Michele PW (Pariza Wacek) has reframed the Stockdale Paradox in a way that can help all of us. Her fundamental premise is that “fear is false evidence appearing real.” It’s crippling. The only way to conquer it is confidence – confidence in the real truth, confidence in our own feelings about that truth, and confidence that we can change things. Whether you call this purpose-based leadership, a love-based mindset, faith-based mindset, or confidence, it’s a different and more powerful approach than leveraging fear.
Let’s unpack that.
The Stockdale Paradox refers to Vietnam Admiral James Stockdale’s approach to leading his colleagues through their time in a brutal North Vietnamese prison camp. He said,
“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.”
Webster defines fear as “the emotion experienced in the presence or threat of danger.”
Conversely, Webster’s definitions of confidence talk about consciousness of one’s powers, faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way, and a relation of trust. We saw an example of that last week as Mitt Romney chose to honor his oath and faith and vote to impeach Trump, knowing he would not prevail over the short term.
Michele PW has put all this together as the basis of a mindset she deploys in own copy writing and book writing and work advising other online marketers and writers. She’s interested in creating “love-based” businesses. When we talked, she made it clear that she was not referring to romantic love, but “the truth part.” It’s about “realizing what’s real,” and “not being afraid of our feelings,” and certainly not “letting our feelings control us.”
Her understanding came from her work as a copy writer. She learned that to persuade anyone to do anything, you have to tap into their feelings. A lot of copy writers tap into fear-based feelings like anxiety, guilt, shame, scarcity, anger, grief. Their argument is essentially, “If you don’t buy our product or service, bad things will happen to you.”
Michele gravitated to a different approach, leading from an attitude of abundance to attract, inspire and invite others to make the right choice for themselves with confidence. It’s about respectfully and compassionately making others feel heard and understood with authenticity, honesty and personal accountability. While she started with copy writing, she’s applied her frameworks to starting businesses, setting goals, and re-thinking business models, among others.
Often people’s fearfully crippling emotions get triggered by something other than what is immediately apparent. As Michele explained, this could be some old grief, something in a marriage, feeling resentful about something else, letting their own dreams die. Whatever it is, it triggers a truth that people choose not to engage with. Instead, they sabotage themselves by picking fights, diving into non-productive busywork, or doing something else.
The antidote is to 1) understand the triggering events, acknowledging and appreciating the fears, and then 2) have the confidence to choose the right way forward, and finally 3) follow through to make your preferred reality true.
Understand the triggers and emotions
The point here is that you have to understand the triggers and emotions for everyone involved. If you’re leading someone or trying to persuade someone to do something or buy something, you need to understand their problem and their pain. It’s important to do this without letting it trigger your own pain or rushing in with solutions that would work for you, but not for them.
The right way forward
The “right” way forward for them may or may not be your way. This requires an “attitude of abundance” and being committed to everyone’s needs being met but not attached to a specific outcome (such as making a specific sale). Make sure you’re solving their problem, not yours. Don’t push. Invite. If you lead with that attitude and confident authenticity, honesty and personal accountability, you will deserve their confidence as well.
In a lot of ways, the difference between a transaction and a relationship is what happens next. Of course, you have to honor commitments and do everything you say you’re going to do. But if you really care about others, you’ll go well beyond your commitments to stay connected with them and help them progress well beyond what they ever thought possible with a new confidence in themselves.