When the going gets tough…

When the bad news counter keeps on rising, you can pull the covers over your head or see it as a challenge. Which will it be?
I don’t know about you, but the constant barrage of bad news on a daily basis is getting hard to avoid. In general I am a pretty optimistic person and try and live with the Stockdale Paradox in mind (more on that in a minute), so I was thrilled to see this article from Time magazine about the oil price and 10 positive things that might come out of its relentless march upwards.


It got me thinking about things that help me withstand the urge to simply dive under the covers for a couple of years and emerge when things are back to “normal”!

As I mentioned above, the Stockdale Paradox has helped me weather some difficult times. From Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, the Stockdale Paradox is so named after Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale.

Stockdale was the highest ranking officer in the Hanoi Hilton, spent eight years enduring endless torture and soul-destroying treatment. In the end, he made it home with body and spirit intact. But Stockdale didn’t know he would make it. How did he face each day for eight years not knowing for sure he would survive in the end, that the pain and suffering be worth it?


According to Stockdale, in order to survive the darkest nadir we need to have faith that in the end we will prevail, but never ignore the most brutal facts of reality, no matter how hideous they appear. This incongruent combination of blind faith and brutal facts is the basis of the Stockdale Paradox.

Read more about the Stockdale Paradox.

The likelyhood that the current series of events – climate crisis, oil, world instability, contracting economy, food security, and on and on – will be resolved anytime soon is slim to none. This IS our new normal.

But as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, turmoil and instability have plagued society. Stoic philosophers from that time – Plato, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, have much they can teach us about dealing with adversity.

To paraphrase the slave philosopher Epictetus, the only things in our control are “opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions.” To worry unduly about things outside of our control was seen by the Stoics as asking to be disturbed.


The following passage from Epictetus Enchiridion illustrates this perspective:

“The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.”

Now there is some advice worth thinking about!

See you next week!


Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.

For more Cultural Leadership blogs, click here.



Richwell writes: Counter cyclical investing is a well tested exercise. Now is the time for new directions and bold moves. The RBA and Treasury have engineered a decline in the rate of growth of the economy. But the economy is still growing above its optimum rate. Adjustments to accommodate peak oil and climate change are just fantastic opportunities to have fun and make a profit. Be creative!



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