In times like these, we must learn from those who have endured severe hardship, and have been able to come out stronger and wiser. We can take strength from their ability to overcome adversity.
One such prominent American is James Bond Stockdale, a United States Navy vice admiral and aviator awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, during which he was a prisoner of war for over seven years.
In his book “Good to Great,” James C. Collins asked Stockdale to describe his coping strategy during the seven years he was continuously and most severely tortured while in a Vietnamese POW camp. Stockdale said:
“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 these famous words, which are known today as The Stockdale Paradox:
“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.”
We must remind ourselves that we all a part of history that will be studied in school by the generations to come. How we each rise to the occasion matters. COVID is “the defining event” of our life, as Stockdale eloquently put it. Keeping our faith while being realistic, and taking care of friends, neighbors, family, and each other, is what will take us to other side, stronger and wiser than before. Planning your estate is one such act of consideration and care for your loved ones, and those who depend on you.
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