Here I am again with another story. I was reading about Admiral James Stockdale, highest ranking officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” in Viet Nam as written by author Thomas Barnett. Stockdale spent eight years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi and was tortured numerous times by his captors. Four of his eight years were in solitary.
Mr. Barnett writes: “Stockdale tells the story of the optimists who never survived their time in Hanoi simply because they clung far too much to their dreams of release and in doing so couldn’t handle the brutal realities of what it took to survive the day to day.”
He goes on to explain how they tended to cling to the hope that they’d be home by the next holiday. When that day came and went their spirit sank to a new depth. Over time, they died because their courage had been done in by the reality of their present circumstances. Stockdale believed that while you must always believe that you will prevail in the end, it should not be confused with current reality, whatever that might be.
Suddenly, I paralleled Stockdale’s theory with Internet entrepreneurs; the extreme optimist. We are prime targets for zealous salespeople who promise residual slam dunks to starry-eyed prospects. While the result won’t be unspeakable torture in our quest for wealth, it’s sad to realize that ninety-five percent of us will fail simply because we never anticipated the obstacles.
If we are what we think, then most of us walk into a competitive program with “success” stamped on our forehead. We’ve already witnessed our sponsor turning his bank account into a “cash machine” – it can’t be that hard, right? And when you think about it, today a million bucks seems more like a living wage than a small fortune. Millionaires are a dime a dozen: nearly 5 million households in America have a net worth of at least that much.
The most powerful drive in our country is the desire for more. It has become the DNA of democracy and therefore inherited by every American. Brainwashed in guru-jargon that claims nobody wants to be a nobody, we begin to believe the dream “nothing can bring me down”. I’ll run with the big dogs, join the new wave, use this “can’t-miss” strategy.
Consumed with “positive thinking” the decision tree begins: I’ve done this before. This one pays more. I can do this. I can begin now. I will do this. Say it again and make it your own! I can. I will. Let’s dance.
Fast forward a month or two, and Stockdale’s theory materializes. No progress has been made in spite of the fact that this new kid on the block was well versed in Return On Investment (ROI), understood the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and had written his own Articles on the hidden order of MLM du jour. Spirits drop. Attitudes go sour. He puzzles which comes first, getting it right, or getting it going?
Out of ideas, out of a plan and out of money, common sense now seems to get suspended. He falls into a Marketing Coma and the rest is history.
Winners are really losers who got mad. Get mad or stay employed.
© 2006 Esther Smith
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