Keep Your Cool

Wow! This takes me back! Please check the date this post was authored, as it may no longer be relevant in a modern context.

John Glenn has been in the news bunch recently. 50 years ago, he orbited the earth in a tin can. This interview struck me (and remember, this is coming from a 90 year old man):

JOHN GLENN: Well, obviously, you train for all the things that may happen. You don’t train for a normal mission where everything goes okay.

Some of the things, though, that happened were ones that we had not been able to practice. And so, well, at the end of the first orbit, the automatic control system went out. So I had to take over manually and control. And that wasn’t a big problem.

Then, at the end of the flight, though, that’s where the – there was an indication that the heat shield might be loose. And that required then that we leave the retro pack on to help to hold the heat shield in place. And it meant it burned off during reentry. And that was very – I could look up over my head out the little window and see burning chunks of that coming by.

But it worked – the heat shield worked fine. And the retro pack did burn off, and so made a good reentry with that and everything worked out okay.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how did you keep your cool?

JOHN GLENN: Well, you know, there’s no need to panic at something like that, Judy. You just keep working through as you are trained to do, and mainly keeping the attitude of the space craft exactly where it should be, so that you get the maximum protection from the heat shield.

And you just keep right on working right on through it. And if something is going to happen, the worst thing you could do would be panicky in there. So I just kept on working as we had trained, and everything worked out okay.

I’m bootstrapping my own company right now. Working alone on a big project, it is easy to let panic creep in. There are lots of unexpected turns. I’ve built plenty of websites and helped plenty of companies grow though. “just keep working through as you are trained to do” is the salient phrase for me. Remember your training, and keep your cool.