If you aren’t using the Stockdale Paradox, it’s costing you!


I am going to keep it as sharp as a Samurai Sword and as punchy as an angry Kangaroo. (3-minute Read)

So this is it…

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, recounts his experience with Admiral Jim Stockdale who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1973.

Jim asked Admiral Stockdale:

“Who didn’t make it out?”

He said “Oh that’s easy. The Optimists”

Admiral Jim Stockdale was a prisoner of War for 8 years in Vietnam…

What he witnessed were prisoners dying of “broken hearts” because they would set optimistic hopeful time frames for when they would be released.

“We will be out by Easter”

“We will be out by Christmas”

“We will be out by Thanksgiving”

They were unknowingly setting themselves up for their “broken hearts” with false hope and optimism to get through the ordeal, but without any actual real evidence that the date they were putting their hopes on would be when they were free.

They were in fantasy land…

Every time the optimistic date would pass it would bring these prisoners a great deal of despair, grief and depression…

Making it feel as though they would never get out.

Never see their loved ones.

Trapped and hopeless

In the end, it is the death of these men.

When Jim Collins then asked, “How did you make it through?”

He said:

“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 used what is now known as The Stockdale Paradox

Retain absolute faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties… and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

  • He set a vision but faced facts to make it realistic. 
  • He found meaning in the brutal facts of his reality.
  • He confronted the downside of his reality while holding faith in the long-term vision.
  • He was adaptable due to his focus on both the long-term vision and the challenges.

Now you may be wondering how this relates to your life.


If you are optimistic (without any evidence, as the prisoners were) about your business results, your relationship connections or any of your goals in life, you will face the same fate as these men.

Well, maybe not death…

But a lot of goals and dreams die this way…

Because they are set with hope.

You see, recently, I had a session with a client of mine, Jack.

He is a Professional Gamer and Business Owner…

And we spoke through this exact problem.

To him, it was showing up as dead business projects.

And anger and disappointment in his current pursuits.

He had been setting his goals optimistically (only looking at the upsides of the outcome) then getting smashed and sideswiped by all the problems, challenges and stresses only to end up killing off the goal because of how depressed, disappointed and angry he kept getting.

(Sound familiar?)

Once we were able to introduce Jack to the Stockdale Paradox (plus a few others) and apply it, we were able to ensure he stopped setting himself up to fail. 

He set himself up to follow through, and he became aware of what to say no to.

Becoming 10x more focused.

Needless to say, he is now crushing his pursuits. 

Just like you can too if you take this simple principle and apply it to your vision and goals.

Crush life,

Justin Wiseman

Entrepreneur and Business Owner
Mindset and Business Coach
Demartini Method Facilitator

P.S. We have our upcoming Transformation Day on Sunday 4th of June.

Come and clear any distracting emotions, or conflicted relationships and refocus your mind and energy into your vision.

6 hours to complete the Demartini method – Learn more here.
Want more BOMBS of Wisdom like these? Sign-up for our Newsletter!