I finally got to see my 96-year old grandmother this weekend – in person! After 6 months of lock down (and we’re grateful because no cases of Covid-19 in her assisted living facility), there was great joy in seeing her face to face. Even if the face to face was 12 feet apart and through the biggest piece of plexiglass I’ve seen! The joy on our faces was palpable (can you tell through the masks?!). The hardest thing was not hugging her!

My grandmother is very extroverted and continually active and sharp. This lock down has been extremely hard for her. We are, of course, calling a lot. And we go by to talk to her through her window. But it’s not the same as having someone touch you, someone that you love. And I have seen a decline in her energy, her motivation, her get up and go. She is tired of being alone, even as she is surrounded by the assisted living care givers.

There are many people who are going through something similar. My nephew works on the cool 3-D elements in museums and says that many of their clients across the country are saying they may have to shut their doors forever by the end of the year. One of my clients lost 98% of their business in the first two weeks of the shutdown.

And yet.

I love that phrase “and yet.” And yet implies there is more. And yet says I have a choice.

And yet, my client is pivoting, as many businesses are in this crazy time. Her belief is that there is still something they can do to provide for their clients, their employees, her family. She even started a new business that was part of a dream we have talked about for two years.

There are people who are giving up, and there are people who are still pushing, still giving it all they have, still focusing on the and yet.

Stockdale Paradox

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he determined 11 traits that the most successful enduring organizations have. One of those he named after James Stockdale, a naval officer who was a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton. Collins called it the Stockdale Paradox. Stockdale said that the eight years of not knowing when they would be beaten, when they would be saved was brutal. But he had “an unwavering belief that he could and would prevail.”

Surprisingly, he said those who succumbed more rapidly were the optimists. Those who focused solely on being saved. Stockdale realized that faith is important, and so is “the need for the discipline to confront the brutal facts as they actually are.”

Belief and actuality, co-existing. This duality gives you the ability to have the strength to endure while also understanding the realities of what is happening so you can make better plans. It enables you to be both “hopeful and grounded.”

As Collins says in this video where he explains the Stockdale Paradox, we are in a Stockdale Moment right now in this recovery. He asks, “how can you engage those around you so that together you will prevail in the end and confront the brutal facts along the way?”

Hopeful Mindset

This is what neuroscience calls a hopeful mindset. It is faith, strength, belief that sustains you through the tough times. It is recognizing the pieces of the tough times that you can and can’t control.

And yet … may you focus today, this week, this month on your values, your retained faith, your unwavering belief that we will get through this in the end because we stand together, locked arms, looking at the brutal truth, determining what we can control, and moving one step at a time toward hope.

Don’t lose hope too early, don’t be too pessimistic or too optimistic, focus on rallying your teams toward what you CAN do. You must acknowledge the downturn, the lengthier recovery period than we thought. We must be able to walk through this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. Here is a video of my speech at the Women’s Economic Forum last month on Being Agile in a VUCA World.

If you want someone to listen to you, brainstorm with you, encourage you, please reach out. I am here to help us, together, step together with belief and groundedness.