Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Pixar, Factfulness, and Stockdale’s Paradox

Written by: on April 17, 2023

In a comedic, yet troubling scene in Pixar’s Inside Out the main character, Joy, who is named for the emotion she represents in the psyche of her human, Riley, knocks over several boxes while riding a train. Some of the boxes were labeled “facts” and the others were labeled “opinions.” After knocking over the boxes, thus scrambling facts and opinions, Joy laments “Oh no! These facts and opinions look so similar.” Riley’s imaginary friend, who is also on the train, reassured Joy “Ah, don’t worry about it. Happens all the time” as he carelessly grabs the facts and opinions and throws them back in the boxes.[1]

In a world rich with information presenting itself as facts, it is a challenge to discern what facts are truly “facts” and what information is void of truth. If I spend too much time on social media, I become overwhelmed by the flood of “facts” presented to me. While scrolling through, it is impossible to critically research and assess each fact to determine if what I am seeing/reading is valid.

Because of this, much of the facts presented to us play on either our desires, like marketing and advertising to get us to buy stuff, or our fears, like the news, which has learned that bad news gets more attention and therefore more eyes for advertising. If I incredulously give my attention to the news and advertising, I will become fearful, and out of fear and desire, resort to buying stuff.


Factfulness Summary

If we solely rely on the major news outlets, we will assume the world is getting worse. Fortunately, Hans Rosling provides us with helpful critical thinking tools to help us not get on the panic train, but rather recognize that the world is actually getting better. Rosling wrote, along with son and daughter-in-law Ola and Anna Rosling, wrote Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.[2]

Rosling argues that the world is better than what we normally hear about. People are living longer, have more access to education and health care, and poverty is decreasing.[3] This is largely due to our “negativity instinct” where our assumption is that the world is getting worse. But, according to Rosling, having a fact-based worldview will help us “make better decisions, stay alert to real dangers and possibilities, and avoid being constantly stressed about the wrong things.”[4] As Christian leaders, we must, based on our confidence in the Gospel, lead with wise discernment of real dangers and a posture of “non-anxious presence.”[5]


What This Means for Christian Leaders

Jim Collins, the author of the renowned business leadership book Good to Great, writes about Admiral Stockdale who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Collins asked Stockdale who out of the prisoners were the first to despair and give up. Surprisingly, Stockdale answered “The optimists.” What Collins learned, which he found translated to leadership, is that great leaders need to be honest about the facts, but not lose faith that things will get better.[6] This, in addition to Rosling’s assessment that we have convincing reason that the world is in fact getting better, ought to inspire us to resist riding the stress train. Instead, we can expect bad news but know that bad news does not provide the full picture of the state of our world.

From this, we, as Christian leaders, in our information-rich and opinion-confused-as-fact world must do three things:

  1. Expect bad news.[7] There will be bad news, but this ought to not paralyze us. Rather, we are energized to do what we can to make the world better in our spheres of influence. And the world is getting better.
  2. Refuse to allow the drama of panic news to cause us to resort to consumerism as a mask to deal with our negative feelings.
  3. We must discern what the facts are by shifting through substance-less opinions and modified facts.

The world needs Christian leaders who can skillfully sift through opinions, critically and honestly excavate and embrace the facts, and confidently move forward with hope knowing that there are better days ahead.


[1] Inside Out – Facts and Opinions, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sav2L2E38XA.

[2] Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World–and Why Things Are Better than You Think, First edition (New York: Flatiron Books, 2018).

[3] Ibid. 13, 60-63.

[4] Ibid. 16.

[5] Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (10th Anniversary, Revised Edition) (Church Publishing, Inc., 2017), 97.

[6] James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap–and Others Don’t, 1st ed (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2001), 65-90.

[7] Rosling, Rosling, and Rönnlund, Factfulness, 12.

About the Author


David Beavis

David is Australian by birth, was raised in Southern California, and is the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at B4 Church in Beaverton, Oregon. David and his wife, Laura, live in Hillsboro with their dog, Coava (named after their favorite coffee shop). M.A. Theology - Talbot School of Theology B.A. Psychology - Vanguard University of Southern California

13 responses to “Pixar, Factfulness, and Stockdale’s Paradox”

  1. David,
    Great post, your intro set up the rest of your post. Well done!

  2. David,

    Thank you for your post, I appreciate that you bring in the conversation of sifting through the facts as this is oh so hard in our information inundated society. I have found getting information from multiple sources of different perspectives helps to fins the truth that is probably in the middle somewhere. I have also found that actually experiencing things and places helps. Obviously I have not visited a war zone but when we go to other places and met people different from us I think it becomes easer to see that there really is more good in the world than we see on the news. Have you found ways to push back on the “negativity instinct”?

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Hi Sara! Great question. As someone who naturally takes a “oh no, we’re all gonna die” perspective (I’m in continued recovery from that perspective), history has helped me realize that us humans are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. And, I tell my “negativity instinct” that the news is dependent on “advertising” and, because of our human nature, fear catches attention (the valuable commodity of our time) more than good news.

  3. Great post, David,
    News can be detrimental indeed, especially “fake news.”
    I agree with this statement here, how have you applied this in your own leadership? “Refuse to allow the drama of panic news to cause us to resort to consumerism as a mask to deal with our negative feelings.”

    • mm David Beavis says:

      In regards to dramatic news and utilizing consumerism to mask negative feelings, I simply keep my news consumption low, and I take in news via low-drama, simply reporting the facts without much commentary outlets such as Rueters, listening to the Pour Over Podcast, and the Wall Street Journal “What’s News” Podcast. When it comes to avoiding consumerism, that’s actually not too hard for me because I don’t have a whole lot of money to spend freely on whatever I want (haha!).

  4. David – Excellent summary of Factfulness and extrapolation of what it means for Christian leaders. I feel like I need to print those bullet points and hang them on my wall as a reminder!

  5. Alana Hayes says:


    You connected this book with one of the best Pixar movies I think that every adult and child should be required to watch.

    I think. your bullet points could become a daily mindfulness technique! Which one is the hardest for you to to hold true to?

    • mm David Beavis says:

      The toughest one for me is for sure not getting caught up in the drama of fear-based and fear-igniting (and attention-grabbing) news. The key word here for me is (surprise, surprise) differentiation. Learning to differentiate and not get caught up in the anxiety of the news is the growth area for me.

  6. mm Becca Hald says:

    David, great summary! I love “Inside Out.” My daughter turned thirteen the year it came out, so it became an instant favorite!

    I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What ways do you bring this Truth of the gospel to your ministry?

  7. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Great post. If you had to name one thing that challenges your ability to remain factual what would it be?

    • mm David Beavis says:

      Hi Shonnel, in a word: food. When the server asks if I want a salad for my side or fries, I know for a FACT that I would feel better with a salad, it will be overall better for my health (both mental and physical), and the rest of my day (and tomorrow) will benefit from it. But I order the FRIES! They get me every time.

      All that to say, facts are at the mercy of our desires. If I desire for a lie to be a fact, then I’m going to figure out at way for it to be a fact.

  8. Michael O'Neill says:

    Awesome post and super encouraging. I prefer to look on the optimistic side of things but also can not help but feel like the world is falling apart simultaneously. There is a part of me that doesn’t care, I know where my hope lies and I’ll live or die by the Word. But the other side of me doesn’t want my family harmed in any way and wants to do everything I can to protect them from the trouble that is “at our doorstep” (or any other way we look, scroll, or go). I do not know how anyone gets through life without Jesus. It seems like the only tried and true fact there is.

    Great post, David. Your references are always solid and the Inside Out connection is perfect.

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