A Story About a Family Photo I love….

Framed on my study wall is a selfie of my daughter Isabel and myself in the cockpit of a Cessna two-seater. She’s in the pilot’s seat, I’m holding the camera and we both have the biggest smiles on our faces. 

A few years earlier she had bounded into the kitchen and announced that she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. “An astronaut. I wanna be an astronaut.” – “Aw, that’s sweet, honey. When I was your age, I wanted to be an undersea explorer, like Jacques Cousteau.” “No Dad, I’m serious. I am going to be an astronaut, and I’m going to Mars.” 

A few months after that kitchen announcement, we stumbled upon the Johnsville Centrifuge Museum – a hidden gem in our own back yard. Isabel got involved as a volunteer on weekends. Giving tours. And along the way expanding her knowledge about the making of an astronaut.

And as all budding home-grown non-profits do, Johnsville had a fund raising dinner. The keynote speaker that spring evening in 2010 was 6’2” shuttle payload specialist, Dr. James Pawelczyk, who spoke eloquently on the human body’s responses to low gravity, and the connection to the experiments done at the Johnsville ‘fuge – the world’s largest human centrifuge.

After the talk, I managed to get my then 13 year old, 5’4” to go up to Lt. Jim and say “Hi. My name is Isabel. I wanna be an astronaut and I’m gonna go to Mars.” 

He was fantastic. “So, you want to be an astronaut, Isabel? You like science and math?” “Oh yes, very much!” “Well, take all the AP science and math classes you can. And then study some more on your own. Oh, and getting some flight experience wouldn’t hurt.” 

“Flight experience? Sorry, what do you mean?” 

“Learn to fly.”

“Learn to fly?” 

Isabel looked at me. I looked at Jim. “Oh, no, you didn’t….” 

The photo on my wall was taken a few months after she had turned 16. She had learned to fly – obtaining her private pilot’s license before she got her learner’s permit to drive the family car. 

She was taking me out to lunch, at an all-day breakfast joint, the Airport Diner, at the end of runway K26N in Ocean City, NJ. Her way of saying thanks, thanks for not being one of a thousand things that might get in the way of her learning how to pursue her dreams.

Self-Learning Teams and Organizations

I invite you to ponder the following:

  • Do you currently experience an environment where you, your team, and your organization can be learning at their best?

I suspect there are some gaps. Small for some of us. Canyon sized for others.

This is because it takes intentional, mindful and consistent acts to create deliberately development organizations, filled with individual and team growth.

The payoffs include:

  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Reduced risk of burnout
  • No stigmas around failure

What can you do, as a catalyst, a facilitator, a coach, or a leader, to help create awareness along with time, space and the conditions that allow everyone to learn at their best?

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