Ray Richards sent me the letter printed below in response to a story I wrote about James Stockdale, one of the greatest leaders aviation has ever known. The story focuses on Stockdale’s code of ethics, his will power, and his source of strength. I tie this to homebuilding with points like this:
“In Stockdale’s test of wills, his enemy’s goal was to make him succumb to fear. If he did, they could determine his mindset and actions from there forward. It is easy to say that 99.99% of us will not find ourselves in such circumstances. Literally true enough, but perhaps misleading. Stoic philosophy is all about being in command of yourself, and not letting anyone or any circumstance dictate your opinions, attitudes or actions. Stockdale’s enemy was obvious, his goals were clear.
Your life and the challenges you choose may not be as dramatically profound as Stockdale’s, but they are no less important. These things literally are the value of your life and your satisfaction with leading it. Choosing to learn, build and fly are not common goals. The vast majority of people are afraid of these things. If this fear stops them from acting on their ideas and dreams, then someone else is controlling them.
People are not born to be afraid, they are taught this. Stoic philosophy is a method of undoing this, recognizing your own value and sovereignty as an individual. Aviation is a singularly appropriate Arena to develop one’s personal codes. It offers near limitless potential to those who take it seriously, it holds serious risks and penalties for those who do not. At any level worth engaging, it is not a pastime, a game, nor a sport. It is a real endeavor worthy of your devotion.”
One Reply to “Letter of the day: Stockdale on Philosophy”
Courage Under Fire, by James Stockdale, very good reading, dan-o