:
"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 of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
Time and time again in my own life I can see this paradox, known to many as the Stockdale Paradox to be true. When I was orphaned I held this hope, when I was sent to an abusive boarding school in Montana I held this hope. When I was homeless, when I was struggling through cancer. I always held out hope. That these were the defining moments of my life. That they could be used to change me. To make me a better man.
Not only must you hold out hope, but you must develop the self discipline in which you use to succeed. This is important. It not only takes an unwavering hope, but self discipline and organization to succeed and overcome the obstacles in your own life.
"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." ~ James Stockdale