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第三十一讲:斯托克代尔悖论

《财富》(中文版) 2011年04月28日

斯托克代尔悖论是海军上将吉姆·斯托克代尔阐述的。人人皆不可避免的人生境遇。人生就是既有好也有坏。关键在于永远都不能动摇信念,你要坚信自己会胜利,并且同时敢于直面惨淡的人生。

高德思说起来也有些突兀,但我在这里想特别提一下斯托克代尔悖论,因为这个悖论实在很有深度,可以应用到商界甚至更广泛的领域。

吉姆·柯林斯几周前,我有幸去朋友组织的一个会议做演讲,我的朋友在搞一个“积极训练联盟”。这是吉姆·汤普森创办的一家非营利机构。会议主题是如何通过体育运动的积极训练促进青年发展。由于这个组织最初成立于斯坦福大学内部,他问我是否愿意让从前在斯坦福上过我课的学生来听一下。我说这点子太棒了。结果我以前的那些学生把会议室给撑了个满满当当。有些还是八九十年代上我课的学生。太久不见了,看到他们,我激动极了。

聊天的时候我问了一句:“在这房间里,有多少人,自从我们上次见面起,或是自从毕业之后,在生活中被狠狠地打击过?我是说,个人生活上的打击、事业上的冲击、或者生了一场什么病之类的,有人曾经遭受过这样的打击吗?”

几乎所有人都举了手。哇哦!我和他们平均有15年没见面了,尽管不同的人经历的挫折不同,但我看得出在这么长一段生活中,人们多多少少都可能会受到打击。所以,我认为人生境遇的本质注定了人偶尔要遭受打击。总有事情将会打击到你。

这就该说到斯托克代尔悖论了。海军上将吉姆·斯托克代尔阐述了这一悖论,日后人们就用他的名字命名这一理论。斯托克代尔是个名人,他并不知道他是我个人董事会中的一员,但我的确给他留了个位置。

斯托克代尔是“河内希尔顿”(Hanoi Hilton,北越战俘营)军衔最高的将领之一,身上担负着指挥的重责,他也因此显得特别坚毅。

我还记得,在有机会和他碰面之前,我曾读过他写的书《爱情与战争》。读完他在战俘营里那几年的经历后,我觉得很沮丧。 那么惨淡的生活,就好象他们随时会把他拖去折磨一番。他和其他的战俘都不知道自己这辈子能不能出去。突然间,我想到,天啊,写这书的时候他还不知道结局会是怎样。我是知道结尾的,我知道他最终获释了。但他是书的主人公啊,他并不知道自己的结局,怎么能毫无沮丧地记叙这样的生活呢?我只是读一下就已经读得很郁闷了。

后来我就当面问了他。他说,我从来没有陷入过一般意义上的那种绝望状态,因为对于我的信念,我从未动摇,我相信自己不仅一定可以出去,而且还能借此经历彻底改变我的人生。他的这些话,因为内容不太合适的关系,我没有写进《从优秀到卓越》里,但听来却非常有意思。他说,他悟出了自由是什么。自由和人的境遇无关,而是在这里。他开始指向校园里的路人。

Thomas D. Gorman: It's not a direct segue, but I have been meaning to bring up the Stockdale Paradox, because I think it's such a profound insight that you've developed and perhaps you could just elaborate on it in the business context and perhaps more broadly.

Jim Collins: A few weeks ago I had the privilege to do a session for a friend of mine that runs a thing called The Positive Coaching Alliance. Jim Thompson, who had, it's a great non-profit, it's basically around the idea that you can develop young people through positive coaching in sports. As part of that, it's based out of Stanford. He asked if I'd like to have a session with a number of my former students who had been in my classes at Stanford. I thought that would fabulous. A large number of my former students showed up, a full room of former students. And it was great to see them, some of them my students back from 1980's, 1990's whatever. So, they are all there and I haven't seen many of these people for a long time.

And, I at one point in the conversation I just said, "how many of you in this room, since we last saw each other or since you graduated, have just gotten crushed by something in life? I mean, I don't know, whatever it is, personal, professional, disease, whatever, but life just came up and it just crushed you?"

Every single hand in that room went up. Wow. And as I talked with them, it's different for different people, but, everybody, 15-year average since I'd seen them, the probability is that you're going to get crushed by something. So, I think the nature of the human condition is, sometimes life's going to come up and it's going to crush you. Something is going to crush you.

That brings us to the Stockdale Paradox. Admiral Jim Stockdale, who we named it after, is the one who really crystallized the idea. Stockdale was somebody; he never knew he was on my personal board of directors. But, he was one that I had a spot for.

Stockdale had been the highest-ranking military officer in Hanoi Hilton. He had the burden of command, which sort of added to his strength.

And I remember reading his book In Love and War before I had a chance to meet him. And I got depressed reading the book because it's about the years he spent in the prison camp. And I realized it just seemed so bleak, they could pull him out anytime and torture him. He and the other prisoners didn't know if they would ever get out. And all of a sudden I realized, my goodness, he didn't know the end of the story. I know that he gets out, I know the end of the story. He doesn't know the end of the story, he's living it, how did he not just get depressed, when even I am depressed just reading it.

And that's when I asked him and he said, I never got depressed in the conventional sense, because I never wavered in my faith that I would not only get out, but I would turn this into a defining event in my life. And something we didn't put in Good to Great because it just didn't fit in, but I thought was very interesting. He said how much he learned about what freedom is. And he said, freedom is not your condition, it's in here, he started pointing to people on campus.

 

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