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Some amazing video is available showing the Mars Rover Curiosity’s decent (see below) onto the surface of the red planet, along with some great images.
It’s been 15 years since the little Sojourner rover of the Mars Pathfinder mission successfully touched down and beamed back details on the Mars surface. It was a world-changing mission, the story of which I tell in my upcoming book, The Laws of Subtraction, from the perspective of the team leader and a key team member. For less than what it cost to produce the Hollywood movie Titanic, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory designed and developed a successful rover, one that changed how we explore space. It’s a story of a how a daunting challenge comprised of creative constraints and dramatic destinations can result in breakthrough innovation.
I got a pretty nice Father’s Day gift a couple weeks early: my life. I was just starting to warm up for a friendly tennis match Sunday morning, in preparation for this week’s Men’s 45+ National Hardcourt Championships, which start today. I’d played a 90 minute match the day before, and gone on a rigorous 2-hour mountain bike ride right after, no problem. Although, I noticed my heart rate was a lot lower than normal climbing the mountain. I chalked it up to the 90 minutes of tennis I’d just done.
I woke up around 1 AM Sunday morning from a dream…sort of a anxious one about the upcoming tournament. I felt a tightness in my chest, but chalked it up to the dream, and went back to bed.
As I began to hit the ball Sunday morning, I felt the pressure and tightness again, and could not catch my breath. I can go for a long time at full pace and not be all that winded. It felt like I’d run 3 windsprints back to back, and I was barely moving. I told my friend I needed a quick break, something felt wrong. I took a sip of water, caught my breath, and we restarted. Same thing. I had to stop.
My friend, with whom I’d ridden the day before, said, “You know, there’s a cardiologist in the workout workout room. Let me go get him.” While he ran to get the doc, who it turns out is the head of cardiology at the nearest hospital, I chatted with the guys on the next court, who of course were kidding me. I’m in decent shape, strict on my diet and activity levels, so they were recommending a more indulgent lifestyle, and this wouldn’t happen.
The doc and my friend returned, and I described my symptoms. I recognized him from the club, had met him a few times socially, and realized his wife and mine knew each other fairly well. He wasted no time in demanding that I get to the ER. Being a stubborn guy, I did everything to downplay what was happening: too much exercise the day before, indigestion from sushi the night before, like that. I said, “I’ll be fine. I’ll stretch, I’ll go home, lie down, and maybe go to Urgent Care later if I don’t feel better.”
He wasn’t having any of it. He pulled out his cellphone, called the ER, told them I was coming in, and to get ready. He demanded either I call my wife to come get me (we live 2 minutes from the club and she’d beat the Paramedics by 20 minutes) or he would drive me. I chose the former. I saw him running toward his own car.
I sailed through ER, which never happens. Within 10 minutes of walking through the doors (which was actually tough…my pain scale was creeping up and walking took all my wind), they’d hooked me up to an EKG, taken X-rays, and drawn blood. They’d given me a children’s aspirin and a couple nitro tablets, and my pain was down to 1, from about an 8 or 9 (tear inducing levels, for reference).
My wife and daughter were with me, and pretty scared. In walks the doc (from the club), and my wife lights up. Later she said, “He had a glow around him. It was like I was seeing God. I knew then everything was going to be all right.” They hug, and he tells both of us: “It’s real. It’s bad. Your heart isn’t getting blood and oxygen. But I can fix it.” I couldn’t believe it, I was having a heart attack. No way. Not possible. Not me.
He explains that in a few minutes he’s (him! head of cardiology, not a staffer) going to do an angiogram to find the blockage, then most likely an angioplasty to fix it. An angiogram is when they feed a tiny catheter up through the femoral artery, starting from your groin and going to your heart, and shoot dye into your blood to take real-time, in-motion X-rays to see what’s going on. You’re awake the entire time. (Later I got to see the whole movie of the procedure).
My lateral descending artery, the main artery on the front of my heart, was 99% blocked. I could see it clearly when he showed me on the moving X-ray. The other arteries were nice and dark, indicating bloodflow. This one…nothing. Dammed up. Part of my heart wasn’t pumping.
He then fed a tiny balloon-tipped cather into the cavity and applied 25 lbs of pressure to the balloon (“enough to crush a bone,” he said) to open the artery and flatten the plaque blockage, and inserted two 20mm stents into my artery. He was done. Bing bang boom…start to finish the whole incident couldn’t have taken more than 90 minutes.
“We have a name for that artery,” he told me later. I had to press him for what it was: the widowmaker.
Had I gone home that morning instead of following his advice, in all likelihood I wouldn’t be writing this post today.
You could not script this. If you saw this scene in a movie, you wouldn’t believe it. It was all too convenient: the head of cardiology being on hand, sailing through ER, him actually performing the procedure…everything ran like a very lucky dream.
If you don’t believe in some sort of higher power, you should now. I’m walking evidence.
Happy Father’s Day to me, two weeks early.
PS (There are a few parallels to be drawn between an outwardly-appearing healthy body and an outwardly-appearing healthy organization, which I’ll write about in the future.)
Onstage at CA World, Las Vegas, on the docket is Tina Seelig, Malcolm Gladwell, and James Cameron.
A colleague of mine, John Hunter, hosts a regular “Management Carnival” on his site, Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog. A Management Carnival is a collection of articles that either John or an invited host thinks are worth reading and saving.
John is one of the brilliant individuals contributing a person essay on subtraction to The Laws of Subtraction, so when he asked me if I’d like to host a Management Carnival my answer was an unequivocal “yes!”
One of my favorite sites in the world is ChangeThis.com. It’s where you find the most compelling manifestos on the planet, free for all to download and share at will. The authors–often high profile thinkers and authors–are intelligent and passionate. I like the manifestos on ChangeThis because they are longer, more considered, and more curated than a blog, yet shorter and less vanilla then a typical journal article.
There’s nothing like a short but passionate manifesto to inspire and move us, especially if we’re stuck in our tracks and in need of a little grease to get us moving again. Here are my favorite 2012 manifestos, on the general theme of “thinking for a change.”
Directions for use: Download. Read. Share.
Shift & Reset by Brian Reich. Brian Reich is svp/global editor for Edelman, where he provides editorial vision and strategy for the company. This manifesto is adapted from his book by the same name, which carries a a subtitle of “Strategies for Addressing Serious Issues in a Connected Society,” he writes: ““I am angry. There are real problems facing the world, and we, as a society, are not doing enough to address them in the right ways, not the ways we know are possible. The old way isn’t working, and we know it. We continue to reward the same behaviors we have rewarded in the past while expecting different results. We profess interest in really doing things differently but settle into routines that are comfortable and safe, and we are fooling ourselves.”
Transcendent Leadership by Les McKeown. Les McKeown is President and CEO of Predictable Success, where he advises organizations on how to achieve scalable, sustainable growth. This manifesto draws on his book The Synergist. He asks: “What if your leadership role just felt, well… right: demanding, yes, but fun too; challenging but controllable; intense but invigorating? What if with every step on the ladder of leadership you felt more comfortable, more ‘in the zone,’ less stressed, less pressured? What if each successive leadership role brought out more of what makes you you, rather than asking you to compromise your core values, bury your deepest wishes, hold ransom your dreams?”
Grow by Jim Stengel. Jim is someone I’ve met, and fairly brilliant. He was P&G’s Global Marketing Officer for several years, where he managed a multibillion dollar budget and had organizational responsibility for nearly 7,000 people. This manifesto is based on his book Grow. “It’s time to change the narrative of business,” Jim writes. “From a winner-take-all tale, no-holds-barred, no matter what the cost to individual firms, investors, the economy, and society, to doing business on the basis of what I call brand ideals, shared ideals of improving people’s lives. Maximum business growth and high ideals are not incompatible. They’re inseparable.”
Changing the Way We Change by Eric Haseltine. Eric is a former intelligence officer and entertainment executive who was formally trained as a neuroscientist, as well as author of Long Fuse, Big Bang. He writes: “As a senior executive in fields as diverse as Aerospace, Entertainment and Intelligence, I’ve learned a hard lesson about people and organizations everywhere: they seldom learn from previous failures. To make matters worse, most people not only repeat past mistakes, but fail to learn that they’ve failed to learn from the past so they go on making the same mistakes over and over again.”
How Habits Work (And How They Change) by Charles Duhigg. Charles is an investigative reporter for The New York Times, and the author of the recent NYT bestseller The Power of Habit. His point: “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. Countless people, from Aristotle to Oprah, have tried to understand why habits exist. But only in the past two decades have neurologists, psychologists, sociologists, and marketers really begun understanding how habits work—and more important, how they change.”
The Unasked Question: How Do You Run a Company? by Dick Cross. Dick is an 8-time turnaround CEO, private equity partner, consultant, the originator of The Mid Tier Presidents Course for Executives at Harvard, and the author of Just Run It! The big idea: “The growth engine of the American economy is no longer asset intensive, semi-skilled manufacturing, but rather resides in a proliferation of lower and mid-tier enterprises. In America alone, a half million new businesses crop up each year. Unfortunately, fewer than 50% survive through five years. Only ten percent through ten. And the majority of the remainder fail to reach anything close to their full potentials. Not due to a lack of ingenuity, initiative, or even capital. Why, then? Because most lower and mid-tier business owners lack not just the fundamentals, the nuts and bolts of operating a business effectively day in and day out, but the bigger picture of how to achieve business success.”
Nine Things I Learned from Alan Mulally by Bryce Hoffman. This manifesto is based on his book about the Ford CEO, called American Icon. Since 2005, he has covered the automobile industry for The Detroit News — not only in the United States, but also in South America, Europe and Asia “I spent many hours sitting across the table from Mulally in his corner office on the twelfth floor of Ford’s world headquarters. I learned a lot about how to change cultures and streamline organizations, and I believe these principles will prove as valuable to your organization as they have to Ford.”
Why is that the words “I’ve got some feedback for you” more often than not make us cringe? Feedback should be something we look forward to, because it’s how we learn. In fact, we should crave it, because it comes naturally–we’re born feedback sponges.
The child in her highchair learns about gravity through the cause-and-effect process of repeatedly tossing her bowl of food on the floor. And it takes but one touch of a hot stove for her to learn not to do try that again.
Chris Barez-Brown, who works with companies like Nike, Citibank, and Coca Cola to help their people to shine more brightly at work, thinks he has the answer, and a solution. According to Barez-Brown, one reason we dread “the f word” is that feedback has become a euphemism for criticizing something done wrong.