Small Business | Coaching | Consulting | Positioning Systems | with |Doug Wick

Strategic Discipline Blog

A Lesson from Good To Great Stockdale Paradox – 3rd Biopsy Results

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Fri, Mar 30, 2012

“Doug loves a challenge!” 

That was my first insight into one of my strengths.  My mother mentioned it very early into my education at St. John the Baptist Catholic grade school in Princeton, Wisconsin. It came from a parent-teacher conference with the Franciscan nun who taught my class.

We all face challenges. Mine with Acute Myeloid Leukemia may not have increased but it certainly didn’t decrease with the results from my bioposy on late Tuesday.

Long before these results, I’d been thinking about Jim Collins and his interview with Vice Admiral James Stockdale who was the highest ranking prisoner of war in the Vietnam conflict and led a resistance movement that kept him in solitary confinement most of his prison time.  He was in North Vietnam prison from September 9, 1965 until February 12, 1973. You can’t imagine what Stockdale went through.  It makes chemotherapy look like a breeze.Stockdale Paradox[2] resized 600

“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 of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

When Collins asked who didn’t make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:

“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, 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 then added:

“This is a very important lesson. 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.”

This is the essence of the Stockdale Paradox.

I’m not sure what challenges you face with your business.  What I am sure of is that you absolutely need to face the brutal facts.    How you do that is critically important.  Is your executive team able to provide you with the unvarnished truth?  Are you as the leader willing to listen to evidence and data that goes against your beliefs about your business?  Is there a clear path for the people at the tactical level of your business to stream important information from the field up the pipeline so it can be responded to?

That’s one reason that our Gazelles clients are so successful.  Meeting Rhythms flow from top to bottom. Daily Huddles, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly and Annual Plannin meetings allow for a generous stream of information up, down and through the organization so employee and customer feedback provides the brutal facts.

The brutal facts of my situation is this:  My bone marrow mass is reduced to 10%.  That prevents further chemotherapy.  That’s good news.  Another bit of good news is they’ve identified several bone marrow candidates that appear to be matches for me. 

The bad news is that the cancer is still at 70% of that mass.  The plan is to leave my bone marrow alone for a period of a week to two in hopes that the good cells will come back.  If they do and the cancer cells remain at present level or are even reduces my cancer it will be in remission and I can move on to a bone marrow transplant. 

The brutal facts?  I’m in the hospital because leukemia is/was growing like this previously. Why would, even after chemotherapy reducing my bone marrow mass to 10%, someone expect that the good cells would come back better and faster than the leukemia cells?  Wouldn’t the most probably outcome be that the leukemia comes back as well as the good cells?

Okay remember I love a challenge!  I’m confident of this much. Somehow, some way I will prevail in the end. I know and feel already that I am turning this experience into the defining event of my life, which, I would not trade anything for.

The good in this is without it I would never become who I am becoming and who I will end up being.  I am and will be better than I would ever have been without this experience.  I trust in God that He helps me prevail.

Topics: Good to Great, Acute Myeloid Luekemia, Customer Feedback, Employee Feedback, meeting rhythms, Stockdale Paradox

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







New Call-to-action


New Call-to-action


New Call-to-action

Subscribe to Email Updates

Click below to Schedule a Free 30 Minute Discovery Appointment NOW: 

Positioning Systems Brand Promise

1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

(BRAND PROMISE GUARANTEE): We will refund all compensation if our disciplined coaching and proprietary tools fail to meet your expectations.

Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

Latest Posts

Browse by Tag

see all