Just back from vacation, I read two books on the beach: “An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth” and “Johnny Carson.”
The former is written by Astronaut Chris Hadfield and the latter by the late night icon’s one-time lawyer.
Both men came from simple, rural backgrounds, both had extraordinary careers, each has resumes glowing with exceptional achievements.
But that’s where the similarities end. You finish Hadfield’s book with a sense of exhilaration, driven by a courageous man on a lifelong quest for knowledge. You learn that an astronaut’s life is one of learning — of mastering complex mathematics, physics, aerodynamics–fused with relatively brief periods in space. And that whether on the ground or orbiting in the cosmos, there is love of something bigger than oneself and adoration of family, of God and team. When Hadfield records a Rocket Man video in space, we are all swept up in the majesty of unique people doing glorious things together.
One would think that the Carson book would be an insider’s look into a charmed life (and, in part, it is meant to be) but this view is that of a small-minded, emotionally selfish and lonely “star” with respect for no one in the universe, including himself. His children, parents, siblings and spouses are artifacts he collects based on a fleeting urge and then tosses them away. He has wealth. He has fame. He has it all. But in reality, he has nothing. Zero. He lives and dies alone, always believing that he is not a dot in the universe but the angry and resentful center of it.
In the tales of the two Rocket Men, only one is truly worth our interest, as a man and as a model for the value of a life of continuous learning and the courage to put it to use. It is the ideal model for a successful business career as well. Smarts alone is good. Courage is always admirable.
The fusion of the two traits places an exponent over every person. Their careers, personal lives and companies.