Here’s a question for you:
Is life happening to you, or because of you?
There was a young man I read about recently, and this must have surely crossed his mind.
Alan had been fascinated by airplanes his whole life.
He enlisted in the Navy to be a pilot. He went to the Academy in Annapolis. His instructors recognized he was very intelligent, but his grades didn’t always reflect that.
Despite that, he graduated in 3 years. He was only 20 ½ years old.
Alan was stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas for his basic flight training. (If you’ve ever been to Corpus and cruised down South Padre Island Drive, perhaps you’ve seen the sign for “NASCCAD,” that’s the Naval Air Station).
Once again, he was underperforming. Instructors considered him “average” and he faced the possibility of spending the rest of his career watching other pilots from the ground, or the deck of a ship.
That’s when Alan made a decision that wasn’t exactly encouraged by his superiors: he signed up for a local civilian flight school.
He earned his civil pilot’s license. Back at the base, his performance began to improve. Soon, instructors began to recognize his skills as “above average.”
Eventually, Alan was transferred to the east coast. He was selected to be a test pilot. He was still a young man, though, and nearly got himself court martialed for some “low passes” over a Maryland beach. (At least he wasn’t inverted).
Fortunately, 2 of his superiors intervened on his behalf. (Talk about the power of relationships…)
Over the next few years, he had plane engines stall in mid-flight. Another time he couldn’t break out of a spin and had to eject from his aircraft.
“You know, being a test pilot isn’t always the healthiest business in the world.”
But Alan was good at his job. So good, in fact, he was selected for a special program.
Initially, the pool of candidates included only 110 pilots.
The selection process whittled that number down to a final 7.
These 7 were sent to Cape Canaveral to watch a test launch of a rocket— much like one they would eventually pilot.
As the Atlas rocket climbed higher and higher into the night sky, Alan and his 6 cohorts watched the flame of the engine grow fainter and fainter, until a moment came they would all remember.
The rocket exploded.
Alan turned to another pilot, named John, and said:
“Well, I’m glad they got that out of the way.”
Almost 2 years passed after that night.
These 7, as you may imagine, Andy, were, what one may call… “competitive.”
Alan gave up smoking. He started taking morning jogs.
The day finally came that he received word that among the pool of 7 men, including Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, and Deke Slayton—Alan Shepard would be the first American astronaut to ride a rocket into orbit as part of the Mercury Project on May 5, 1961.
Alan became a national hero.
Next, Project Gemini came. Shepard was selected as the first commander. However, an inner ear condition called Ménière’s disease developed that kept him Earth-bound.
In early 1969, Alan Shepard traveled to Los Angeles for a recently developed surgery. He checked into St. Vincent’s under a fake name, Victor Poulos.
The surgery was a success. Soon, Alan was once again cleared for flight.
Things were going great until he was passed over for Apollo 13. NASA officials said he lacked enough training to command an Apollo Moon mission. Alan Shepard was assigned to be Commander of Apollo 14.
The landing of his Lunar Module was the most accurate landing of the entire Apollo program.
He was the only one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts to walk on the moon, and at 47, the oldest of any of the astronauts to do so.
There were many times that Alan Shepard could have settled for average. However, he made choices to take control of his life… He knew what he wanted and pressed hard to achieve those goals.
Then, he made new goals.
And then more… until he became one of the only 24 people to walk on the surface of the moon (he also managed to hit a couple of golf balls while he was there).
What are your goals?
What are you doing to reach them?
Will you shoot for the moon?
Is your life happening to you, or because of you?