It would appear to us and most other astute observers that UM head coach Al Golden has read the book by author Jim Collins: “Good To Great”.
The book is really about business. It takes a look at companies that are "good" over a short period of time (1-5 years) and find a way to be "great" over the long haul (15 years or more) and crush their rivals.
But it is also about much more than that. And from what we can determine and where we stand, we think Al Golden definitely gets it.
The Stockdale Paradox is named after admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a United States military officer held captive for eight years during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was tortured by his captors, and never had much reason to believe he would survive the prison camp and someday get to see his wife again.
And yet, as Stockdale told Collins, he never lost faith during his ordeal: “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.”
Then comes the paradox: While Stockdale had remarkable faith in the unknown, he noted that it was always the most optimistic of his prison-mates who failed to make it out alive.
“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.”
Stockdale approached adversity with a very different mindset. He accepted the reality of his situation. He knew he was in serious trouble, but rather than ignore his reality, he accepted it and did everything he could to lift the morale and prolong the lives of his fellow prisoners. He created a tapping code so they could communicate with each other. He developed a milestone system that helped them deal with torture.
What is now called the Stockdale Paradox is described like this: You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time you must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
Living the first half of this paradox is relatively easy, since optimism really isn’t that hard. You just choose to believe that it will all turn out for the best, and everything that happens to you is a means to that end. It's that simple.
But to really be successful you need to embrace the second half of the Stockdale Paradox to address the issues that are holding you back from being a survivor or being successful. You must combine that optimism with brutal honesty and a willingness to take action.
It seems that admitting the truth about your current situation is an absolute necessity if you want to improve your team or business.
In other words, to get to where you want to go, you have to admit to yourself where you are. And yeah, we think that Al Golden gets it.