The right stuff…

A couple weeks ago, while we had some kinda free trial of HBO, I was clicking through the channels to see if anything of particular interest was playing. Stumbling into the movie Hidden Figures, I couldn’t take my eyes off the story of Katherine Johnson and the other colorful women who were manually doing the very complex math necessary to launch our first American Astronauts into space back in the early 1960’s. After finishing my viewing of the film, it took no time to click a few buttons on the ole ipad and the book by the same title was on it’s way.

A quick convo with Gurue a few days later led to him sharing a clip from the movie The Right Stuff where Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier back in 1947. My mind began to surge with excitement over another series of teams to study. Before ordering the book by the same name, however, my eye’s caught sight of Scott Kelly and his recently published account of a year in space. His book Endurance, would mesmerize me for a week as I learned how hard it is to live in space even though it appears so easy to just float along. So much learning to extrapolate to work and life. So much learning…

So, today, I’m putting the finishing touches on Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff, which has me blown away with how little we understand about pushing the limits, so to speak. The early days of space flight were fraught with conflict over the fight for control. The engineers wanted to send “monkeys” up in a capsule. The seven men (with the right stuff supposedly) wanted to pilot a spacecraft. The engineers didn’t design a window in the first space capsule. The seven astronauts demanded one. The engineers did not design a way for the seven astronauts to exit the capsule on their own. The astronauts demanded a way to blow open the hatch from the inside. The engineers did not design any over-ride controls for the astronauts. In other words, the capsule was an early Tesla kinda autonomous aircraft. The astronauts said no bueno. They demanded control of the spacecraft and even wanted control of the re-entry procedure. The engineers couldn’t believe it!

So, friend, when you look around at the team of titans you’re trying to mesh into ONE, remember some of the right stuff about human nature. All humans, especially the elite, want some semblance of control. Most elite teams struggles center around someone’s unwillingness to let go and someone’s attempt to wrestle it away. No easy answer. No easy day. Some days we gotta go the way of engineering. Some days we gotta lean toward the astronauts. Some days both sides are happy. Some days neither. However, if your team’s gonna break through, you, leader, gotta learn how to push the right buttons. What kills both engineer and astronaut?


Indecision is the enemy of elite individuals, teams, and leaders. Yesterday, I challenged a leader to make more decisions – a lot more. He’s about a step and a half slow to pull the trigger, I told him. Of course, the root of his indecision is fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Ain’t none of those going away anytime soon. Decide, anyway. You, leader, gotta decide even if deciding means you delegate, delete, or delay. The problem I see way too often in our modern, data driven world? Way too much delaying. I mean come on man, are we ever gonna launch?

Good learning today. What are you gonna do with it, leader? Might I suggest we launch. Come on man, this isn’t rocket science. Good…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: