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Astronauts on Apollo 13 Could Have Died, Their Fear Saved Them

Astronauts on Apollo 13 Could Have Died, Their Fear Saved Them

In 1970, astronauts aboard Apollo 13 were in a dire situation. They were going to land on the moon, but after an oxygen-tank explosion, the three men had to move to the lunar module of their spacecraft so that they could safely return home. There was just one problem with this plan: the lunar module was only designed for two men for a period of 36 hours. They needed enough air for three men for 96 hours. They would suffocate if they could not remove the CO2 from the air.[1]

The odds were against them, but the team at NASA didn’t give up. Motivated by fear of losing their guys, they gathered the materials that they knew the men would have on the lunar module and challenged themselves to make a CO2 scrubber.

Even though the mission didn’t turn out the way NASA had planned, the story has a happy ending. The emergency system that NASA developed on the fly saved the astronauts’ lives.

Fear drove the NASA team to be more creative.

Many people believe that creativity will only flourish when someone has lots of time and freedom. It’s true that people that feel too frightened or under too much pressure will have a hard time producing. Sometimes a small amount of fear pushes people to be extra creative.

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Fear Is a Protective Fence

There is such thing as a healthy amount of fear. Fear keeps us from taking big risks, and it helps us stay safe.

Your amygdala, the primitive part of your brain, is responsible for your impulse control and fear.[2] The amygdalae are the home of the fight or flight response. Being frightened all the time is not good for us, but having enough fear to prevent us from making bad choices keeps us from engaging in risky behaviors.[3]

    The Problem With the Fence

    When people are playing it safe all the time, it’s easy to fall into a routine. Our brain loves the idea of routine because it can go on autopilot. When something works, there’s no need to change anything.

    This is the comfort zone. It’s a safe place, but there isn’t much going on here. There’s no pressure to improve anything because everything seems to be moving along just fine.

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      We all need breaks from pressure once in a while, but if we are always comfortable, we can never grow. When we don’t have to worry about anything, there’s nothing to stimulate innovation.

      Problems motivate you to find solutions. Changes lead to adaptation. If you have an issue that you can’t solve right away, you’ll keep working on that problem in your mind – even if you don’t realize it. Problem solving like this causes us to put more energy and attention into dealing with the issue.

        The space between what we have and what we want is sometimes called creative tension. Having a gap between our reality and a desired outcome may be stressful, but prompts us to do our best work.[4]

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        The Fence Is Unnecessary

        You don’t really need that fence. The person who has no reason to make changes will continue on the same path indefinitely. Tension and new circumstances motivate creativity. Sometimes we need a little push to reach our full potential. Tighter deadlines, new tools, a different team, or an accident can spur you to tackle problems in new ways.

          Pixar, creators of some of the greatest animated films of our time, had to rethink their creative process. Instead of teaching people to avoid failure, they changed their culture to encourage people to fail quickly. Instead of creating crippling fear around making mistakes they worked to develop a sense of creative tension.

          This healthy amount of fear allows people to be okay with being wrong early in the process. They are willing to try new things. The creative tension that they experience makes their fear a friend to their creativity.

          Use Fear to Get You in Gear

          Living with too much fear every day is unhealthy. Your brain naturally tries to avoid being put under so much stress. Use creative tension to look at problems in new ways. You’ll see new perspectives and options you never noticed before.

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          Taking on a new role, working in a different place, and new people and tools can push you to try things outside of your normal routine. Your routine won’t inspire change by itself. Having to adjust to new situations can help you look at things in ways you never saw them before.

          This new way of thinking is the seed for creative growth. If you are becoming to relaxed or complacent, you may need to create change for yourself. To experience some creative tension:

          • Set a deadline. If you don’t have a due date for a project, create your own. This will keep you from procrastinating and force you to think about the problem.
          • Come up with a more ambitious target. When what you’re doing feels way too easy, challenge yourself. You’ll be less likely to get bored, and you’d be amazed at what you can come up with.
          • Change your routine. Doing the same thing every day or completing a task in the same way keeps you from reaching your creative potential. Doing something just because you’ve always done it that way isn’t a good enough rationale. Think about new ways to do what you do.

          Not every kind of work gives you the flexibility to make changes to your role. You may be expected to do things in a certain way. Even if you can’t alter your role, you can change how you think about it. No matter what your job expects of you, you are always free to challenge yourself to think about things from a new angle.

          You can think about how another person might think about the work that you are doing. If you were the CEO of the company, how would you feel about the work? If you are performing a service, what would you want as a customer. These new perspectives can make you think about what you do in new and exciting ways.

          Sheer terror isn’t going to make you a better worker, but creative tension can push you to do incredible things. People can’t innovate when they stagnate. Find ways to break out of your comfort zone and embrace the creativity that comes from a challenge.

          Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on April 8, 2020

          Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

          Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

          The newspaper headlines, blogs, social media, TV programs are talking about leaders, leadership qualities and people who occupy high positions in government, enterprises and multinational corporations more and more every day.

          We understand that all these high positions are not the main things we should talk about. Leadership is not about the profession, place of a particular person in the hierarchy of the company or government body. It doesn’t make anyone a strong leader.

          Being a strong leader means acquiring management skills which allow you to lead people, to get them to the new achievements and high results. That’s the ticket. It doesn’t matter you are a small company manager or an industry leader the next list of TOP-10 management skills will boost your effectiveness, will make you a strong leader.

          1. Always Inspire the Team

          Remember that your job is not just about hitting goals, enhancing sales or raising profits. We both realize the importance of these indicators for stakeholders and investors.

          Now let’s focus on leading your team. Be rooted in reality and always strive to give your empathy, perspective to all circumstances and situations you encounter.

          Roll up your sleeves and inspire:

          • Be visible among your staff to become their inspiration. There is no chance to be a good leader hiding in your office on a top floor;
          • Join your team to complete ad-hoc projects. Believe us, your participation and contribution is always inspiring;
          • Focus on each person’s strengths, stay enthusiastic with his/her contribution;
          • Be closer to your team;
          • Find the right words. It may be the biggest challenge of the day, the right words in a difficult situation can show that you are a really good leader.

          Need more inspirations? This article can help: The Simplest Ways To Inspire People And Change Their Life

          2. Make a Wise Delegation Your Number One Priority

          It is obvious that you can’t do everything by yourself. Moreover, you shouldn’t do that.

          Your ability to delegate responsibilities shows that you trust your staff, you are sure in their competitiveness.

          It is the best thing that you can do within a team environment. You’re able to kill two birds with one stone: you can reduce your own stress level and make the workplace more friendly showing confidence in workers’ abilities.

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          How to delegate to the right person?

          When you’re thinking about the person who will take some responsibilities consider three factors:

          • The relevance between the skills, experience of the person and the delegated tasks;
          • Working style (is he or she is a team player or independent performer; does he has goals which correspond with the responsibilities which you want to delegate?);
          • The workload of the person (does he/she has time to take new responsibilities or this delegation requires some reshuffling of responsibilities).

          Check out Lifehack’s CEO advice on how to delegate: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

          3. Stay Responsible and Don’t Blame

          Failures always happen. You need to accept this fact and learn how to overcome them. Your job is not to find who is wrong but to take responsibility together with your staff.

          Make your subordinates understand that all of them are accountable for the decisions they make. Remember that you are their leader, you should take a part of the responsibility for their actions.

          Always give them a pat on the back if you see their good results but don’t blame in case of failure. Make an atmosphere in which everyone feels your support and willingness to realize mistakes together and work on their improvement hand by hand.

          Taking personal responsibility for your company and everything that happens in it including failures will motivate your employees to follow you.

          Don’t make excuses, better do this:

          • Take your personal responsibility for the failure;
          • Try to work on the problem to fix it;
          • Think about what you should have done before to prevent this mistake and what to improve in the future.

          4. Encourage Creative Thinking and Innovations

          What is the difference between the follower and the leader? The leader always looks ahead, he is not afraid of innovations, creative approaches to management and business processes.

          Innovative and creative thinking are qualities which make you stand out from the crowd and enable your team to get 200%, not 100% of the result.

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          Don’t forget to encourage your staff because the majority of people perceive innovations painfully and adopt new rules with reluctance. It is all about phycology, a good leader should take it into account.

          Encourage creativity in your team:

          • Become a model for your staff, show your dedication to innovations;
          • Create a supportive atmosphere for creativity in a workplace;
          • Launch events and processes to find and capture creative ideas;
          • Reward fresh ideas, innovations, celebrate success with your team.

          In short, ensure psychological safety in your team, this will encourage more innovative ideas. Learn more about psychological safety here: If You Want an Invincible Team, Make Them Feel Safe

          5. Stay Positive in Any Circumstances

          If you want to be a great leader, you should understand that you need to be positive and motivated despite any circumstances.

          Even in the hardest situation, you should be an example to follow for your staff because you will be who leads the way, so stand firm and show a positive attitude.

          Always keep the lights:

          • Create constantly friendly, open atmosphere in your workplace;
          • Remain positive when things go wrong;
          • Find the ways to keep your team motivated when the situation goes in a bad way.

          Here’re more tips to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining Your Positive Attitude

          6. Develop Your Employees

          Along with developing yourself don’t forget that without people around you and their skills the success may be not so bright.

          Thanks to the staff development, not only employees will get new skills which they can use when they write resumes, your team can make tasks easier; besides, it will foster morale.

          Use these tips to develop your staff:

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          • Turn your staff meetings into an instrument of learning;
          • Launch annual education/ training for employees with coaches, experts;
          • Encourage their willingness to develop their skills;
          • Share your own knowledge with your team

          7. Remember Your past Experience When Making a Decision

          Futuristic vision is good. But you can’t go far in business without your experience. You should make all management decisions taking into account not only your skills, statistics, ideas of key stakeholders or innovative approaches.

          You should also consider your past lessons. The right decision made at the right time has a great impact on the masses.

          Look ahead, think hard before making a decision. But after you make it, be firm and stand by it.

          Improve your decision making:

          • Trust your management vision, intuition;
          • Try to connect your present-day challenge with the lessons which you learned in your career before;
          • Better to take notes when you make important decisions, write down the results both positive and negative so that you could get back to them in the future.

          You can also take a look at this guide for making better decisions: Decision Making 101: How To Be a Successful Decision-Maker

          8. Show Your Charisma and Confidence

          As for charisma, everything is simple like wiping the window in the rain. People normally are more likely to follow the person who they like.

          Let’s remember the best leaders. All of them are friendly, close to people, well-spoken, showing care and empathy.

          If you behave in that way, your employees feel that it is not hard to reach you, they will show a willingness to follow you.

          Make confidence your strength.

          Believe in your success and your company’s prosperity, show it everywhere.

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          A great leader exhibits confidence to everyone in any situation. (Take a look at the 5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership.) This will inspire your employees and give them the feeling of confidence in the future, that’s exactly what you need for enhancing their achievements.

          9. Sense of Humor Is Vital to Success

          As a leader, you need to have a sense of humor. Show it when something goes wrong and you need to encourage, relax your employees.

          The ability to laugh things off can make morale up which is so important for staff productivity in difficult situations.

          How the sense of humor can save you in some situations:

          • Humor is able to humanize you. It makes your employees feel that you are all in the same boat, boost camaraderie;
          • It is a key component of a set of empathetic leadership.
          • Humor promotes a sense of shared culture, unity in a workplace.

          10. Consider Failures as Challenges Not as Unrecoverable Mistakes

          Even if you try the hardest in the world failures will happen. Your job is to cope with them and do it with honor.

          If something goes wrong, realize that it has already happened and try to find the best solution.

          How to manage failures:

          • Remain calm, think logically;
          • Don’t stay apart from your team because it may cause the negative morale;
          • Encourage discussion, communication within the team to find the root of the problem, design the best solution.

          The Bottom Line

          It is not easy to become a strong leader, you must have a lot of qualities and experiences. You should look ahead and go beyond the frames in your everyday tasks and responsibilities.

          Moreover, you should be an example of intelligence, wisdom, honesty, commitment and dedication. And that’s why these 10 management skills are so important to master if you want to become a great leader.

          More Leadership And Management Tips

          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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