Why you shouldn't be an optimist
On September 9, 1965, Jim Stockdale flew over north Vietnam for a mission during the Vietnam war.
Mid-flight, Stockdale's fighter jet came under enemy fire.
His jet got severely damaged that it became incapacitated.
So Stockdale ejected and parachuted.
As he slowly floated down, Stockdale knew he would enter the most challenging phase of his life.
He landed in a small village, where they took him prisoner and beat him.
Then, he was transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp, where he endured more beatings and psychological intimidation for seven and half years.
During this ordeal, Stockdale never once doubted he would get out of this prison. Yet, he noticed others with the same belief perish sooner than he did. And this wasn't due to the beating being more severe and frequent. But something more psychological.
I'll let Jim Stockdale tell it in his own words.
"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."
"Who didn't make it out?"
"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.
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."
The problem with being an optimist is that you shy away from reality.
Where rosy expectations are set. But when they are not met, it just adds to another heartbreak. The only thing consistent with being an optimist is disappointment.
And that's not a fun life.
To prevent this from happening and for us to progress, we need to accept life for what it is.
Only then can we have the courage to embrace the challenges. Otherwise, all our energy is spent trying to put a positive spin on everything.
The most heroic of humans saw life for what it was.
They didn't lie to themselves about the hell they went through. They accepted life with all its ups and downs. And that's what helped them achieve their goals.
And you can do the same.
Don't be an optimist, but embrace your reality. Have faith in yourself, but be willing to see what's in front of you.
Life is simple.
It's people who complicate it.
Until next time,
The Charismatic Nerd