Lighten Up!

Kick Start Your Attitude

A sense of humor can help you keep perspective. It can also help you cheer yourself on.

Did you know that there are two gold balls on the moon? On February 6, 1971, wrapping up his team's successful Apollo 14 moon visit, Commander Alan Shepard attached a gold-club head to the handle of a dust-sample scooper and batted two golf balls across the creaters. golfer Shepard thought this would be a good way to show TV viewers the effects of the moon's weak gravity (the balls flew six times as far as they would have on earth). It was instructive, but it was also fun!

Ten years earlie, Shepard had become the first American to blast into space. NASA had chosen him over more than 100 other test pilots to ride a 75,000-pound Redstone rocket out of the atmosphere. To prepare, he'd endured months of physical and technical training, taking the historic assignment 100% seriously. Yet when the rocket took off, Mission Control was impressed by Shepard's heart rate, which howed he wasn't overly stressed. Asked after the flight what he was thinking about as he waited for lift-off, he quipped, "The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder."

Discipline, competence, resourcefullness, flexibility, endurance. All of these are needed to meet a goal like Shepard's. But playfulness and a sense of humor also help. They indicate an ability to see the big picture and keep things in perspective. They help you find a way past one of the biggest roadblocks to achievement: perfectionism. To his dismay, Alan Shepard didn't turn out to be the perfect astronaut. After his first NASA flight, he developed an inner ear condition that grounded him for six years. With little hope of returning to speace, he was put in charge of choosing others for space missions. Forunately, after a successful ear operation and a year of proving his fitness to NASA, he got the thumbsup to go to the moon on Apollo 14. In the meantime, he concentrated on the big picture: successuful NASA missions, whether he flew on them or not.

Shepard's NASA career illustrates that a sense of humor can help you perspective at work. A sense of humor can also help you stay on you side. Root for yourself! Avoid the whimsical trap of comedian Woody Allen, who joked, "The one regret I have in life is that I'm not someone else." Give yourself a break. You, like everyone, have abilities and limitations. To prove to yourself that successful people aren't perfect, listen to an interview with one of them. When they tell their life stories, leaders - in business, politics or entertainment - reveal that they make mistakes all the time. They're successful because they learn from those mistakes. Winston Churchill summed it up this way: "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

During the months of preparation for the Apollo 14 moon shot, Alan Shepard deflected the pressure of the undertaking by joking with the flight dirctor. "Hey, " he'd day, "we're not trying to cure cancer; we're just trying to get to the moon and back." Use your sense of humor to lighten your load. You may fly higher than you've ever imagined!


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