A Message from the Chief Executive Officer:
IN THE BOOK GOOD TO GREAT BY JIM COLLINS, HE RECANTS THE STORY ABOUT ADMIRAL JIM STOCKDALE, THE HIGHEST RANKING U.S. OFFICER HELD PRISONER DURING THE VIETNAM WAR.
AS A PRISONER, HE WAS REPEATEDLY TORTURED DURING NEARLY EIGHT YEARS IN CAPTIVITY. STOCKDALE SURVIVED DESPITE UNIMAGINABLE HARDSHIPS AND NO SENSE OF WHEN HIS BEING A PRISONER WOULD END.
HOW DID HE DO IT? HOW DID HE FIND A WAY THROUGH?
WHEN COLLINS GOT A CHANCE TO ASK STOCKDALE THOSE QUESTIONS, HE TOLD HIM THAT HE NEVER LOST FAITH IN THE END OF THE STORY. HE SAID, I NEVER DOUBTED NOT ONLY THAT I WOUD 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.
SO, COLLINS ASKED, WHO DIDN’T SURVIVE? HIS ANSWER, 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.
THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT LESSON, STOCKDALE TOLD COLLINS, “ 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.”
In normal times, the uncanny optimism I have exhibited about our organization and when I foresaw better days ahead, if we all just hang on in there, was a tremendous benefit. It encouraged us to stay optimistic as we continued to build a successful business.
But in these COVID times, I’ve come to see that optimism can be a dangerous blind spot. Not because it creates some kind of health risk or puts our organization in economic jeopardy. But because, in a situation that has proven to be beyond anyone’s control, one that has exceeded the duration and imagination of nearly everyone except the pessimistic among us, the continued belief that the end is just around each and every corner is a psychological bear trap—-not just for them, but for everyone.
From an Optimist perspective, Omicron is the last gasp of Covid. Maybe? Maybe it is not as bad as many first feared? Maybe…Is the media making too big a deal of it? Maybe? Is it just “Omnicold”…Maybe.
The brutal fact is “We don’t know. No one knows.” It’s out of our control. It always has been.
But Covid itself isn’t what’s getting to so many of us—-it’s continued trashing of our best hopes for escape by Easter, by summer, by Christmas. Expectation and disappointment taxing us. I see it, I hear it with thoughts of anxiety, frustration, panic, tired loneliness, contagious, and just being afraid.
As we head into our third year of Covid, perhaps it’s time to embrace a new way of thinking: WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT, OR HOW LONG THIS WILL LAST, AND IT DOESN’T MATTER.
WE WILL GET THROUGH IT, STEP BY STEP, DAY BY DAY, BY COMING TOGETHER AND DEALING WITH WHAT’S IN FRONT OF US, IN THE SAME WAY STOCKDALE DID UNDER MUCH WORSE CIRCUMSTANCES THAN ANYTHING WE’RE FACING TODAY.
WE MUST NEVER CONFUSE FAITH THT WE WILL PREVAIL IN THE END WITH THE DISCIPLINE TO CONFRONT THE MOST BRUTAL FACTS OF OUR CURRENT REALITY, WHATEVER THEY MIGHT BE.
LISTEN TO THIS EXERT FROM THE NEW YEARS POEM WRITTEN BY AMANDA GORMAN entitled “ New Day’s Lyric”:
May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighted down,,
We must always pave a way forward.
Happy New Year!!!
Chief Executive Officer