Admiral Jim Stockdale was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam war.
He was tortured over twenty times during his eight -year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973 – losing the ability to walk straight with a limp leg.
Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as whether he would even survive to see his family again.
How did he have hope? How was he able to get through those 8 years not knowing when he will get out?
This is what he said: “I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would 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.”
One day, Jim Collins (author of the books “Good to Great”, and “Built to Last”) talked with Admiral Stockdale.
“Who didn’t make it out?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Admiral Stockdale says as he limps and arc-swings his stiff leg as they walked along. “The optimists.”
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” Jim says , now completely confused, given what Admiral Stockdale said before.
“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.”
Another long pause, and more walking. Then the admiral turned to Jim and said, “This is a very important lesson. 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.”
The Brutal Facts
This is a story told in the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. It was very interesting how Jim translated this into a case in business.
There will come a time when an event in your business’ history will force you to take a look at the brutal facts of reality and reflect. Of course, this will entail a hard, grueling change if you want your business to grow and succeed.
There are lots of companies that don’t reflect on the brutal facts as they grow – and they are left with remaining the same even before the tides turn. Of course, the end result is a slow, painful deteriorating death of all it stood for.
The Face of Change
I used to live in the SEO Hacker office. It was a home-office that we love. Sometimes my teammates would sleep over and bond with each other. It was really cool.
I got married just last February. This has forced me to move to at least hour and a half drive away from my office. I work remotely now – and so does 2 other teammates.
Even before moving out, we had this problem of accountability. Not everyone was really making an effort to make themselves accountable to their team leaders. I didn’t know what was happening.
All I knew that our numbers looked gruelingly ugly. And I wasn’t at all happy about it.
There are some underlying subtle problems that are posed:
1) People are habitually coming in late
2) Most of the team is not intentional on their personal growth
3) Output, quota and menial tasks are not respected by some teammates
4) There is a silent managerial problem: the managers are not voicing out to me, and solving the quota and menial tasks problem
These are just some outlying problems among others.
So we made a few changes. Namely, daily reporting via Email, Intentional Blogging, Skype, and Hubstaff.
1) The daily reports have to be a one-look report that the team leaders can immediately understand the moment we open them.
2) I have found blogging to be the best way to grow in our field. You blog about the things you love – making you grow personally. At the same time, you realize you need to learn about blogging and how to make your blog look beautiful – making you grow in your taste and technical skills. Then you realize you want people to read your stuff – making you grow in digital marketing in general. This goes without saying that the blogs of our team is all sponsored by SEO Hacker – domain name, hosting and WP set-up down to the paid themes.
3) There has to be log-in and log-out on Skype for coming in and out of the office, lunch breaks and our free time breaks.
4) Hubstaff is pretty much a no-brainer (even if I was in the office). It tracks the hours of everyone in the team (including me!) and everyone who falls short of at least 7 hours should put a note as to why. It also takes 3 random screenshots within 10 minutes – which I rarely check but it keeps us all on our feet.
Implementing these three things have improved our team visibility almost overnight!
People have been more accountable, productive, and efficient. It has made us all aware of our work. It has pushed us all to grow more and more each week.
Times are changing and the team is growing. We’re around 18 people now working in-house full-time. Our salaries can only go up.
If we are going to grow more, we need to have a standard of accountability, and personal growth.
Of course this goes without saying that I’ve lost charisma with my team with implementing these things. The phrase “Not everyone in your team will like you” continues to ring in my ears. That’s fine.
So long as we secure SEO Hacker’s future and pivot to the right direction when confronted with the brutal facts to do so.
Remember: “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.“