Did you hear Captain Kirk finally made it to space for real?
Last week, 90-year-old William Shatner not only became the oldest person ever to travel to outer space, but did so as the guest of Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos.
As I watched the live video feed of the four space travelers exiting the safely-returned capsule, I was moved by two powerful displays, and it occurred to me that there’s something to learn in each.
The first display was a study in contrasts. Three of the four freshly-minted astronauts launched into a perfectly fine celebration of personal achievement, popping champagne bottles, cheering, whooping and posing for photos with friends, family and well-wishers.
But William Shatner stood alone.
Jeff Bezos (a self-proclaimed “Trekkie” whose enthusiasm for the sci-fi franchise prompted his gift of a free ride to his childhood hero) approached Mr. Shatner and engaged him in a conversation that was as striking as it was deep, as the aged actor shared his own response to the experience.
“What you’ve given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I am so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now, I don’t want to lose it. It’s so much larger than me and life; it hasn’t got anything to do with the little green and blue orb. It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death. Oh my god, it’s unbelievable.”–William Shatner (Read/Watch the full conversation here.)
What struck me was that while the younger travelers celebrated their own “bigness” for having gone to space, the older man was moved by a deep awareness of his own “smallness” in comparison to the grandeur of the universe.
This is not to criticize the revelers, for great achievements should be celebrated. Rather, it was a reminder to me of two important truths, one personal and one related to business:
- Age can produce perspective, if we let it. In life, we have no guarantee that more years will equal more wisdom automatically, but if we choose to live with open eyes and humble hearts, I believe we can gain the kind of depth Mr. Shatner showed in his reaction.
- People process things differently, even when the circumstances are the same. In business, we have no guarantee that our “instincts” will be correct when it comes to what clients and customers want, but if we’re willing to take the time to ask and observe, I believe we can gain the kind of insight that will position us as Market leaders.
I could say “I hope” to develop greater wisdom over time, but perhaps a better thing to say would be “I commit” to do the work.
I could say “I’ll try” to listen better to my Market, but perhaps a better commitment would be “I WILL ” do the work to learn them better.
What about you?
// NEXT TIME: Why that conversation REALLY mattered for Jeff Bezos, and how he handled it well.