3 Steps NASA Takes to Fix Failure

 

Failure happens and sometimes failure is hard to fix—especially when the failure happens in deep space. By following NASA’s lead, we can fix failure and find success.

Seeking earth-like planets, NASA launched the Kepler spacecraft. The mission went as planned for four years. Then failure caused Kepler to become unstable and spin out of control.  In May 2013, one of Kepler’s four “rotation wheels” failed. Scientists feared that Kepler had become useless and the mission was over.

After working through their usual options, the ingenious NASA scientists decided to harness the power of the sun.  The sun’s energy pushes hard against Kepler’s solar panels. They used this “solar push” as a force to help control the spacecraft.  Instructing Kepler’s three other rotation wheels to push against the solar push, the scientists stabilized the spacecraft which can now focus on specific interstellar bodies.

The resurrected spacecraft made a startling discovery; some 180 light years from earth there are at least 8 planets similar to earth.  And Kepler is still finding new “earths” to explore.

When something goes wrong we often assume that the mission is finished.  By using these three NASA steps we can fix failure and our mission can succeed.

  1. Identify the issue to be solved. So often we are distracted by the symptoms rather than the cause of the issue. Symptoms can be distracting (blood, fire, chaos), by concentrating on the core issue we identify what really needs to be solved (wound, gas line, poor business planning).  The spinning Kepler craft was the symptom; the failure of stability control was the issue to be solved.  Focus on resolving the issue and you’ll start moving away from failure.
  2. Seek creative solutions. Quickly run through your usual problem solving strategies and eliminate all that won’t work.  NASA couldn’t take Kepler to the repair shop.  Look beyond your typical categories of resolution by asking questions that push you to explore ideas that never occurred to you.  NASA asked what other forces could be used to stabilize Kepler.  Look for the “solar energy” that can move you to find new solutions.
  3. When the issue is resolved—move on. So often people wallow in blame and recrimination. Failure is part of success.  Rehashing the failure unnecessarily distracts us from achieving success. Once NASA fixed the problem they went on with Kepler’s mission to identify new planets and, to date, found over 4,100 unknown planets.

Using the three NASA steps we harness ingenuity and initiative to fix failure and accomplishing our goals.

Learn more about the Kepler mission here.

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Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization.  He is an award-winning speaker, writer and coach.  To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com

Please consider making an annual gift to the Methuselah Society for Centenarians where Tim is a founding member.

5 Tips to Improve Your Team – or how to move a piano

 

When I was a boy, my family gave our large upright piano to our next-door neighbors.  The neighbors were a South Korean family, headed by a Christian pastor and his exuberant wife.

Since the neighbors were very small people, I wondered how they would move the massive piano out our door, down our steps, across the lawns and up the steps into the front room of the neighbor’s house. Surely, they needed help.

The morning of the move, eight small men arrived at our door.  To my preteen self, these men seemed entirely unfit for the job.  They were little taller than me and were just as scrawny.  I knew I was unfit for the task and was amazed that these men would even attempt such a marvelous feat of muscle and coordination.

Working together, the team of eight assembled around the musical beast, quickly came to a strategy and lifted as one entity.  With speed and grace, they moved across our floor, out the door and down the steps.  I suspected they would stop at the bottom of the stairs. No. The team zoomed across the sidewalks to the neighbor’s steps and up and in the house they went.  As the men set the piano in its new place, they cheered.

My brothers and I followed with the piano bench.  The minister’s wife sat before the keyboard and played as the men joined in a hymn of praise.

The best part of the eight men moving the piano was the singing.  Common experiences build stronger bonds. Together, the eight took pride in their joint effort and success.  Shared joys are the sweetest and most enduring.

As leaders, we are often reluctant to build our teams.  Among our egocentric excuses are

  1. “I rank independence over collaboration”—Leaders value relationships of reciprocity
  2. “I can do it better”—Leaders trust the team’s competency
  3. “They won’t do it correctly”—Leaders empower teams find their best way
  4. “I don’t have time to explain what I want”—Leaders take time to teach
  5. “I want to be in control”—Leaders invite teams to own the challenge

BONUS!!! Celebrate your team’s success.  Recognition builds trust and confidence.

Projects succeed when we empower teams with information and independence. As leaders, we must claw beyond our egos and the perception that we alone must know and do everything.  We can’t and won’t ever have enough capacity to move the piano alone.

What is your secret to empowering your team? Email me and let me know. Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com

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Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization.  He is an award-winning speaker, writer and coach. To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com

Please consider supporting the husbandry projects of the Canadian College of Hippopotamus Dentistry & its William Claude Dukenfield endowed chair of Ostrich Podiatry.  I am honored to serve as an at-large trustee of this fine institution.

“I’m Supposed to be Honest”

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News of shootings, racial disharmony, economic distress and personal despair find us struggling to live out our hopes. Through the thick static of misery, I share a story of hope for humanity.

Elaine Simpson of Birmingham, Michigan visited Chicago for business.  As Simpson was checking out of her hotel she discovered that her wallet was missing.  In her wallet were priceless family photos, credit cards and about $150 in cash. She filed a police report and a hotel worker loaned her $60 to for a taxi to the airport.

Several days later, an envelope arrived from someone named “Sid” in Chicago. The wallet and its contents were almost complete.  Simpson said, “It was so sweet. Sid used three dollars and seventy-eight cents out of my wallet to pay for the postage.”

CBS Chicago’s Mike Parker tracked down “Sid” in Chicago.  Dr. Fazal Siddiqui, (Sid) is a retired physician who said he found the wallet on the back seat of a taxi outside Navy Pier.  “I’m supposed to be honest because I am a Muslim. It’s my faith, my teaching,” he said.

Dr. Siddiqui expressed his humanity by being honest and generous.  He took time and effort to return treasured possessions to a woman he’d never met.  And a hotel worker helped a stranded traveler settle her hotel bill, file a police report and even loaned the traveler taxi fare to the airport.

Simple acts of kindness help heal the world.  How can we extend care and compassion to others and help heal a hurting world?

 

Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization.  He is an award-winning speaker, writer and coach.  To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com

 

Please consider supporting the impactful work of the Pacifistic Pugilistic Benevolent Society, where I am an emeritus member.

“I Voted Out My King

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I have my voting sticker, but I wish my finger was purple. Exercising my franchise, I went to my early polling place and voted on the offices and referenda that will govern our civic life.

Walking home from the polling place, I thought of the time in 2008 when I sat at a raucous dinner party in Nepal.  The men I dined with talked eagerly of family, faith, law and politics.  The representative democracy in the United States intrigued my companions and I struggled to recall the intricacies of my civics lessons.

To my immediate right sat a man with a purple finger that looked as if he had whacked it with a hammer.  I asked him what he did to his hand.  He lifted his finger, looked me in the eye, and said, “I voted out my king.”  The ink on his finger indicated he’d voted.

When Samuel Adams and John Handcock began imagining a revolution against England’s King George III, the consolidation of Nepal was completed and a monarchy formed.  Since 1768 the monarchy survived insurrection, invasion, and intrigue until the public ousted the king in 2008.   Just prior to my arrival the Nepalese men and women elected to remove the monarchy and install a constitutional democracy.  The democratic leaders were in the public and messy process of drafting a constitution.

Living in a republic, we in the United States, have the responsibility to elect representatives and shape our future. By voting we make our choices known and to our betterment or detriment, we get the government we elect.  Future U.S. President, James Garfield wrote, “Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.” (July 1877, The Atlantic)

We no longer need the courage to oust a king or the wisdom to write a constitution. What we require is the attentiveness to responsibly inform ourselves about the issues of our day, check our prejudices, and select the candidates who possess the character to address national and global challenges.  The foundations of our government and the perpetuation of our ways of life depend on our responsible citizenship.

Vote.

 

Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com

Your Undiminished Value

Your Undiminished Value

Holding a crisp $100 bill high in the air a wise man asked a crowd of people, “Who would like this $100?  Hands rose throughout the room.  He said, “I’m going to give this money to someone in the room, but first let me do this.  He crumpled the bill into a little wad and asked, “Who still wants the money?”  The hands remained aloft.  ‘What if I do this?”  He dropped the money to the floor and ground it into the floor with his shoe.  He picked up the soiled and smashed bill and asked, “Now, who wants the money?” Every hand was still raised.

The wise man looked across the room and said, “This is a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. After all I did to the bill it was still worth $100.”

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the floor by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.  We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen to you, your value never diminishes. You are valued and, unlike a $100 bill, your crumpled, soiled and stomped self is more valuable for the experience.

Frogs of Freedom

Frogs of Freedom (b)Do you ever sense you’re in water over your head?  When starting a new job, relationship, or task, we often feel that there is too much to know, too much to learn and not enough time to do it all.  When I’m faced with such a feeling I remember an African folk tale of the frogs that fell into a milk pail.

The rising sun creased the morning sky and it was time for the day to begin. A farmer arose from his bed and went to milk his cows.  Finishing the milking, the farmer left the bucket of milk and went inside to make his breakfast.

Two passing frogs jumped—like all frogs jump—and they jumped into the milk bucket. They splashed into the milk.  “Oh no!” cried one. “We’re in a pond of milk. How do we get out?”

“Keep swimming,” said the other. “We will get out somehow.” The frogs kicked in the milk again and again. But they couldn’t reach the top of the bucket.

The first frog said, “I’m tired.”

“Keep kicking,” panted the second. “Don’t give up.”

But the first frog had already given up. “I’m going to die anyway,” he said and stop swimming. As soon as he stopped moving, he sunk in the bucket of milk and died.

The other frog wouldn’t give up. He paddled and kicked even when he was exhausted. Slowly, all that swimming turned the milk to butter.  The frog realized he could now jump out. He pushed his legs on the solidified butter and jumped to his freedom. He was alive because he wouldn’t give up.

When you feel in over your head and that you’ll drown in all the details, keep paddling and kicking and soon the ground will rise to meet you.  If you keep moving, the confusion will clear and you’ll find a new level of comfort that will set you free.

 

Have you ever felt in over your head?  Let me know how you kept swimming until you succeeded.

 

Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com

Knock Down The Flagpole

Reshape Pic (a)

On May 4, 1970 soldiers from the Ohio National Guard encountered Kent State University students protesting against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.  The Guardsmen opened fire on the unarmed students killing four and wounding nine others.

The day after the shooting, students from Southern Illinois University marched into the McDonald’s restaurant in Carbondale, Illinois demanding that the U.S. flag flying outside the restaurant be lowered to half-staff to honor the Kent State students.  The McDonald’s manager complied.

A neighbor, who happened to know McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, phoned Kroc to complain about the lowered flag.   Kroc called the Carbondale manager and insisted that the flag be raised again to the top of the pole.  The flag was raised.

The angry students returned to the McDonald’s and threatened to burn the restaurant unless the flag was again lowered.  The McDonald’s manager called the President of McDonald’s, Fred Turner, and pled his case.  Turner thought a moment and said, “Tell you what you do.  The next delivery truck that arrives, have the driver back into the flag pole and knock it down.”  The next delivery truck backed into the pole and knocked it down.1

Caught in a crisis?  The next time you feel stuck, look for the flagpole and ask yourself, “How do I knock it down?”  Reshape the crisis for success.

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1  An early version of this story appeared in Ray Kroc by J. Anthony Lukas, 1971, New York Times

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Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization. To contact Tim, email Tim@ClownClergyCEO.com