Not many people can say they have met and talked with an Extraterrestrial, however I recently had such an opportunity when I met former Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.  Buzz was a part of the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon just 66 short years after the Wright brother’s historic first flight and became the second man to walk on the moon, existing the spacecraft just minutes after Neil Armstrong’s famous “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” broadcast.

Buzz, a former Air Force Pilot was a man of firsts: first astronaut to train underwater to simulate low gravity, first to spacewalk - for 5 and half hours at 17,000 miles an hour no less; and the first to take a space selfie back in 1966. His stories were engaging, walking through many of his life’s highlights. He revealed President Kennedy originally went to the folks at MIT to figure out how to get to Mars yet after a weekend of calculations, they advised that Mars was a bit out or reach and recommended a trip to the moon.   Can you imagine being the guy that had to deliver that news to the President?

Going to space appears to have been pre-ordained according to Buzz, as his mother’s maiden name was “Moon”. Joining the space program as part of the third group of astronauts – Buzz reports the others called him “Mr Rendezvous”  based on his MIT thesis about trajectories to bring space craft together in space which became crucial as part of the moon program and shared the Navy Pilots likely weren’t saying it as a compliment.

One of the funniest moments from his speech came when someone asked why there weren’t photos of the dark side of the moon. Buzz’s response – guess we didn’t have any flashbulbs. Followed up with the fact they didn’t get briefed by Pink Floyd.

At 86, Buzz is still going strong, is in amazing shape (think he could have outperformed many in attendance in a workout) and has been working hard the last 30 years to lay the groundwork to not only have mankind travel to Mars but to have people living on that planet.

Three great lessons came through during his speech, and they can be equally applied to business or personally.

  1. Never give up on a goal Buzz had decided he wanted to be part of the space program and applied in 1961. With so few openings and rigorous screening process, his first application was rejected. He could have given up however he chose to take steps to improve his chances, returning to school to further his education. He was accepted into the space program on his second application in 1963.Setbacks and adversities shouldn’t hold you back from obtaining a goal. Use them to refocus and possibly re-plan on HOW to reach the objective. If you are truly committed to reaching the goal, Buzz’s message was to stay positive and work to make it happen. Never give up.
  2. People Working together can accomplish the impossible In 1957 when the Russians put man in space or when Alan Sheppard became the first man to orbit the earth in 1961, landing on the moon would have appeared unreachable. The technology didn’t exist, extended time in space was an unknown, and how would you land on the moon and then return to an orbiting command module? It seemed impossible to contemplate. Yet, once the goal was set by President Kennedy, people came together to make it happen.In business, innovators dare to envision the impossible; to set stretch goals and then motivate their teams to reach them. An inspired vision coupled with group determination can help you reach the “impossible”.
  3. Set the Parameters for the Goal Vision and determination isn’t enough. Once the goal is set, it needs to be publicly stated and a time period to successfully achieve the goal must be included so you can determine success accomplishment of the goal.In the case of the moon landing, President Kennedy set the vision and goal. He publicly stated the vision and goal, while providing his acceptable timeline for it to be accomplished (before the end of the decade).Vision & Determination + Public Statement of the Goal with a Time Period to Achieve = Success

One last thought, as Buzz was explaining the moon landing and described some of the technology in use it struck me how in this day and age our Smartphones now have more computing power in them than all of NASA had available to put Neil and Buzz on the moon. Think on that. We have available to us tools that those NASA engineers probably didn’t even know to dream of.

Yes, in the business world this level of technology can be a double edged sword. Implemented properly, like in the moon landings, it can bring great success. Implemented poorly, it can be a major weakness that could lead to disaster.

If you have concerns about the state of your technology – Are you secure? Could you recover your business and data in a disaster? Is your team as productive as they could be?  – give me a call and let’s talk.