In my last post, I wrote about courage. This week, I’d like to take that up a notch by telling you about my hero, Jim Lovell. In this post, we'll learn about his incredible courage. Next week, we'll talk about his ability to overcome failure. And the week after that, we’ll learn about his capacity for wonder.
Jim Lovell is best known for being the Commander of the “successful failure” that was Apollo 13 (and for subsequently becoming a member of the “Tom Hanks played me in a movie” club). Apollo 13 was indeed an astounding feat, but ultimately, it wasn’t nearly as important as one of Jim's earlier missions, Apollo 8. And that’s because up until that time, though nearly two dozen people had been to space, no human had ever left earth’s orbit.
That changed with Apollo 8.
The mission sounded simple enough. Along with fellow crew members Frank Borman and William Anders, Jim’s mission wasn’t to land on the moon, it was only to see if they could get there, circle it 10 times and then come home.
Oh, and also to take one of the most significant photos ever taken – "Earthrise".
But think about that for a second. When they left, they had no idea if they’d ever set foot on earth again. They didn’t know if the computer guidance system would work as designed, they didn’t know what would happen when they went around the backside of the moon, and they didn’t know if the math was right and that there would be enough fuel for the return journey.
And yet, they went.
It was an astounding act of courage. Perhaps, the greatest single act of courage in human history.
Just how did they do it?
First, the massive Saturn V rocket blasted them into orbit. There, they spent about two and a half hours testing various components of the ship before reigniting their rocket engine for “translunar injection” (yes, that phrase makes me laugh too – we’re tragically immature people, you and I).
And off they went into the unknown and, the history books. There was no hesitation. They just did it.
Now think of your own life.
Most of us manage to get ourselves into orbit. We leave home, train for our chosen career, find love and friendship, maybe have a family and buy a house. At first, there’s a rush of exhilaration. We’ve done it! We’re making it on our own. God only knows what excitement and adventures will come next!
But then, we get comfortable. We learn the patterns of our orbit. We look out the window and nothing surprises us. We know what to expect. And over time, the notion of leaving orbit becomes frightening. The longer we stay put, the more we begin to doubt we can do it. And so, rather than a brief layover on the way to the great, exciting unknown, our orbit becomes our home. We’re just far enough away from earth that we don’t feel like a complete failure, but we never learn what we’re truly capable of. And we never see what lies beyond our immediate understanding.
And that’s a terrible shame.
Are you sitting on a great idea?
Do you turn down opportunities that you know you should be taking advantage of?
Are you miserable at work, but afraid to even begin the process of looking for something new?
Are you using alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, sugar, porn, gambling or something else as an escape from reality?
Do you avoid people, places and situations that might make you uncomfortable?
Do you use perfectionism as a tool to avoid starting/finishing initiatives?
Do you allow toxic people to undermine you and hinder your personal growth?
Do you subscribe to an endless list of “safe problems” – the small nagging kind that never seem to get solved?
We’ve each been given an extraordinary gift; this conscious, self-aware life. You are here to use your particular mix of traits and talents to benefit the world around you.
You weren’t meant to stay in orbit. Here’s how to break free of it.
4 Questions that will Help You Escape Earth’s Orbit
1: What does escape from Earth’s orbit look like (to you)?
It's different for everybody, your orbit might be my moon shot. But some of us are so used to being in orbit that we can’t even imagine what a life beyond it might look like.
When working with clients, I use the Rocking Chair Exercise to help them visualize their ideal life experience.
Here’s a narrated video to take you through the exercise.
Or, you can contemplate the questions below.
Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Imagine yourself on your 95th birthday. You are happy and healthy. And, you’re looking back at your life, a life that was ideal for you.
Who are you as a person?
What do other people value about you?
What achievements are you most proud of?
What added meaning to your life?
What gives you a sense of fulfillment?
Who is in your life – what kind of people are they?
What kind of career did you have?
How did you ensure you were healthy?
What did you do for fun?
How did you serve your community?
2: What keeps you from escaping Earth’s orbit? What is the source of that gravity?
What negative patterns of belief and behavior are you clinging too? How are you numbing yourself to the reality of what's happening in your life?
Examples of negative beliefs:
I don’t have what it takes.
If I’m successful, I’ll end up alone.
I’m unworthy of achieving my dreams because at my core, I'm not a good person.
Examples of negative patterns:
Outlandish, La La Land expectations
Examples of numbing behaviors/addictions:
Endless Nagging Little Problems
3: What will be the rocket fuel that blasts you out of orbit?
How will you take better care of yourself?
How will you cultivate persistence in your life?
What boundaries will you set to protect yourself?
How will you assure consistent action?
What else will be your rocket fuel?
4: What’s your plan for when things go wrong?
This is a big one.
The thing most people don’t know about Jim Lovell, is that during the Apollo 8 mission he made a mistake. A big one. The kind that nearly killed him and his fellow crew members.
We’ll talk about that next week.
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