Daily Touch of Inspirations
September 5th: Focus on what is yours alone
Ryan Holiday, The 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
After Captain James Stockdale was shot down over Vietnam, he endured seven and a half years in various prison camps. He was subjected to brutal force but always struggled to resist. Once, when his captors intended to force him to appear in a propaganda video, he purposely and severely injured himself to make that impossible.
When Stockdale's plane was hit, he told himself that he was "entering the world of Epictetus." He didn't mean that he was attending a philosophy seminar. He knew what he was to face when he crash-landed. He knew it wouldn't be easy to survive.
Interview by Jim Collins for the business classic Good to Great, Stockdale explained there was one group that had the most trouble in the prison. "It was the optimists," he said, "... 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."
But Stockdale persevered and did make it out. He quenched his desires and focused exclusively on what he did control: himself.