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Everyday Champion Kind of Hope


To avoid being used as propaganda during the Vietnam war Admiral James Stocksdale split his head with a razor and beat himself in the face with a chair. Nothing he did to himself compared to what the enemy did to him during his seven-year imprisonment at the Hoa Lo Prison. This was a particularly nasty place where many war prisoners checked in and never checked out. Perhaps it was Admiral Stockdale’s violent circumstances that helped him to understand the power of hope better than most.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

When I was a young man I believed that the person who cheered the loudest had the most hope. Hope was like a game or a mood swing. This lead me to the belief that, if you want to have hope you must get inspired, motivated or fired up.

Hope: fake it until you make it. Right?

Trying desperately hard to find hope in challenging times, I have worked myself up in an inspired sweat only to find out that hope is more than a feeling or emotion. While hard to explain, true hope is inspired by something bigger. Time teaches that hope in our own abilities alone is fleeting. It rolls in and out like the tides of the oceans. Real hope, grounded in something greater than ourselves is steady and true – giving us strength to live beyond our circumstances. This is Everyday Champion kind of hope. Can you relate?No matter the pressing struggles you are engaged it’s possible to grow your hope by gaining an understanding of the powerful mindset Admiral Stockdale owned.

“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, in retrospect, I would not trade.” – Admiral Stockdale

Hope is funny because real hope happens outside of our control. When our situation deteriorates to the point of death – there lies hope, that glimmering light at the end of the tunnel.

I imagine that there was not any positive self-talk going on in Admiral Stockdale’s mind. He wasn’t convinced that tomorrow his torture would end. As a matter of a fact, his survival hinged on his enlightened understanding of hope.

When asked about who died during captivity, Stockdale replied, “Oh, that’s easy, the optimist. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘were going to be out by Christmas!’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say ‘were going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come and Easter would go. Then Thanksgiving…And then it would be Christmas again. They died of a broken heart.”

He felt the important lesson from his journey was the we must never, “confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality”, whatever that might be. Stockdale recognized that real hope is outside of one’s current reality.

Hope like this lacks control while offering peace.

This matters to us for when we hold hope closely our inner thoughts turn outward. Our desires, those hidden secrets, become visible – as if lifted into the light for the first time. Hope peels the layers of pain back freeing what lies underneath. Hope is full of possibilities.

Learning to walk as an Everyday Champion is about being filled with this kind of hope. It is not about cheering the loudest. Real hope turns the champ’s heart towards actions that matter in life.

It seems like Admiral Stockdale understood hope instinctively. That, however, is not my experience. Perhaps your journey towards enlightenment will require you think bigger – or perhaps, like me, no bigger than a lowly manger.

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