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5 Things I Learned From 7 Minutes of Terror!

28 November 2018

#leader #leadership #leadershipopedia #planning

This article is a part of the Leadershipopedia Series where we help you to grow your leadership skills because being a leader is about our actions, not our titles.

I truly underestimated the level of impact these 30 minutes would have on me.  Isn’t it amazing that we sometimes go into situations thinking that we are prepared only to be surprised at what we can learn from a new experience?  I had gathered with other colleagues to be briefed by some of the brilliant team members who had played a role in the construction and testing of the Mars scientific probe called Insight.  I quickly came to understand that in just 15 minutes, we would enter the “7 minutes of terror.”


The use of “terror” in describing this period of time, is appropriate when you understand that it relates to the fully automated landing sequence that Insight must go through as it moves from over 12,000 miles per hour to an eventual touch-down at about 5 miles per hour.  In those 7 minutes, Insight must precisely adjust itself to engage the heat shields, deploy a parachute, engage a radar lock on the ground, activate thrusters and all at exactly the right time and in the right order so that it can land undamaged on its three legs. Have you ever experienced your own “7 minutes of terror” where the situation was entirely out of your control, and you were helplessly waiting to hear if there is success or failure?  Being a part of this event “in the moment” with some of the team members responsible for the performance of critical elements like the parachute, later propelled me into a thoughtful exploration of things we should learn from this.  I boiled my thoughts down to 5 vital lessons.


1. Everything is in the planning.

These impressive scientists and engineers had tested, retested, intentionally pushed the limits and learned from early failures.The story of landing on Mars with previous failures.Great leaders learn from the past and embrace early .The early are usually much less costly while more educational.Plan for early and smaller failures as part of your learning and idea maturation.


2. Plan for everything.

Scenario Planning is a strategy that should be every leaders “best-friend.” In Scenario planning, we consider the top realistic possibilities and design a plan for their occurrence. is a must-do activity for a leader.What are the top 2,3,4 or 5 things that are most likely to occur and what would we do if they did?A leader works hard to reduce the risk of surprises.


3. Everything means nothing without everyone. 

Someone once said, “None of you are as smart as a bunch of you.”  Surround yourself with folks who think differently than you do and that will lead to incredible creativity and brilliance.  It takes a team of people focused on the mission to launch the most innovative and transformative ideas.

4. Everything is not really everything. 

Always remember the real priorities in life.  People are more important than things.  Long-term relationships are more important than short-term gains.  We all grossly need each other. Everything is not everything; people are everything.


5. We can only control somethings, never everything. 

Inevitably, we will all go through periods in our lives that will feel like 7 minutes of terror.  Times when we feel that our fate is not in our hands or we feel a sense of “not being in control.”  A good leader can draw peace in those moments because they know that they did all that they could do up to that point.  They took all of the moral, ethical and relational steps necessary to dramatically reduce their guilt and stress.  They can feel like they did what they thought was “the right thing to do” at that moment based on what they knew at that moment.


When we heard the voice of the lady from NASA confirming that the parachute had deployed, I glanced over at the leader whose team was responsible for that component.  The sigh of relief was visible and distinct.  The Insight module traveled from earth for over six months and landed safely on the “red planet” to begin collecting scientific data about the structure.  I encourage you to write down the 5 lessons, study and memorize the titles so that you can recall them quickly.  Please share them with someone else because we learn more when we teach more and leadership is about positioning ourselves to help others.


John F. Edwards is a motivational speaker, author, and talent development expert who works with people and organizations to Lean Forward into success and avoid failure in uncertain times.  His latest book, Culture- Profit or Pain is now available on Amazon.  You can learn more or book John as a speaker at www.eddyspeaks.com   For motivational and inspiration, follow John on twitter @Edwards_Group or visit his blogs at http://eddyspeaks.com/blog

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