Ever heard of Michael Collins? You know, thee Michael Collins. No, not Phil Collins with his jammin’ 80s songs. Michael. Ya, that one. The guy who was one of three astronauts on the Apollo 11 space mission. Ok, ok. You recognize the names Neil Armstrong and Buss Aldrin? Sure you do. Mr. Armstrong was the first to climb down the ladder in 1969 and step foot on the surface of the moon. 19 minutes behind was Mr. Aldrin. But surely you knew there were 3 astronauts on the mission that day, right? Yep, the third was Michael Collins.
So…why isn’t his name famous? Why didn’t you recognize him? Why didn’t he step down the ladder to put his two feet on the rocky soil? His other buddies did. Were they out of spacesuits? Did he not receive the proper training of how to climb down a ladder?
The answer, simple. Yet confounding. You see, for Michael Collins, walking on the face of the moon wasn’t in the mission. Why not? Well, short of calling up NASA to ask, it just wasn’t. He was to be part of the mission…and a crucial one at that. His part was to stay in orbit 69 miles above the moon’s surface while Neil and Buzz took the Lunar Module, landed it, and proceeded to hop around in low gravity for 21 hours and 36 minutes. All the while, he orbited above, waiting for them to be done. He was to pick them up and return them all home safely to planet earth.
Wonder what he was feeling during that time?
“Wow! We just safely landed and my 2 buddies are walking on the moon!”
“I’m so happy for them!”
“Why not me?”
“I should’ve gone down with them!”
“Stay on mission. There’ll be other flights. I’ll come back next time.”
How would you feel?
Would you stay the course? Stay on point? Not divert?
Or would you say screw it and hop down the ladder? Compromise the mission? Change the plans? You’re a few miles away from history! Books could be written! Movie deals! Bragging rights!
Bluntly, NASA didn’t hire mission cancellers. They painstakingly psychoanalyzed these guys from every aspect possible. They knew Mr. Collins would stay in the spaceship. He had to. Someone had to stay in orbit. Someone had to make sure that if things went wrong on the moon’s surface, someone could return home. As hard as it likely was for him to stay in orbit while he watched his friends descend to the moon’s surface, he did. He didn’t question the mission bestowed upon him by the President of the United States, let alone the millions of man hours put in by over 400,000 NASA employees that made the Apollo 11 space mission successful.
In every since of the word, Mr. Collins is as much a hero as Neil and Buzz. They couldn’t have completed the mission without him. He wasn’t there for fanfare or acclaim. He had a job to do, a mission to complete.
What about you? How close is the next mission-busting temptation? Only a few feet away? A ladder’s descent?
Stay the course. Don’t divert. Your compadres are depending on you. Your family. Your employees. Your organization. Your clients and customers. They’ve put their trust in you. Keep pressing ahead. There isn’t any acclaim for working hard. But there are benefits…
Pride in a job well done.
Mission breakers may make for a good movie. But they don’t make for good mission completing.
Hang on tight.
Complete the mission.