As originally seen on Forbes
Today, we all face uncertain times. For many of us, the coming weeks and months will be the hardest of our lives. In the last couple of weeks, I have focused on responding to adversity with generosity and avoiding a victim mentality, but today, the topic is simply embracing hard things.
Over fifty years ago, the United States hit a low point of a different kind. They were stuck in Vietnam, the economy was on shaky ground, and to top it off, our biggest global enemy, the USSR had just beat the US into space by successfully launching the Sputnik satellite. Americans were terrified of what this move signified; against this backdrop, John J. Kennedy gave his now famous speech setting our sights to land the first man on the moon:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” - John F. Kennedy
Great leaders don’t sugarcoat the situation. JFK showed this through communication leadership. “Communication leadership happens when the world knows your vision, likes your vision, and trusts your vows,” explained executive coach and leadership trainer Anthony Lee. “Your vows are you bold promise,” he explained that these vows almost always offer a big payoff only at great sacrifice. Think about what Winston Churchill told Parliament when he was made Prime Minister, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” That is real leadership.
What does our sacrifice earn us? Winston Churchill promised survival, JFK promised enlightenment, or the ability to “measure or organize our best abilities.” By leaning in to something that seemed impossible at the time, JFK inspired a new industry and an entire nation towards innovation. Here is a summary of just a few of the major inventions that have been discovered over the years by NASA in their efforts to accomplish something that was difficult and deadly.
These inventions created more than just billions of dollars of revenue, they changed the way we live, play, and work. NASA naysayers claim the space race was all a waste of money and that money could have better gone towards healthcare or reducing poverty. While both noble and important goals, it takes far more than just resources to create innovation. The combination of terribly difficult challenges and a clear vision for the future, help us to grow, and make discoveries that would never have been revealed otherwise.
What will your epidemic breakthrough be? Change through adversity is inevitable; how we choose to show up for ourselves and for those around us will dictate the nature and quality of that change. It has been almost a full month of quarantine for most of us. In this time you may have felt powerless at certain points, and thats ok, but this next month make a commitment to lean in to the challenge and put in the work to change in ways that will carry on well after we are on the other side of this. Who knows, maybe you will invent the next Tang*?
*Tang is a sweet artificially flavored orange beverage that was invented by General Mills food scientist William A. Mitchell. While not created specifically for the space program, Tang became famous after John Glenn drank it on his Mercury flight in 1962.
As originally seen on Forbes