On May 4, 1961, NASA conducted a high-altitude balloon test with astronaut Victor Prather to test their new space suit at the edge of space.
The flight was a success and the suit worked perfectly.
As Prather descended back down to Earth, he decided to open the faceplate of his helmet to get some fresh air. A small and seemingly inconsequential thing to do at the time.
He eventually landed in the ocean as planned where a helicopter was waiting to pick him up.
But as Prather was connecting himself to the helicopter’s rescue line he slipped and fell into the ocean. Again, this wasn’t a big deal and something they’d prepared for numerous times. After all, the suit was watertight and buoyant.
But, since Prather had opened the faceplate of his helmet, the suit was no longer watertight. Water rushed into his suit. And he drowned.
This tragic story is a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of risk.
NASA, an organisation renowned for its meticulous planning and contingency strategies, was caught off guard by a scenario they hadn’t anticipated. After months of careful contemplation of the risks, one tiny thing they didn’t consider led to a catastrophe.
The point of all of this is to say that we can’t really ever be fully prepared for anything that happens to us in life. No matter how much time we spend planning or preparing for something, unexpected things happen.
For example, we can spend hours creating the perfect business plan, revision timetable, or fitness routine, but life has a way of throwing curveballs that our plans can’t account for. An unforeseen event, like a global pandemic, a personal setback, or even a simple mistake, can derail even the most well-thought-out plans.
The key takeaway here isn’t that planning is futile; rather, it’s about the importance of being flexible and adaptable. It’s about learning to roll with the punches and adjust our plans when necessary. It’s also about recognising the limits of our control and not being too hard on ourselves when things don’t go as planned.
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