You are not going to be the first person to set foot on the moon. That distinction belongs to Neil Armstrong.
And now Armstrong belongs to history.
The pioneering astronaut, who left his boot print in the fine lunar dust more than four decades ago, died Saturday, according to news reports. He was 82.
Most of us will never experience the heights – both literal and metaphorical -- attained by Armstrong. We can, however, strive to adopt and practice the characteristics that put him on a trajectory for an out-of-this-world career that earned him the respect and admiration of the nation.
Armstrong’s career accomplishments were built upon a foundation of passion for flight and a drive to be at the forefront of the field. Armstrong told his biographer, according to a New York Times obituary, that he was disappointed when when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947, when Armstrong was in his teens.
“I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late. I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight,” he said.
Later, however, Armstrong would go on to be a test pilot of aircraft, undertaking several flights at 4,000 miles per hour, flirting with the edge of space.
It can be difficult for those of us who spend our days in cubicles, rather than the cockpits of experimental aircraft, to rally and maintain passion for our work. But the effort to do so is well worth it. Try to identify things that you love and like about your job. Look for ways to innovate and push the boundaries of your position. Get excited about what you do, and success will follow.
If Armstrong hadn’t been willing to leave the security of the planet Earth and risk everything, he would have never made that giant leap for mankind and most people would never have known his name. His willingness to accept risk is why he was able to achieve great things.
In our careers, we often seek security – and there’s nothing wrong with that. We have people who depend on us and responsibilities to fulfill. Still, we should bear in mind that the greatest successes are often accompanied by the greatest risks. A risk can be an opportunity. Weigh the pros and cons instead of dismissing risks out of hand.
Though his walk on the moon made him a national hero, Armstrong shied away from the spotlight. He didn’t fade away after his departure from the space program – he was a NASA administrator, a college professor and a director of several corporations, among others things – but he remained humble.
In fact, he may have lamented that he was given all the credit for his accomplishments: “He feels guilty that he got all the acclaim for an effort of tens of thousands of people,” former wife Janet Armstrong said.
In our own career successes, no matter how large or small, we should work to remain humble – not to brag; not to take on airs of superiority; to be sure to share credit with all those involved.
You are not going to be the first person to walk on the moon – but you still can achieve great things in your career. Let the successes of people like Neil Armstrong be your guide and inspiration.