James Stockdale Quotes

Who is James Stockdale?

James Bond Stockdale was a United States Navy vice admiral and aviator awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War.

He was captivated and held as a prisoner of war for over seven years.

Admiral James Stockdale used Stoic philosophy to help him cope with this hard period in his life.

Born December 23, 1923
Died July 05, 2005

Books by James Stockdale


Best 30 Quotes by James Stockdale

“A liberally educated person meets new ideas with curiosity and fascination. An illiberally educated person meets new ideas with fear.”

James Stockdale

“A properly educated leader, especially when harassed and under pressure, will know from his study of history and the classics that circumstances very much like those he is encountering have occurred from time to time on this earth since the beginning of history. He will avoid the self-indulgent error of seeing himself in a predicament so unprecedented, so unique, as to justify his making an exception to law, custom or morality in favor of himself.

The making of such exceptions has been the theme of public life throughout much of our lifetimes. For twenty years, we've been surrounded by gamesmen unable to cope with the wisdom of the ages. They make exceptions to law and custom in favor of themselves because they choose to view ordinary dilemmas as unprecedented crises.”

James Stockdale

“Do the right thing even if it means dying like a dog when no one's there to see you do it.”

James Stockdale

“Entitlement and privilege corrupt.”

James Stockdale

“Great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”

James Stockdale

“I think character is permanent, and issues are transient.”

James Stockdale

“I was tortured fifteen times, that's total submission. They did that with shutting off your blood circulation with ropes, giving you claustrophobia and pain at the same time, bending you double.”

James Stockdale

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“In order to do something you must be something.”

James Stockdale

“It is in disaster, not success, that the heros and the bums really get sorted out.”

James Stockdale

“Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers.”

James Stockdale

“The challenge of education is not to prepare a person for success, but to prepare him for failure.”

James Stockdale

“The guy that just arranges things so that the stock market holds up is nobody in my estimation.”

James Stockdale

“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.”

James Stockdale

Courage Under Fire Quotes

“Do what you will, reputation is at least as fickle as your station in life. Others decide what your reputation is.”

James Stockdale
Courage Under Fire

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“Don't let 'reputation' get mixed up with your moral purpose or your will power; they are important. Make sure 'reputation' is in that box in the bottom drawer marked 'matters of indifference'.”

James Stockdale
Courage Under Fire

“If you want to protect yourself from 'fear and guilt', and those are the crucial pincers, the real long-term destroyers of will, you have to get rid of all your instincts to compromise, to meet people halfway. You have to learn to stand aloof, never give openings for deals, never level with your adversaries. You have to become what Ivan Denisovich called a slow moving cagey prisoner.”

James Stockdale
Courage Under Fire

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“Make sure in your heart of hearts, in your inner self, that you treat your station in life with indifference, not with contempt, only with indifference.”

James Stockdale
Courage Under Fire

“What Epictetus was telling his students was that there can be no such thing as being the 'victim' of another. You can only be a 'victim' of yourself. It's all in how you discipline your mind.”

James Stockdale
Courage Under Fire

“Work with what you have control of and you'll have your hands full.”

James Stockdale
Courage Under Fire

Prisoner of War in North Vietnam Quotes

“The worst thing that can happen is death, and that's not the worst thing in the world either.”

James Stockdale
Prisoner of War in North Vietnam

Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot Quotes

“At its best, citizenship finds an equilibrium between two essential ingredients – that of rights and that of duties. When the idea of citizenship is losing its grip, one or the other of these elements becomes eroded. Either freedom is on the losing end, or the sense of duty, of obligation, goes down the drain. We are living in a time when the idea of citizenship has been seriously weakened. We have a strong sense of the rights of a citizen. But we've lost much of the sense of the corresponding duties and obligations of citizenship.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“Honest men in prison know that there is no such thing as 'brainwashing' or 'breaking'. These expressions of self-delusion never find use behind bars. They are just unfortunate metaphors that allow people outside prison to be less uncomfortable in discussing human limitations.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“Integrity is a powerful word that derives from a specific concept. It describes a person who is integrated, blended into a whole, as opposed to a person of many parts, many faces, many disconnects. The word relates to the ancients' distinction between living and living well.

Contrary to popular thought, a person of integrity is typically easygoing with a sense of humor. He knows himself, reflects a definite and thoughtful set of preferences and aspirations, and is thus reliable. Knowing he is whole, he is not preoccupied with riding the rest of continual anxiety but is free to ride the crest of delight with life!”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“It is my purpose, as one who lived and acted in these days to show how the malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous, how the councils of prudence and restraint may become the prime agents of mortal danger and how the middle course, adopted from desires for safety and a quiet life may he found to lead direct to the bull's eye of disaster.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“Rewards and penalties are totally random; knaves thrive and saints go hungry.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“Stress is essential to leadership. Living with stress, knowing how to handle pressure, is necessary for survival. It is related to man's ability to wrest control of his own destiny from the circumstances that surround him or, if you like, to prevail over technology.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“The more intense the common danger, the quicker the 'me-first' selfishness melts. In our situation, at about the two-year point, I believe most of us were thinking of that faceless friend next door – that sole point of contact we had with our civilization, that lovely, intricate human thing we had never seen – in terms of love in the highest sense. By later comparing notes with others, I found I was not alone in becoming so noble and righteous in that solitude that I could hardly stand myself.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“Those who study the rise and fall of civilizations learn that no shortcoming has been as surely fatal to republics as a dearth of public virtue, the unwillingness of those who govern to place the value of their society above personal interest.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

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“What are the benefits of a Stoic life? It is an ancient and honorable package of advice on how to stay out of the clutches of those who are trying to get you on the hook, trying to give you a feeling of obligation, trying to get moral leverage on you, to force you to bend to their will.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

“Whenever I've been in trouble spots – in crises (and I've been in a lot of trouble and in a lot of crises) – the sine qua non of a leader has lain not in his chesslike grasp of issues and the options they portend, not in his style of management, not in his skill at processing information, but in his having the character, the heart, to deal spontaneously, honorably, and candidly with people, perplexities, and principles.”

James Stockdale
Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot

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