The coronavirus crisis will end, but pegging your hopes on when is psychologically dangerous

Opinion Mar 30, 2020 by Gordon Cameron hamiltonnews.com

I first discovered Admiral James Stockdale thanks to Saturday Night Live (SNL). At the time, he was running for vice president of the United States alongside of Ross Perot and was regularly spoofed by the late, great Phil Hartman.

SNL Stockdale was loud, confused and had the affect of a sitcom character who’d just been struck by lightning. His response to any question was usually a yelled, non-sequitur such as “GRIDLOCK!” In Stockdale, Hartman created a hilarious character that still makes me chuckle almost 30 years later.

But to only remember Stockdale as a punchline is to ignore the great wisdom this man gained throughout his remarkable life.

In 1965, Stockdale was shot down over Vietnam and held prisoner for the next seven-and-a-half years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was regularly and brutally tortured, yet, staying true to his duty as the senior naval officer in the prison, acted as a leader for the others interned with him. He, and a group of 10 others, were eventually separated from the rest and held in small, windowless cells.

As harrowing and interesting the story of Stockdale’s captivity is, it’s what he learned from it that’s most important to us during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stockdale observed that the prisoners who fared the worst were the optimists — the men who would tell themselves that they’d be home by Christmas. Christmas would come and go, and they’d set a new target of being home by Easter, then the Fourth of July and so on until their spirits were utterly crushed. The ones who fared the best were those who never lost hope that they would get home, but accepted that they couldn’t control just when that would be.

“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,” Stockdale told author James C. Collins who coined the term “The Stockdale Paradox” in the book “Good to Great.”

While it would be trite to compare the current calls for physical distance and to work from home to systematic torture, the underlying message is the same — the coronavirus crisis will pass, things will get back to normal eventually, but we don’t know when. Pegging your hopes on the restrictions being lifted in time to celebrate your birthday, go on that big vacation or even for that first kickoff of the year at Tim Hortons Field may help in the short term, but in the long run will do much more harm than good.

Yes, physical distancing sucks, but the best thing we can do to help this pandemic to end quickly is to heed the medical advice and stay the course.

This too shall pass, just not by Easter.

Gordon Cameron is group managing editor for Hamilton Community News.

The coronavirus crisis will end, but pegging your hopes on when is psychologically dangerous

Columnist Gordon Cameron looks to the wisdom of POW James Stockdale for answers on how to survive this pandemic

Opinion Mar 30, 2020 by Gordon Cameron hamiltonnews.com

I first discovered Admiral James Stockdale thanks to Saturday Night Live (SNL). At the time, he was running for vice president of the United States alongside of Ross Perot and was regularly spoofed by the late, great Phil Hartman.

SNL Stockdale was loud, confused and had the affect of a sitcom character who’d just been struck by lightning. His response to any question was usually a yelled, non-sequitur such as “GRIDLOCK!” In Stockdale, Hartman created a hilarious character that still makes me chuckle almost 30 years later.

But to only remember Stockdale as a punchline is to ignore the great wisdom this man gained throughout his remarkable life.

In 1965, Stockdale was shot down over Vietnam and held prisoner for the next seven-and-a-half years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was regularly and brutally tortured, yet, staying true to his duty as the senior naval officer in the prison, acted as a leader for the others interned with him. He, and a group of 10 others, were eventually separated from the rest and held in small, windowless cells.

Related Content

As harrowing and interesting the story of Stockdale’s captivity is, it’s what he learned from it that’s most important to us during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stockdale observed that the prisoners who fared the worst were the optimists — the men who would tell themselves that they’d be home by Christmas. Christmas would come and go, and they’d set a new target of being home by Easter, then the Fourth of July and so on until their spirits were utterly crushed. The ones who fared the best were those who never lost hope that they would get home, but accepted that they couldn’t control just when that would be.

“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,” Stockdale told author James C. Collins who coined the term “The Stockdale Paradox” in the book “Good to Great.”

While it would be trite to compare the current calls for physical distance and to work from home to systematic torture, the underlying message is the same — the coronavirus crisis will pass, things will get back to normal eventually, but we don’t know when. Pegging your hopes on the restrictions being lifted in time to celebrate your birthday, go on that big vacation or even for that first kickoff of the year at Tim Hortons Field may help in the short term, but in the long run will do much more harm than good.

Yes, physical distancing sucks, but the best thing we can do to help this pandemic to end quickly is to heed the medical advice and stay the course.

This too shall pass, just not by Easter.

Gordon Cameron is group managing editor for Hamilton Community News.

The coronavirus crisis will end, but pegging your hopes on when is psychologically dangerous

Columnist Gordon Cameron looks to the wisdom of POW James Stockdale for answers on how to survive this pandemic

Opinion Mar 30, 2020 by Gordon Cameron hamiltonnews.com

I first discovered Admiral James Stockdale thanks to Saturday Night Live (SNL). At the time, he was running for vice president of the United States alongside of Ross Perot and was regularly spoofed by the late, great Phil Hartman.

SNL Stockdale was loud, confused and had the affect of a sitcom character who’d just been struck by lightning. His response to any question was usually a yelled, non-sequitur such as “GRIDLOCK!” In Stockdale, Hartman created a hilarious character that still makes me chuckle almost 30 years later.

But to only remember Stockdale as a punchline is to ignore the great wisdom this man gained throughout his remarkable life.

In 1965, Stockdale was shot down over Vietnam and held prisoner for the next seven-and-a-half years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was regularly and brutally tortured, yet, staying true to his duty as the senior naval officer in the prison, acted as a leader for the others interned with him. He, and a group of 10 others, were eventually separated from the rest and held in small, windowless cells.

Related Content

As harrowing and interesting the story of Stockdale’s captivity is, it’s what he learned from it that’s most important to us during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stockdale observed that the prisoners who fared the worst were the optimists — the men who would tell themselves that they’d be home by Christmas. Christmas would come and go, and they’d set a new target of being home by Easter, then the Fourth of July and so on until their spirits were utterly crushed. The ones who fared the best were those who never lost hope that they would get home, but accepted that they couldn’t control just when that would be.

“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,” Stockdale told author James C. Collins who coined the term “The Stockdale Paradox” in the book “Good to Great.”

While it would be trite to compare the current calls for physical distance and to work from home to systematic torture, the underlying message is the same — the coronavirus crisis will pass, things will get back to normal eventually, but we don’t know when. Pegging your hopes on the restrictions being lifted in time to celebrate your birthday, go on that big vacation or even for that first kickoff of the year at Tim Hortons Field may help in the short term, but in the long run will do much more harm than good.

Yes, physical distancing sucks, but the best thing we can do to help this pandemic to end quickly is to heed the medical advice and stay the course.

This too shall pass, just not by Easter.

Gordon Cameron is group managing editor for Hamilton Community News.