In all my “road tripping” this summer, I have been listening to audio books. I love audio books and I love that now, thanks to iTunes, I can sample the voice of the narrator before I buy the book (yes, I buy them because I like to share them).
Well, lately I’ve been into non-fiction of the business variety and my most recent “read” was this great book by Jim Collins, Good to Great. It’s the story of how 11 companies that met a very rigid set of criteria, took the step from good to great…ergo the name of the book. The book is really interesting from a business perspective, but also from a life perspective. I’m not going to do a full review here, but I do want to share one little part.
During their research (Jim Collins is the author, but there was a team of researchers), the term “Stockdale Paradox” was coined. It is in reference to Vice Admiral James Stockdale who was a POW during the Vietnam War, and his ability to face the brutal reality and continue. He survived EIGHT years over there. Jim Collins had the opportunity to spend some time with him and as they were walking across the Stanford campus, the following conversation took place (this is straight from the book):
I didn’t say anything for many minutes, and we continued the slow walk toward the faculty club, Stockdale limping and arc-swinging his stiff leg that had never fully recovered from repeated torture. Finally, after about a hundred meters of silence, I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.
“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.”
Another long pause, and more walking. Then he turned to me and said, “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.”
To this day, I carry a mental image of Stockdale admonishing the optimists: “We’re not getting out by Christmas; deal with it!”
For whatever reason, this passage struck me and has stuck with me since then…and not in terms of every aspect of my life, but when it comes to weight loss. I know that probably sounds weird, but in most aspects of my life, I am a firm believer in the “it always works out” principle…without any consideration for when it is going to work out. However, when it comes to losing weight, there is always a deadline, a goal, and “end” in sight. And, just as Stockdale stated, that “end” comes and goes and I’m still fat and every time it becomes harder and harder to hang on to hope.
So…it’s time to face the brutal reality that is my weight and say I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I do know that if I keep trying and keep exercising and keep working on a healthy lifestyle, it will happen. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but I have no idea how long the tunnel is.