Looking for radioactive snow takes courage
Sometimes I'm so inspired by stories of people who show extreme examples of clarity and courage. I never knew that 40 years ago tiny pieces of a failed nuclear Russian spacecraft fell to earth in Canada, spewing radioactive materials over a 15,000 square mile area in Canada's Northwest Territory. The satellite was named Kosmos 954 and the emergency clean-up operation to find the radioactive pieces came to be called Operation Morning Light.
This year there was a reunion of the Canadian and American scientists who used dog sleds in frozen territory, trying to find radioactive materials that often were the size of a grain of sand. Kosmos pieces rained down in Canada in January, 1978. The people involved in Operation Morning Light worked day after day in hazmat suits and below freezing temperatures for 10 months, finally quitting in October, 1978. One of the Americans who stepped up to help find radioactive pieces embedded in snow and ice was a guy named Norm, who 40 years later (this year) attended the Operation Morning Light reunion.
Stepping up takes clarity and courage
Norm spent a good part of his life helping the US and countries all around the world find and clean up the debris from nuclear accidents. He stepped up to do this even though the work was dangerous, exhausting, uncertain, and usually under harsh and uncomfortable weather conditions. Norm's work was rarely recognized, for most of it was classified and never known to the public. It allowed no room for error. Every day that Norm was part of a nuclear search team, his life was on the line.
Like most of us, Norm has a wife and a couple of kids. Sometimes, his wife didn't know where he was headed and didn't know when he might be back. Despite the danger and the harsh work, Norm stepped up. Not just once, but over and over again. He, along with a handful of others, became internationally known in the closed and often secret nuclear community as someone you could count on when the chips were down. Norm was clear about his mission, and showed the courage to step up over and over again.
What causes a person like Norm to step up?
- He saw a desperate need and helped to fill that need.
- He saw his work as purposeful – it kept millions of people from the dangers of radioactive contamination
- It challenged him physically and intellectually – he's naturally a problem solver and an out of the box thinker.
3 things that require your clarity and courage
As a business owner, you're called to step up, too. Perhaps you aren't standing knee-deep in snow searching for tiny pieces of radioactive material, but you still have to step up when your business demands it.
- When a customer has a need or is dissatisfied with your service
- When sales are down and you've got to figure out how to keep going (or whether to close it down)
- When you're challenged to do something out of your comfort zone in order to help your business.
What works best is clarity about what you are willing to do for what you want to achieve. If you're unclear or waffling, nothing much happens except a lot of analyzing and thinking. Six months later, you're still where you were. But if you get very clear about who you are and what you want to do, the decisions you have to make about your business come much easier, and give you forward movement.
Here's three things that can help gain clarity:
- Find the opposite. Ask yourself “what am I absolutely not willing to do in this business?” Keep adding to the list until you can think of nothing else.
- Get clear about your wants. Flesh out your desired life and business. You know what you don't want, so now list wht you do want. Be concise and clear enough that someone else would quickly understand if you shared it.
- Ask yourself what's the one thing you should do that you feel uncomfortable about – you need courage to take action. And ask yourself what you can do to find that courage.
Clarity is the thing that fuels you. When you don't feel like stepping up, there's something you are unclear about. And that can be a really miserable feeling.
Sometimes, by the way, even if you get clarity and take action, you might fail. Norm and the other scientists who spent 10 months digging around in the snow failed. It's estimated that only .01 percent of the nuclear core of Kosmos 954 was ever found, despite 10 long months of effort. But we're talking here about stepping up, and being able to do that without knowing what your results will be. Which is, of course, how it always is.
If you want to read more about Operation Morning Light you can find an article here. It's old history, of course – and nothing you or I ever learned about in our history books. For me, it's more about recognizing how purposeful and ready to step up Norm and others were. He kept his ground. As I came to know when I worked with Norm many years later, he's cheerful, helpful, funny, unflappable, creative, and will do what it takes to get the job done. You can count on Norm.
Those same characteristics are at the heart of being an entrepreneur. If you are cheerful, helpful, funny, unflappable, creative, willing to get the job done and willing to step up, you've got a bright future in your business. Be like Norm.
Promise yourself clarity and see the impact
You can download my Daily Self-Promises Journal Sheet to help yourself gain clarity. It's a quick way to focus on what you want to commit to for yourself. It's a part of leadership journaling, and I'm happy to give it to you.