What Can We Learn From Neil Armstrong?August 28, 2012 @ 8:37 AM EST
The last thing we want to do here is trivialize the passing of a true iconic American hero, Neil Armstrong, whose death will deservedly continue to receive an outpouring of mourning and memorials.
In fact, we would like to start this piece off with our own small remembrance in the form of looking at some of his famous and not so famous quotes.
For someone who was the first to walk on the Moon, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and Congressional Gold Medal, Neil Armstrong was known for his self-effacing manner and understated sense of humor.
According to reports, one of the many reasons he was selected as Mission Commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 was in some part because NASA management saw Armstrong as “a person who did not have a large ego.”
But Armstrong delivered many memorable and well-known statements, and some not so well known.
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." --on the successful touchdown of the lunar module.
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." --Perhaps the most famous statement ever of the U.S. space program, and one engendering heated debate on whether Armstrong did or did not utter the intended “a”, which he at first claimed he did but later acknowledged might not have upon scrutinizing radio transmissions.
“Thank you Mr. President. It is a great honor.” --replying to Pres. Richard Nixon’s live “telephone call” at Tranquility Base.
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” –on the wonder of his position on the Moon.
And several after his departure from the Space program in 1971, surprisingly soon after the Lunar Mission, departing for academia.
“As a boy, because I was born and raised in Ohio, about 60 miles north of Dayton, the legends of the Wrights have been in my memories as long as I can remember.” --on his inspiration to become a pilot.
"I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful.” --Armstrong initially thought the mission only had a 50% chance of success.
“Yeah, I wasn't chosen to be first. I was just chosen to command that flight. Circumstance put me in that particular role. That wasn't planned by anyone.” --showing his modesty and appreciation of the team, making sure to thank “the hundreds of thousands of people all dedicated to doing the perfect job. ”
"I suspect that even though the various questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many as those we faced when we started the Apollo space program in 1961." --much later commenting on his disappointment that manned missions to Mars had not been attempted (and reported in a speech at the Hague at age 80 he volunteered his services to command a mission to Mars).
“I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.” –along the same lines
And four a bit more philosophical:
“Science has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year and yet far too little for the next 10.”
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand.”
“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited. “
“There can be no great opportunity without risk.”
And our favorite, which seems to best sum up the nature of a departed and humble American Hero,
“Pilots like to be remembered for their flying and landing, not for their walking.”
Now we hardly think the profession of trading the markets quite compares with navigation to the Moon.
But without sounding too trite or trivial and with all due respect, what can traders, or indeed anyone trying to excel at a difficult endeavor, learn from Armstrong? It would appear fairly obvious….
-perseverance through extreme setbacks
-recognition of risks and that nothing is 100% guaranteed, and yet a willingness to assume “appropriate” risk and take action
-extreme levels of preparation and practice and learning from failure
-recognizing that the real “job” is in the execution and that the outcome and success will take care of itself; we all have plenty of examples where we think our opinions or “being right” are more important than accepting “what is”….Armstrong wanted to be the best at “flying and landing” and the “walking” part, in his view, was just the result of doing that right.
(Many thanks to Wikipedia, its referenced sources and several quotation resources, most notably BrainyQuote)