When things get stressful, it’s important to remember there is only so much that you can control. But if you think that’s difficult when you’re working in an office, imagine how crazy a proposition it’d be if you’re orbiting the Earth.
Capt. Scott Kelly and Capt. Mark Kelly know all about that.
They are twin brothers who are both seasoned Navy fighter pilots and retired NASA astronauts. Both have spent time on board the International Space Station — with Scott the first American to spend one consecutive year in space.
With their air and space adventures behind them, the brothers reflected in a keynote at the LocationWorld conference in New York City on the lessons they have learned about leadership and teamwork.
1. Never settle.Scott recalled a significant moment during his Navy training in which he had to land an airplane precisely on a ship in the middle of the ocean. But the first time he went out to complete the test, he failed, and was asked by his superior whether this was really the career path he wanted to pursue.
He didn’t give up and tried again. His teacher told him that the problem was that when things were going well in the air, he got too comfortable and wasn’t able to make quick decisions.
“You have to make small, constant corrections. Always test the status quo,” he said
2. Stay focused.Mark told a story about flying a combat mission in southern Iraq that landed him in a situation that was too close for comfort.
“I gotta tell you, one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life up to that point was seeing that missile come up, that big, bright white dot just getting bigger, and just staying in the same relative spot to you,” he said. “If it stays in the same spot, it means it’s coming right at you.”
Even though he was scared, he knew that he had to stay focused on the job at hand, and rely on his navigator to do what he needed to do. Their mission was ultimately successful.
3. Take one step at a time.It may feel like you always have to be on, especially when you are starting a new venture, and no one understands this quite like Scott Kelly. His year on the ISS is a massive scientific and human achievement, but it also meant that no matter what happened over the course of that mission, he was always at work.
When he woke up or went to sleep, he was always on the job. Of course, there were breaks for meals and recreation, but he and his crew always had to be ready to put out fires — and that’s not just a figure of speech. His solution was to take things step by step and remember that he loved what he did and that “nothing is more important than what I’m doing right now.”
4. Don’t go it alone.When you’re launching a company, you need people who believe in your vision and have your back. But a really successful team has people who bring different sensibilities to the table.
“I hate ‘yes’ people,” Mark explained. “I’m perfectly capable of agreeing with myself. I’m pretty good at it.”
When he assembles a team, he said that he tells them on the first day that they are required to question his decisions if there is a question of safety or if there is a better, more effective way to do things.
“No individual can do it all on their own,” he said.
5. Embrace hard work.Scott spoke about leaving the space shuttle for the last time and marveling at the work that he and his crewmates had done in absolute extremes, and thinking about the successful international partnerships that made the ISS possible.
“This is the hardest thing that we have ever done. And if we can do this, we can do anything,” he said. “If we want to go to Mars, we can go to Mars. If we want to cure cancer, we can put the resources behind it and cure cancer.”
Scott continued, “If we have a goal and a plan, and are willing to take risks and mistakes and work as team, we can choose to do the hard thing.”