A few months ago my daughter gave me the book, The Four Agreements. Until I read this book, I never thought about the agreements I made with myself when I was young. I realized I made an agreement with myself I had to be right to survive. I never re-examined this agreement until recently. Being a writer for this public column has created vulnerability. If I get something wrong in an article, it is essential to correct it to keep credibility with you. And as you can imagine, it is not just my writing but many aspects of my life where the meaning of the agreement about being right is present.
In preparing the agenda for the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, I commit to creating sessions rich in content on topics essential to the industry. I feel deeply obligated to getting it right, for them and for our community. If we are going to bring the global leadership of an emerging industry to Las Cruces for a conference, we better give them food for the brain as well as enchiladas. We work to create a snapshot of the industry at the time of the conference in October. Knowing this rapidly changing industry is essential to the planning.
One of the more difficult topics we will likely examine is the requirements for human commercial spaceflight participants. NASA evolved the standards for astronauts over years. Queen Elizabeth probably doesn’t have the staff the astronauts have to get them ready for spaceflight.
The shuttle program has ended. Thousands of people are moving out of the NASA workforce. Thousands of people with unique skills, like preparing astronauts for flight, will be looking for something to do. NASA and the FAA are beginning the public dialog on human spaceflight requirements. When NASA astronauts fly on private space craft, NASA will set the requirements for its astronauts. There are over four thousand requirements for human spaceflight that have evolved over the years.
Getting back to the agreement about being right. I can understand how people wrestle with topics like life and death. Especially if it’s part of your job to assure your bosses, you have done what you believe or know to be necessary to assure safety of the people in your care. This is getting it right in the extreme. Doctors face these choices daily. People who work in child care, elder care, even the people who work for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) at the airports have to confront hundreds of people and likely thousands of decisions a week about the safety of the flying public. As we begin to evolve commercial spaceflight, the dialog on safety may become like the negotiations over the debt-ceiling. Get it right to survive.
Most of us, as we grew up, realized if we do things right, we get rewarded. If we goof up, there are consequences. Reasonable people grow up working to figure out how to get rewarded. The process of getting rewarded, usually means, we no longer need anyone to punish us, we punish ourselves when we goof up. Evolution into society is smoother once we learn and follow the rules. Get it right, survive.
It looks like the President and the Congress feel they need to be right to survive. The struggle is mighty. We tax ourselves keeping all these agreement. I know I do. I tax myself, my relationships at work and at home, to get it right. If I fail I feel powerless. Hence, I need to go to bed early and get my rest to fight on tomorrow.
What our country is going through is sort of mirrored in our daily struggles as Americans. How do I get out of the exhausting loop of being right to survive? Maybe if I change the agreement I made with myself, I will not be bound up so much in my struggles. I decided it was worth a try. Especially, since I am writing these articles, I am bound to goof up. So, here is one of my ways out of being right.
Thom Davis, Program Manager for ORS-1, read my last article. He let me know the Operationally Responsive Space Office works directly for the Department of Defense Executive Agent for Space and is not part of SMC’s Space Development and Test Directorate. I got it wrong, and I survived to write my next article. He did not tell me I was wrong, he just helped me get it right. Even better.