Is Your Glass Half Empty?

Last year I reacquainted with a friend that attempted to climb Everest this past year. We first met in 1998 as he trained to operate my first space shuttle experiment as a "Principle Investigator." It was a very exciting time for me, both Scott and John Glenn studied with intensity as we worked our way through the operations and procedures. There is a lot of training time and complexity in planning a space mission. Our Aerogel payload was just a tiny part. He has since flown in space 5 times and I am envious of his great adventures.At the same time, I have always longed to climb Everest.Ever since I heard David Brashears speak in 1998 (coincidently, the same year scott and I worked together), I just wanted to go. It wasn't about the fame or notoriety of having done it; it was about pushing myself through the menial, self-inflicted pity we often use to fool ourselves into thinking that what we really want in life is hard, difficult, or just out of reach and unobtainable. I wanted to do something that truly is at the limit of what I am mentally and physically capable of accomplishing. It is the same sort of drive for my life-long quest to fly in space.It was, after all, one of the saddest days of my life, December 17, 1999, when I walked away from NASA to start a new company and a new life. I knew that once I left, I would never go back. I had worked closely with the astronaut selection office for 6 years making it to "highly qualified" and would have likely received and interview the following year. I withdrew my application midstream to the dismay of many that had worked so hard to get me to that point.What was I thinking?Since 1995, I'd kept a short email posted on the wall of my office. It is from a very successful entertainer. He has been a great inspiration to me along the way. It took him decades of perseverance and hard work to achieve the success he enjoys today. He wrote:"My Words of wisdom.You have but one life. Figure out the bottom line, the worst-case scenario. if the worst thing that can happen is something you can live with, dare to do what the Muses are telling you to do.I hedged my bet when getting in to showbiz. I took a year's "leave of absences" from teaching. if, after a year, had been starving in the an alley, I could have gone back. I knew in a week I'd never do it.I'm betting you are plenty employable, and it's generally so much more fun to work in the private sector than for the government."What I have learned and the people I have met since leaving the government is simply unbelievable. I've had an amazing time in the pool industry, despite its lack of "glamor," and have met some of the best friends of my life. What is happening here at Pool Genius Network is equally exciting to be a part of and together we will all profit by this online community. Sure, there are times I long to be back in a lab at NASA, but then again the very lab I worked in every day for a decade is now long gone - mothballed. In an ironic twist, I left what once was my "dream job" and rose to even higher levels of financial and personal success, when it would have been far easier on me to just stay in the comfort of what I thought would be there forever.In reality when I think about being back in those labs, what I really long to get back to is no different than my desire sometimes to be a kid in college again. It is a special yearning back to a time that seems less stressful, less demanding, and yet when I honestly think back, I still in those moment had some level anxiety about what I was going to do with my life in the future.Things are never perfect and if you live in the glass half empty mindset, these dwelling thoughts of insecurity become overwhelming and crippling, not just fleeting moments contemplateion considered in perspective of a bigger picture.There are those that jump and swat, because a single bee circles their head. Still others that obsess about bee stings in general, and then my friend who wrote the letter above that has covered himself with thousands bees for a stunt. Does he get stung? You bet he does and it hurts, but he is not going to die and it isn't "that bad." And to eat a live madagascar hissing +!@#$ roach in, that takes willpower, but how bad can it be? Probably tastes like chicken.So when we suddenly have life cast upon us and things seem to be in a real dire straights, it is time to ask about the risk reward benefit. Should I drop everything I am doing and start over? or should I find a way to see what I have now and make the best of things? My choice to start over and leave NASA was not because things were not happening fast enough or my life was miserable there, it was because I was up against a huge bureaucracy and there was simply no way to change it. I could live within in it or work around it, but no amount of personal effort could have changed its direction - it has infinite inertia. One must look at ALL of their goals as a whole. If they are not going to harmonize, or worse, if they cause mutual destruction or are cannibalistic of one another, something must go.There are many of you right now reading this feeling uncomfortable in your every day life or situation. This is not unlike my friend covered in bees or eating Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Neither of which did he actually enjoy, but in some strange paradox, both seemingly meaningless acts have made him amazingly successful. If analyzed in the vacuum of the bigger picture, a glass half empty analogy, why bother; I'm not going to eat a Madagascar Cockroach or subject myself to 10,000 bees - are you kidding?What ever you are facing, career changes, business struggles, our swimming pool industry's down economy, it really doesn't matter in the end. You must focus intensely on what goal YOU want to achieve. Envision how YOU want this successful journey to proceed and simply take a positive step in that direction. I consider myself a risk taker, and yet when I look back, some of my best opportunities were when my legs were cut out from beneath me. In those times, there is no comfort to retreat. There is no safety line or lifeboat. When this happens one must engage in a little "fearsome focus" and execute, or you will fail. I would say most are not in that situation and changing is much more analogous to hanging on to two gymnast rings at the same time. Eventually you have to let go of one - or you will fail clinging to both.My friend's lifelong dream to scale Everest did not end exactly as he had expected. After years of planning, 5 successful space flights, and extreme physical training, the morning had arrived. It was 6:30 am, May 21, 2008 and he was 24 hours from the summit. As he lifted his backpack, a sharp pain in his back, caused him great alarm. After 10 steps, he turned to his climbing friends and simply said, "I'm done." He knew to push on might not only jeopardize his life, but the safety and the success of others on the climb. Most people that die on Everest do so on the way back down.Not all journeys end in success, but all who achieve as magnificent career as Scott has encounter failures and setbacks along the way and they are never paralyzed by the instinctual Human fear that comes with every failure. They move on and the put it behind them.Surely your decisions in the pool industry will place you in no immediate threat of death. I'm betting if you made the choice to move forward for what you really want, its not likely your decisions today are of the same life-threatening magnitude of Scott's decision not to press to summit Everest. There is very little chance you will die in the day to day activity you fret about right now. Perhaps you will feel embarrassment, a little loss in pride, or even anxiety, but to reach your goals pick up that half-empty glass, drink it with vigor and demand it be filled again.In the end, true success requires a commitment to achieve, a dedication to persistence, and most importantly, never allowing your internal self-drive to go fallow.
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  • Well said Ray! In the end it is all about perspective. My outlook on look one door closes another opens, so be bold, and walk through it, for opportunity has called your name.
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