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.