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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 January 14, 2019

          The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

          The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

          Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

          We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

          You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

          Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

          Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

          1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

          Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

          Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

          You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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          Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

          Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

          2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

          Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

          Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

          3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

          Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

          How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

          Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

          Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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          Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

          4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

          It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

          With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

          If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

          Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

          Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

          5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

          Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

          However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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          Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

          If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

          With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

          Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

          6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

          The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

          You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

          A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

          By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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          • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
          • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
          • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
          • Is this aligned with my passion?
          • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

          Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

          7. Be Prepared to Let Go

          It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

          Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

          If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

          When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

          Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

          We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

          The Bottom Line

          Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

          More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

          Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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