When a baby is born, the first thing the midwife says to the anxious parents is usually: “Congratulations, it’s a healthy child with ten fingers and ten toes.”
While that feels reassuring (I know, I’ve been at the receiving end thrice) it’s also a powerful way of passing down what we think of as normal.
I like to think that the extent to which there are options in life for those who don’t make the “normal” cut, is a measure of a given societies humanistic maturity.
Sweden has always seemed to rank pretty high in this regard (whereas another country I love dearly in many ways, truly stinks when it comes to how disabled people are treated).
Still though, even growing up in Sweden I always took for granted that my highest dream; to become a fighter pilot just like my beloved cousin (bless him) – was out of question due to a slight nearsightedness. The requirement of perfect physical shape was so self-evident that it didn’t have to be spelled out.
The pilot-as-übermensch archetype was never reinforced more vigorously than in Tom Wolves extremely entertaining book (turned-feature film) The Right Stuff.
In it we get to follow the American fighter jocks who competed to be selected for the Apollo program. The title of the book refers to the understanding that the best pilots were simply born to do the job, they were “a new breed of man”, as they say in the extraordinarily cringe-worthy film trailer (the film itself is actually pretty decent).
That’s why it was *so refreshing* the other day to see former Paralympic athlete John McFall being selected out of more than 22 000 valid astronaut applicants.
It’s also funny how that news story popped up just as I was finishing a post where I’m thinking about how to create a recruitment process that puts trust center stage. In it I contrast spies (deterrent example) with astronauts (gold standard example), and try to think what we can learn from that.
With this new parastronaut chapter, I think the space-space has just gotten even more inspirational!
*The title of this post is a wink to Michael Lewis’ book The New New Thing, depicting the entrepreneurial culture in Silicon Valley at the height of the 90’s Internet boom. Lewis also wrote the books that were turned into the feature films Money Ball, and The Big Short. My absolute favourite of his is The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds; a moving account of the beautiful friendship between the Israeli research psychologists – and original slow thinkers – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.