Friday, May 23, 2008

Successful Entrepreneurs and the Stockdale Paradox

I've written before about the need for visionary founders to break their idea down into achievable chunks, but I was missing a referencable framework for the idea. After serving as a judge in their business plan competition, last night I attended an awards dinner put on by the University of Washington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UW/CIE). The keynote speaker was Mark Vadon, Founder and CEO of online jewelry retailer Blue Nile. In the Q&A following his remarks, he described the mindset of the successful entrepreneur in terms of the Stockdale Paradox, which is the perfect description of the idea I was trying to get across.

I remembered Admiral Stockdale as Ross Perot's VP candidate, but this morning I did a little digging (via Google + Wikipedia) and agree with Mark that there isn't a more apt description of the necessary mindset of the founder than this:
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.” - From the Wikipedia bio entry for Admiral Stockdale.
Thanks, Mark for filling in this gap in my pattern recognition library.