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How does a less than stellar high school student find his way to college and eventually in space?  By reading a book.

Captain Scott Kelly, the most recent presenter at the Arizona Speaker Series, readily admits that he was not the best student and had it not been for the appealing cover of the book, The Right Stuff, he would most likely not have spent a year in space.

When asked “what would you like to be when you grow up?” Kelly, like a lot of kids said “astronaut.”  After all, he was a kid in the ‘60s and TV shows like I Dream of Jeannie and My Favorite Martian were popular, so it was a natural response.  But it wasn’t until he was in the college bookstore and happened to see Thomas Wolfe’s book, that he actually thought it just might be possible.

Kelly’s presentation was woven with anecdotes from his childhood with twin brother, astronaut Mark Kelly (who days before had announced his candidacy for Senator), TV clips from his space flights, appearances from space on late-night television during his yearlong stay at the space station, and even screenshots of Twitter conversations with President Barack Obama.

And along the way he shared some very valuable leadership lessons as well:

  • Don’t be afraid of the hard things. Try them anyway, you never know, you just might succeed.
  • Teamwork is essential. Whether you are in space or in the office, play to the strengths of those on your team.
  • Set goals and a plan to achieve them. But don’t be afraid to fail. There are always lessons to be learned along the way.
  • Take risks, Make mistakes.
  • Focus on what you can control, ignore what you can’t.

When the moderator asked for a closing comment, he was quiet for a minute and finally said, “I am one of a lucky few that have had the chance to see Earth from above, where there are no borders, no walls, no politics, just beauty.  We need to appreciate all that we have and work together to take care of it and each other.  If we can go to space, there is absolutely nothing we can’t do.”

And he ended by saying “the sky is definitely not the limit.”

He should know.

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio

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