Be Smart, Even if You Don’t Think You Are


One of the greatest forms of intelligence is defined by our ability to listen, then take action.

I can remember the times I’ve been humbled by just being in the presence of people who have accomplished amazing things.  But these memories fade, and if and when they do, was there any value left behind?


Jerry Linenger

Years ago I had the chance to listen to Jerry Linenger, a former NASA astronaut and Captain in the US Navy Medical Corps.  Linenger is referred to as a spaceman. In his words, an astronaut who lives for an extended period in space is called a spaceman rather than an astronaut. He spent five months on the Russian space station Mir in the late 90’s.  As amazing as his tales aboard Mir were, what was equally or more fascinating was what he went through to get into the program.


Linenger has quite a bio. He is a doctor, as well as a very good athlete, and had to learn to speak Russian in the year before he went aboard the Mir. Listening to Linenger it was clear he, and anyone else who makes the grade in becoming an astronaut, is unbelievably focused. Three cheers for Canada’s Chris Hadfield.  

Listening to amazing people as I mentioned is always humbling to me. It doesn’t have to be someone who has lived in space. It can be the person next door who grows an incredible garden. No doubt they’d love to share their knowledge.

I try to read, listen to, and associate myself with people I think are doing something of value for themselves, their families, their work, and the world.  This is not because I want to name drop or hope something through osmosis rubs off on me (actually I do hope this), but to listen and hope to learn and apply something that will move me closer to a life well lived. 


Pick Your Own Mentors

Once I get over my feeling of inadequacy with these people, I get on with trying to figure out what I can borrow from them. If trying to emulating someone’s strengths is the greatest form of flattery, I’ve flattered a lot of people.

From Mr. Linenger, I wasn’t going to be a doctor or learn to speak Russian, but what emanated from him that I wanted a piece of was his determination, his commitment to whatever he set his sights on. To do his absolute best at everything he did. In his career, being his absolute best was very important; other people’s lives and his own depended upon it. 

Even if I get a fraction of the way along the road to having a similar drive and passion for what I do, I am grateful to Linenger and all the other folks I’ve leaned on for blazing the trails I get to follow and emulate in some form.

The point to all of this is that if we can’t find the meaning and purpose in our lives that can drive us to higher levels of personal satisfaction, it’s OK to borrow and learn from others.  They are often sharing so much and it is there for us. Just imagine for a moment if we all had the taste of Martha Stewart, but not her criminal record.  OK, pick your own mentors.