Overcoming adversity is certainly what James Stockdale set himself to do when his plane was shot in 1965 during the Vietnam war. As he drifted down to earth after ejecting from his plane, he thought that he would only focus on his duties as a commander and help his fellow fighters overcoming adversity and go […]
Overcoming adversity is certainly what James Stockdale set himself to do when his plane was shot in 1965 during the Vietnam war. As he drifted down to earth after ejecting from his plane, he thought that he would only focus on his duties as a commander and help his fellow fighters overcoming adversity and go through the horror of prison camps.
As a high ranking officer, Stockdale certainly had little doubt about the harsh conditions awaiting for him: imprisonment, torture and possible death. He also knew from past war experience that, the survival instinct of prisoners scared to death eventually lead them to fight and even kill each other to stay alive rather than unite and support one another against their captors.
James Stockdale had no control over his fate but he could provide support, direction and leadership in overcoming adversity to his fellow prisoners, which he set himself to do for what turned out to be seven years (two of which spent in solitary confinement).
Stockdale went as far as to attempt suicide, not to take out his own life out of discouragement, but to send a message to his captors. Yet, Stockdale knew that his fellow men were only human and could not always fight hours of torture so he created a network of support for those of his men who broke up and felt ashamed as a result to help them overcoming adversity. He gave them a word “Unity over Self”. James Stockdale may have had his doubts about the Vietnam war but he cared for his men and would not disgrace their sacrifices by allowing to be used against the common good of his fellow prisoners. There is very little doubt that Stockdale and his comrades drew their strength in overcoming adversity by putting the common well-being before their individual needs. This could but only have a positive impact on the treatment they would have received as an effect as the captors would probably if not respect but at least manoeuvre more cautiously around united prisoners.
You may not be going through such extremes circumstances but we are experiencing tough economic times marked by much uncertainties, such as unemployment and a staggering level of debts for many countries. We may not be responsible for this situation and found we all got “screwed” by devious leaders – although we may actually enjoy some of the benefits we might not part from so easily. As our leaders’ behaviour make it quite obvious that they do not really care about the common good and we may be tempted to think and act the same and not feel responsible.
These are maybe the best time to distance yourself from the greedy selfish ones. Without having to sacrifice yourself, just by focusing on others, helping them or giving them good examples in overcoming adversity, our fears and problems will lessen. The first tendency to compromise or quit suddenly becomes less of an option as we consider who might be affected by our weakness.
When stuck in an impossible situation you cannot really solve, there might be another avenue out by just thinking how such situation might benefit others? Starting thinking “Unity over Self” will suddenly lift the hopelessness you may feel because you give yourself a mission by helping others overcoming adversity. You will be surprised as to the energy you draw to yourself. Embrace the feeling of being part of a bigger picture. Help your fellow humans to survive, overcoming adversity and thrive. Be strong for others, if not for yourself, and it will make you stronger.
The obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday
Aude is an ex corporate Lawyer with a passion for health, self development and independence which lead her to give up her former career to help others through health.
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